Just because American Horror Story Season 5 is off the rails doesn't mean it's lost its sense of style. This week's Episode 7 brought to life Hollywood legend Rudy Valentino as well as a whole new swagger to the Hotel. Here's what we thought of "Flicker"
It may be a strange statement to make for a show that trades in blood, but when American Horror Story Season 5 does less killing, it actually does better storytelling. For the first time, this week's Episode 7, "Flicker," spent most of its time outside of the Hotel Cortez walls to give us some huge back story on the Hotel itself, as well as its occupant supreme, Lady Gaga's Countess. The show adopts some period aesthetics to take us back to the flapper twenties to evoke the Mr. March era and in the process, show creators take us to the guts of the Hotel Cortez, bringing to life only to immortalize once again silent film legend Rudolph Valentino, played by Finn Wittrock in a ridiculously glossed Italian accent. According to the show's morbid chronology, Valentino's been residing in the steel corridors of the Cortez since 1926. Using grainy footage, iris shots, period pieces, expressionist shadows and clavier music reminiscient of Nosferatu, American Horror Story brought to life the tone of another era more convincingly than it has all season, simultaneosly divesting itself of its Cortez shackles and trusting itself to explore the interior life and motivation of its major star, Lady Gaga.
And it paid off! Lady Gaga's Countess was more nuanced, internally conflicted and frankly as real as any eternal, perpetually youghful vampire could ever be. Iris speaks for the rest of us when she tells Gaga at the beginning of the episode, "I've just never seen you scared before." In fact, we'd never really seen her be anything but Buster Keaton deadpan until last night. All of a sudden, the Countess can be vulnerable, shy and even genuinely in love. That pretty much means we need to remove one notch off of our 5 mistakes you could make at American Horror Story, Hotel. The events of Hotel Cortez past ran in parallel with John Lowe's bid to dig deeper into the madness of the Hotel's present as he brings a stolid demeanor and chilling delivery that defies his performance over the last 6 weeks. Clearly when AHS doesn't overdue its campy elements or fetishize bloodloss, the effects can be disarming. My only problem with this week's episode was that it completely overlooked last week's cliffhanger with the demon in Gaga's lap, but of course we can't eat an entire dish in one mouthful, and at least they left off the tedious Donovan-Ramona Royale arc for another week. What did you think about this week's history lesson?