TV Review – American Horror Story: Hotel

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Another anthology of American Horror Story has drawn to a close and I for one have been left puzzled. This season is darker and possibly more violent than any other but it lacks the clarity of past seasons.  In the words of Ryan Murphy, Hotel definitely isn’t a hit right out of the gate.

Denis O’Hare as Liz Taylor

American Horror Story: Hotel is the fifth installment in Ryan Murphy’s (Glee, Scream Queens) horror anthology which centers on the Hotel Cortez in downtown LA. The hotel is host to an endless array of strange and bizarre characters and incidents. One thing is certain, however; if you die in the hotel, you spend eternity confined within its walls.

Hotel clearly defines itself in style and genre with peephole-style shots and stomach-churning edits. Yet something is still missing.

The jumble of character narratives prevents Hotel from gaining any real grip. It takes at least five episodes for the series to gain momentum. Ryan Murphy’s track record is a mile long. That man’s team has knocked out hit after hit and he’s trusted by FX and Fox – we can likely afford him one miss.

Sarah Paulson as Hypodermic Sally

The final episodes draw us back to season one’s Murder House in what seems was a purposeful and calculated move.  However, it serves only to remind us that Murder House was clean, concise and meticulously executed. Holding Hotel and Murder House up in comparison probably isn’t the wisest move.

The central storyline unravels to reveal the most anticipated plot twist Hotel has to offer. Three episodes in, there is the irony of John being the Ten Commandments killer while the killings seemingly drive him insane.

John Lowe’s story must be the first Murphy lay down. It is by far the cleanest and the only discernible through line that exists from the very beginning.  He is our gateway into the weird world of the Hotel Cortez and the payoff here is wonderful. That storyline draws us back to Murphy’s outstanding abilities to weave a psychologically mind-boggling narrative that keeps you coming back for more.

Gaga’s Countess

Until this season, I had thought American Horror Story had mastered endings. It seems I was very, very wrong. The final episode of Hotel is a fun episode. Fun. A word that should never be associated with American Horror Story. No, the final episode is a fumbling unnecessary mess. Murphy spends roughly ten minutes of the finale tying up every character’s story in a nice little bow. It’s a horror story! Who cares about a happy ending?

Overall, American Horror Story: Hotel is borderline. Despite Lady Gaga’s debut, I do not believe Hotel stands up in competition with the likes of other series. Hopefully, the next series is given the time necessary to develop a tighter story.