From the first episode of Hotel it was clear that there would be similarities between it and season 1, Murder House. The fact that anyone who died in the Cortez remained there mirrored the unfortunate fate of the victims in season 1. Ryan Murphy himself has said that Hotel most resembles Murder House. In Room 33 this connection is made explicit with The Countess travelling to an old familiar place: the house of Dr Montgomery. As a refresher, Dr Montgomery from season 1 was the doctor who performed abortions in his home. His wife, played by the beautiful Lily Rabe, was one of Murder House‘s best characters even if her screen time was very limited.
This flashback to the 1920s served to give us more background on The Countess. In modern day, we see her as a cold and unemotional killer who looks out for herself first and foremost. But Room 33 gives us much needed character development. The Countess travels to Dr Montgomery for an abortion, knowing full well her husband would not approve or care for their baby. In a bizarre twist, the baby survives the abortion and even manages to kill the nurse working with Dr Montgomery. The doctor and The Countess, having seen their fair share of monsters, remain unfazed. And thus Bartholomew comes into being. More on him later.
Back in the present day we continue to see the downfall of John Lowe. It’s not all his fault. John wakes up one morning in the Cortez to find his long lost son Holden next to him. John follows Holden to the lower floors of the hotel and finds a set of coffins containing The Countess’ child vampires, Holden, and his wife Alex (who had previously accepted to become the Governess for these children). With the help of Liz Taylor, Alex moves the coffins and makes John believe he is losing his mind. It works. He decides it’s time to leave the Cortez.
Meanwhile, Ramona, Donovan and Iris try to take down The Countess by killing her children. But, of course, this is not possible since Alex moved the coffins to an undisclosed location. So Ramona goes after the only other thing that would hurt The Countess: Bartholomew. In her attempt to kill this demon baby, Ramona fails and Bartholomew escapes in John’s luggage.
A lot of stuff is happening but nothing really stands out as being particularly important or well developed. The best example of this is with the revelation that Liz Taylor and Tristan are in love. There is absolutely no indication of this prior to this episode. It’s as if Ryan Murphy thought Liz Taylor needed more tragedy but was too lazy to develop a proper story arc. As a result, we get some saccharine exchanges where Liz and Tristan confess their love (their first real love) for each other and their fears of letting The Countess know. Liz has not been turned into a vampire so her time on Earth is limited and this is meant to make us root for their relationship. Obviously this cannot be and once The Countess finds out the truth, she kills Tristan. Lazy writing.
We go back to the past with this episode and find out the origins of The Countess. She was an ambitious wannabe actress in the silent era who fell in love with the great Rudolph Valentino (also played by Finn Wittrock with a terrible accent, though not as bad as Evan Peters as James March). After Valentino’s death, The Countess is ready to end her life but is saved by March and eventually the two marry. March’s evil and sadist nature actually appealed to The Countess and both made quite the couple, even though her heart would always belong to Valentino.
Hotel reveals that Valentino and his wife, Natacha Rambova, were in fact vampires and Valentino, still in love with The Countess, decided to fake his death and run away so the three of them could live forever away from prying eyes. March overhears Valentino, Rambova and The Countess make plans to escape together and so decides to do what he does best. He kidnaps Valentino and Rambova and traps them within the walls of the Cortez where they spend decades starving and unable to die. They are only released because Will Drake is finally starting his renovations of the hotel and breaks down the inch thick steel wall holding the two prisoners. So now we have two more characters who will need screen time in order to have a satisfactory conclusion. It also allows Finn Wittrock to keep his job after being killed off in Room 33.
Lastly, John Lowe checks into a mental institution after his most recent breakdown. In fact, he plans to go after the Ten Commandment killer who is housed at said institution. The only thing keeping this storyline relevant is that the killer is someone from the Cortez. The suspect in the institution is one of the vampire children, though it’s unclear whether The Countess is still looking after her. John promises to get the girl out of the hospital only if she tells him who the killer is. She agrees but as soon as both escape, she decides to run in front of a bus. Seriously. And thus, the writers can keep dragging this storyline for no reason other than because they can.
It’s important to note that we now have several characters and storylines that need to be addressed. One of the most important being the outbreak of vampire children seen in the second part of the Halloween special. This was an entire class of 13 year-olds who were released into the public. These kids don’t have someone who can guide them nor can they control their thirst. Then there’s Hypodermic Sally and the rape creature that seems to follow her around. They need an explanation because otherwise it’s just unnecessary. We seem to be going through the motions with AHS Hotel. Perhaps the rest of the season can wrap things up nicely. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.