American Horror Story: Hotel, “Mommy,” (5.3) - TV Review


AHS Mommy

October 21st, 2015, 10PM, FX

His blood thirst awakened by the Countess, Tristan seeks James to form an unholy alliance with him, and James reveals that the hotel secretly harbors several hidden torture and gas chambers. Alex deals with her patient’s continued poor health, and copes even more poorly when Scarlet’s insistence that her brother’s alive causes memories of Holden’s babyhood to spring to life, tormenting her. Elsewhere, Donovan decides to make a break from his mother and the hotel’s embrace, only to immediately run afoul of Ramona Royale, a blaxsploitation star clearly based on Pam Grier, who also happens to be one of the Countess’ exes from her beloved 70s, seeking revenge on the woman for killing her lover in retribution for Ramona’s breaking the Countess’ heart through cheating. Elizabeth, meanwhile, puts the moves on Will Drake in the hope of marrying and then murdering him to regain possession of the hotel. Iris deals with Donovan’s profession of his seething hatred of her by asking Sally to kill her, causing Sally to reveal something interesting about the ghosts that live in the hotel and Donovan to make an extremely generous sacrifice to keep his mother around. And John quietly starts losing his mind as he continues to track the Ten Commandments Killer, deals with Alex’s divorce request and anti-rescues Sally’s mattress buddy after the guy murders Naomi Campbell . He is also inexplicably tempted by Sally’s charms. Busy week for that Will. Oh and Naomi Campbell immediately becomes a fashion-critiquing ghost.

Three weeks into the show and the plot is starting to come together more – even though the various genres the show contains refuse to fit correctly together. The pop gothic drama of the vampires clash with the kitchen sink domesticity of John and Alex’s story, which clashes in turn with the campy horror that graces the screen whenever March shows up.

Speaking of March, the campy hysteria is ramping up early, and the episode’s best scenes all have to do with the extremely ridiculous Tristian/James team-up, which manages to be highly entertaining as Witrock and Evans seek to out-eyebrow act one another. Evan Peters in particular makes tender love to every single bit of scenery in sight before biting enormous, bloody chunks out of it. When the show introduces Bernie Madoff out of the blue as the guy who took the Countess’ money you can only shake your head and point at the screen.

So many storylines could be held in neat parallel, and yet they refuse to enchant and capture – mostly because every character is flawed in an unappealing way. Every season before this has had that hook, that one character who could remain an unassailable audience favorite; this season lacks that in spades, and this season contains a selfless pediatrician who can’t cope with life without her child.

Alex and Iris continue to be emblematic of the show’s fondness for obsessive mother figures, creepy and clinging down to the last second. When Iris wails ‘I don’t know who I am if I’m not your mother’, it could be Alex in twenty years, still clinging to the cold, white hand of her little boy. In true Ryan Murphy style, the show blows its biggest ‘plot twist’ three episodes in as Alex is reunited with her son far too early to have much of an emotional impact on the plot.

If only the show’s horror writing had that much foresight. That “character is murdered by a guy who’s been sewn into a mattress by Sally” scare is starting to get really freaking old and repetitive, and it’s really the only one this episode has to offer even with the number of spraying severed arteries it offers up. This week’s outing doesn’t provide enough mood and hasn’t earned our excitement but If you’ve ever wanted to see Naomi Campbell get stabbed to death in her underwear after being scared by a bubbling toilet, then by all means check it out.
The Roundup

  • ”You’re a Scorpio – which explains a lot…”
  • H.H. Holmes, the notorious serial killer who stalked Chicago’s world fair for victims and murdered them in various gruesome ways in his self-modified hotel. Parts of the Cortez’ backstory are clearly modeled on his nefarious work.
  • Iris calls Donovan “Donno”.
  • Apparently creepy TMI-laden conversations in public hotel lobbies are also a thing vampires do.
  • ”I’ll call you later. By the way, you’re hard.”
  • Apparently the ghosts that haunt the hotel are bound there because they have unfinished business there.
  • Ryan Murphy: he understands poetic justice in the same way Alanis Morrisette understands irony.
  • Next Week: Alex tries to diagnose Holden’s weird condition and Ryan Murphy exploits several real life criminals as John finds himself invited into an exclusive event for the Cortez’ hoi polloi in “Devil’s Night.”
6.0 OKAY

Is it possible for a show to be bloody and knee-slappingly campy at the same time? Because we’re starting to reach that point. Too bad the scares are starting to get repetitive.

  • OKAY 6.0

About Author

Staff Television Critic: Lisa Fernandes, formerly of, has been watching television for all of her thirty-plus years, and critiquing it for the past seven. When she's not writing, she can be found in the wilds of the Northeastern United States.