American Horror Story: Hotel aired its second episode on Wednesday night, delving deeper into the history of the infamous Hotel Cortez. Evan Peters, much to many fans’ delight, returned to our screens, this time as the eccentric and sadistic hotel owner Mr March who it seems may have a connection with Lady Gaga’s character.
Lady Gaga is an interesting addition to the show and one that works so well it feels like she’s been a staple part of it from the very beginning; perhaps because her persona just fits the style of the show so well. It is Gaga’s first foray into acting and it seems to suit her very well, with her character Elizabeth (The Countess) being perhaps the biggest and most intriguing part of the series so far.
Despite this however there is something missing; Jessica Lange, who has, since the very start of the series, played some of the best and most terrifying characters. When it was announced that AHS Freak Show would be Lange’s last, many fans were left unsure about the future of the series, some even vowing to give up on the show if she did not return. Her absence is all too obvious and AHS Hotel, while obviously trying to be different to the previous series’, is sorely lacking something that the previous series’ got so, so right. Lady Gaga is a good replacement for Lange and is nailing her portrayal of the charismatic and creepy Countess but still Lange’s absence appears to be hindering the series.
It’s very difficult to pin point exactly what it is about Hotel that makes it not quite as good as previous series’. Many of the AHS actors who have been in it since the start have returned along with Kathy Bates who first appeared in season 3 and became an instant favourite. Denis O’Hare returns in his underrated glory, this time playing Liz Taylor, a character who lingers mysteriously in the background, comes out with the odd few lines and has an impressively sassy walk. Show creator Ryan Murphy has hinted that in a future episode we will find out more about O’Hare’s character and by the sounds of it we’ll be pretty impressed. O’Hare has so far, throughout all of the AHS series’, played brilliant and integral parts that have gone fairly unnoticed by many, but his presence somewhat makes the show.
AHS Hotel’s first two episodes have been largely underwhelming. The bloody and brutal sex scenes, in particular the weird foursome in the first episode in which Lady Gaga’s character and her beau Donovan (Matt Bomer) take home and eventually kill a couple keen to indulge in what they think is just sex, are almost a bit try-hard in their attempts to be shocking and scary. Hotel just doesn’t have the same feel to it that has made the previous series’ so enthralling and I can’t help but wonder if that has solely to do with Jessica Lange’s absence, or perhaps the first two episodes of Hotel just aren’t that great.
AHS series’ have always had a lot going on. Something they do well is having lots and lots of characters, all of whom have detailed and interesting back stories. Not one character is ever particularly a ‘main’ part, and we get to know and love all of them equally which is a feat that is reasonably difficult to achieve and must take some seriously good writing skills. However Hotel so far seems incredibly convoluted and ‘busy’, even by AHS standards. There’s a lot going on all at once and far too many references to keep track of (The Shining being an obvious one). Are we dealing with vampires? Ghosts? Kidnappers? Or all of the above? The first two episodes are trying to set the scene, but in doing so they haven’t quite got me hooked like previous series’ have. Jessica Lange always played characters who were sort of in charge of the entire series, she would be the glue that held each series together and no matter how complex the stories or the characters, we could always rely on Lange’s part to tie them together somehow. Without her, Hotel so far doesn’t feel like it has much of a foundation and I’m left wondering whether or not American Horror Story can really survive without her.
Lady Gaga is proving to be pretty good at this acting lark, and her strong and intriguing character might be enough to pull this series together and who knows, she might make a great replacement for Jessica Lange but that remains to be seen. One thing I can’t fault Hotel for though is its ability to make the audience want to know more. As much as I’m doubting it and not quite enjoying it as much as previous series’, there’s no doubt I’m eager to find out more and have some of my questions answered. Here’s hoping things pick up and my doubts are proven wrong.
What do you think of the latest series’? Do you have similar doubts or are you loving it already? Let me know in the comments below!