'American Horror Story: Hotel' S5E3: Mommy

★ ★ ★ ★

At the core of every season of American Horror Story lies the relationship between a mother and child that blurs the lines between loving and dysfunctional, much like Norma Bates’ classic relationship with her son in Psycho and Bates Motel. Turns out this season has a lot of mommy issues.

"Mommy" continued Hotel’s cycle of backstory-telling by building upon its extensive and complex mythology. This time, Hotel focused on Iris’s and Alex Lowe’s relationship with their children. While Alex’s anti-vaccination speech last episode felt out of place, it was woven into her narrative very well, and gave her a good reason to feel frustrated towards parents who don’t properly protect their children. Her side of the flashbacks gave great insight to her character, and showed that while Holden put enough strain on her relationship with John as it was, losing him blew her world apart. Unable to cope with the loss, Alex’s only solution was to try and join Holden with a suicide attempt, but was saved by John before she could.

Just like Murder House, Hotel plays around with punishing characters wanting death over life by giving them an eternal afterlife. Whether ghost or infected blood-sucker, eternal life is a punishment for most — but an opportunity for others. Personally, ghosts are my favorite aspect of AHS solely for the amount of depth and desperation they have once they realize what happened to them and where they are. Naomi Campbell’s Claudia was the newest addition to the Cortez’s almost endless list of permanent residents, walking around in a bloody nightgown after having been stabbed several times by Gabriel when he escaped from a mattress. She meets Alex, both lost and confused, asking her "Is this Hell?" before commenting on how tacky Alex’s outfit is. If Claudia is going to be popping up time after time making snide comments about peoples’ clothes, I’m glad that she’s a permanent guest at the Hotel Cortez.

AHS S5

The "poetic justice" of Iris being sired by her son Donovan was a great twist to cap off the tumultuous relationship they had in this episode. It was very reminiscent of Constance trying to drag her daughter’s corpse over onto the Murder House property so that she would come back as a ghost, a desperate and selfish attempt at holding onto what was taken for granted. But unlike Constance, Donovan succeeded in bringing his loved one back to life and the unhealthy dynamic resulting from that (he effectively trapped her in life, a good contrast to Sally being trapped in the afterlife) will be interesting to watch unfold. Their dysfunctional relationship pushed the two of them to end their human lives, so while Donovan achieved more as an immortal being, there’s no telling how his mother will handle her new situation.

The decision to have Sally involved in both of their human deaths was a fantastic form of symmetry, showing that Sally is just a means to an end — something she most definitely doesn’t want to be. Sally as a ghost is much like Hayden, desperate for love and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that. More spontaneous and sporadic than the others, Sally spends majority of her afterlife tormenting others in an attempt to gain some feeling, however fleeting the sensation.

"Mommy" also explored the less literal sense of parentage through siring new infected. We met Ramona Rhodes, a blaxploitation actress and lover of The Countess, who is hellbent on killing The Countess’ foster children. Angela Bassett is electrifying as Ramona, breathing life into a believable revenge story and a vampire hunter of sorts. While the Countess has lost everything to the point to where her plans necessitates marrying a gay man (did she not find any straight candidates to her liking), it seems that Ramona has everything set up in a nice home. So seeing how Ramona pulled that off with be very interesting.

But not all of the parentage in Hotel is the maternal kind: Hotel made room for March and Tristan to develop an interesting and quirky relationship revolving entirely around the pleasure of killing. March is still an electrifyingly compelling character whose chemistry with Tristan is very funny to see playing out. From March’s reaction to Tristan googling him to his side-eye reaction to Tristan’s high five, both of them are really good together. This relationship of theirs also gave way to the ghost subplot, where March and Ms. Evers enlist Tristan to kill Will Drake so that they can avoid having their floor being torn apart and renovated by him.

Even though much of "Mommy" was based on backstory, it kept majority of itself in the present and used all of that history to propel the plot forward and present plenty of new conflicts and situations that will put pressure on the characters from here onwards. It also shows the direction for the season, which Coven and Freakshow lacked and led to their eventual downfall. Hotel is the perfect soft reboot for wayward fans of American Horror Story wanting to come back for another stay.

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