American Horror Story: Hotel Episode 5 Review: “Room Service”

American Horror Story: Hotel

We’re rapidly closing in on the halfway point of American Horror Story‘s most consistent season since Murder House. Let’s take a look at how things are holding up on the fifth episode of Hotel, “Room Service.”

The episode opens with Alex, currently undergoing her “change” after her encounter with The Countess on Devil’s Night, attempting to continue her normal life while at work. She’s having an incredibly difficult time adjusting, though, finding it very hard to focus (except, of course, on blood veins). While trying to treat a child patient, she takes a quick detour to the hospital’s blood bank to gorge on some O- before taking the initiative to inject her rapidly dying patient with some of her own blood. After everything that Alex has been through over the past couple of weeks, it was obvious that her maternal instincts and true calling as a physician wouldn’t go away just because of her new (willing) affliction, and it’s interesting getting to see that play out. Whereas all of the other “vampires” (for lack of a better word) on Hotel turned for purely selfish reasons (except for Iris, but that’s a topic for later), Alex, while selfishly wanting to be with her child, continues trying to be a good person. She’s put in the position of being able to use her condition for “good” (or, at least, what she believes is good), so there’s a lot of potential here to explore some real internal turmoil.

We get to revisit Donovan’s budding partnership with Ramona in “Room Service” now that Iris has been turned by her son. Iris, the hotel’s concierge, still has an “in” with The Countess, so Donovan and Ramona plan to use her in the role for which Ramona initially recruited Donovan. I have to admit that I really like this storyline that’s beginning here because it gives Iris a much more intriguing purpose on Hotel than simply pining after her son that wants nothing to do with her. Angela Bassett and Matt Bomer also have a strong on-screen chemistry (which we first saw a few weeks ago but is much more obvious now), and I’m excited at the opportunity to get to see more of them together through the rest of the season. Iris, as I mentioned, is also a much stronger character now than she’s ever been, and the moment with Liz at the bar in which she finally understands what’s she’s going to have to do now that she’s been turned is a great moment for both Kathy Bates and Dennis O’Hare. O’Hare has had a great season so far, too, and his performance as Liz Taylor, brief as it may be at times, has been incredibly fun to watch. Though their characters and histories aren’t entirely comparable, I do think that, like Evan Peters, Dennis O’Hare is playing the best character he’s played on American Horror Story so far.

As could be expected, Alex’s decision to turn the sick child does not at all go well. Max, the kid, has become an unchecked and bloodthirsty being, and he begins turning his classmates at school on Halloween (of course, after killing his parents and teachers). It’s hard to know exactly whether or not Max’s depravity was present in him before or after he was turned, but it was fun getting to see such an overly violent (and, arguably, evil) display of what the hunger can do to a person. All of the other characters that have been turned so far on Hotel have had the guidance of another, but Max was unknowingly thrust into this world without being able to make the conscious decision on his own.

Around halfway through the episode, we catch up with John, who is struggling to explain (both to the police and to himself) the events that he witnessed during the Devil’s Night banquet. If you can overlook how clichéd the plot point is (and I can easily do that), it’s enthralling to see the descent into madness that Detective (or former-detective) Lowe is experiencing because of his time in the Hotel Cortez. John has been the character that has been easiest to connect to, so it’s almost as if the audience is descending right along with him.

Darren Criss finally makes his guest appearance in “Room Service,” playing one-half of a stuck-up couple that doesn’t like Halloween. While staying at the hotel, he also comes into conflict with Iris, still not completely adjusted to her new life. Criss is always a treat on television, and his appearance here is no exception. The best thing about his appearance, though, is that it leads to a team-up between Iris and Liz that finally tells us Liz’s backstory. I had kind of accepted that Liz Taylor would be one of the unsolved mysteries of the season, so I’m pretty happy about getting such a raw look at that history. The backstory also brought us some great acting from Lady Gaga (as The Countess, obviously, tied into Liz’s history), who continues to impress more and more each week.

In the end, “Room Service” managed to be another great episode of American Horror Story: Hotel. There are plenty of clichés throughout (as there are in every season of the show), but, for me, the quality of the episodes greatly outweigh the negatives that are present. I find myself still looking forward to the next episode each week, and I don’t remember a time that’s happened so consistently with a season of American Horror Story. It really feels like the writers have finally figured out the show that they want to be and the right way to tell their story. There’s still a long way to go this season, so it’s entirely possible that we’ll get a not-atypical drop in quality as we get closer to the end, but I’m hopeful that things will continue to play out in a strong way.

What did you think about “Room Service”? What are your thoughts on American Horror Story: Hotel so far? Let us know in the comments down below!

[Photo credit: Doug Hyun/FX]

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