November 18th, 2015, 10PM, FX
Will Drake’s remodeling excavates one of the hotel’s biggest secrets –two disheveled vampires who immediately kills a construction worker. They resurface later to kill the realtor lady from Murder house, and the trail of bodies segues us into Elizabeth’s backstory – where she was a Brooklyn-born silent film actress playing a concubine on the set of the Rudolph Valentino film “The Sheik”. After Valentino and his then-wife Natacha Rambova seduce her, she suffers a terrible emotional blow at his (presumed) death. Trying to commit suicide, she’s saved instead by March, to whom she ends up married lovelessly to out of gratefulness. She discovers James’ murderous side, agrees with it – but remains in mourning for Valentino, until a surprise encounter with Rambova and her undead swain changes everything (guess whom she got her vampire virus from!). Meanwhile, John undergoes a psych eval only to slowly start losing his mind at an even steeper rate than before, and his attempt at breaking out only makes things worse for him when he meets one of the young vampires who may hold the key to his case.
This is, aside from the ten commandment killer development, mostly and largely a showcase for the Elizabeth character, and in that it’s a mixed bag of an episode. Gaga does do a good job of seeming like a wide-eyed Brooklynish naïf in the flashback scenes, but the entire episode grinds to a halt for a three minute for a tango scene and doesn’t really pick up until it segues back into the John side of the plot – odd because his portion of the story is usually so dull. This time it steals the show from the gloss on the opposite side of the narrative. Artistry abounds in the Valentino flashbacks, which are shot sumptuously with well-defined cinematography, but Gaga should never cry on film again because she cannot manage to make her tears seem real. The plot does not help her out at all - it’s absolutely inexplicable that Elizabeth suffers one romantic heartbreak and then easily becomes a playmate for James who begins to enjoy his murderous ways. She is also not helped by history-heavy segues back to Hollywood’s silent era, which for those who don’t enjoy that time period must be a rather boring diversion.
It’s amazing that James is willing to let Elizabeth roam free, have as many lovers as she wishes and travel the world; he seems to be the possessive sort, especially of her (especially because he does what he does). How to explain his indifference to the multiple lovers she’s had – the Ramonas and Donovans who, if not true loves, came very close to being lifetime companions? How to explain her tolerance for James’ wanton murders of, well, everyone? It’s a major plothole the show ties to pave over with as much glitter and gloss as it can scare up – and it almost gets away with it.
AHS is obviously heading towards a vampire-versus-ghost showdown, with the ghosts as the villains and the vampires as the complex heroes. The question is, will the show’s feverish plotting undo its seductive good points? Time will out.
- Iris and Elizabeth discussing anal bleaching was a great moment of comedy tho. At least the show never forgets it’s located in Hollywood.
- ”Pop’s from Sicily. He’s a plumber.”
- This is actually an incredibly poor portrait of Valentino’s history with Rambova (I know, American Horror Story, what can you do?). In fact, their marriage was acrimonious, Rambova was accused of ruining Valentino’s career by having him play dandy types, andwhen they divorced they did so bitterly, and Valentino changed his will to bequeath his ex wife a single dollar.
- There was indeed a lady in black who would visit Valentino’s tomb for decades after his death. The first woman was actually sent to the tomb as part of a publicity stunt cooked up by Russel Birdwell. It’s since become a tradition, and multiple women now play the role.
- Valentino actually died a year before silent films were to be slowly displaced with the debut of 1927’s “The Jazz Singer”. Silent pictures, however, continued to be made for years after the Jazz Singer’s debut, right up through 1930, due to the expense of converting soundstages to sound.
- F.W. Murnau was also known for directing Faust.
- That’s Finn Witrock playing Valentino, which might be why Tristan dropped dead last week.
- Apparently if vampires are starved of blood for too long they start to dehydrate like raisins. Interesting.
- Inexplicable cowboy strippers!
- Next Week: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, AHS will be preempted until December 2nd..
Lady Gaga tries mightily but there’s not much she can do with the mess that the writers have made of Elizabeth’s character. The weight of carrying the majority of the episode is too much for her to bear, and the best acting of the show ironically comes from the John storyline.