Thursday, October 8, 2015

American Horror Story 5x01 Checking In

By Sati. Thursday, October 8, 2015

American Horror Story is back and what a triumphant return it is. Everyone was worried when it was announced that season 4 was the last one for Jessica Lange. Then everyone was even more worried when they found out that Lady Gaga, who apparently called Ryan Murphy expressing her desire to be on the show, will replace Lange as the show's leading lady. But people were worried for nothing because "Checking In" is a very promising start of the season and the most intense and atmospheric episode the show had to date.

The story is set at Hotel Cortez - gorgeous, art deco styled establishment, where a lot of very creepy things lurk around. We enter the building along with two Swedish girls. Soon they will discover a monster sewed into a mattress, two bloodsucking children, blood stained sheets and Kathy Bates trying to force feed them stuff to make them taste better. And that's not even scratching the surface of Hotel's mysteries.
The first thing that stoke me when I was watching the episode was how different it felt from other seasons of the show - this one is more about the mood and atmosphere than it is about the story. Long tracking shots, fish lens shots and basically very surreal feel is what defines this episode. We walk the hallways along with the characters unsure of what the hell we are gonna see in another corridor.

But there is a story too - a detective played by Wes Bentley is a family man, whose son was abducted. He is also hunting a serial killer who is killing his victims based on Ten Commandments. We get to the crime scene which contains the most disgusting and gruesome thing on the show yet - a couple, who was cheating on their respective spouses, was killed. She was impaled. And the guy? Well, his eyeballs and tongue were ripped off and put into an ashtray. And his penis is still inside the girl, glued it. And the worst part? Oh, yes. He is still alive.
But that's not even the scene people seem to be freaking out about the most - a junkie checks into hotel. Soon the wonderful Sarah Paulson shows up, finally playing an evil character - Sally. And what follows is Sally tormenting the guy while he is being anally raped by a demon with a drill for a penis. Yeah, that episode is probably a tough watch for men.

It's not until well into the episode when Lady Gaga appears and what a scene it is - very clearly inspired by the beginning of Hunger and set to the fantastic track Tear You Apart by She Wants Revenge Gaga is accompanied by ridiculously gorgeous Matt Bomer, who was so underused in last season of the show, as they go out to pick up a couple. What follows is a steamy sex scene between the four of them that ends with Gaga and Bomer murdering the couple and drinking their blood.
We get to see Matt Bomer, wearing a leather glove, smoking a cigarette, completely naked and bathed in blood. I just want to take a moment and say - thank you, Ryan Murphy. You bring so much joy to the world with this.

The season's story is still a bit unclear - who is the big bad? Is it Gaga's Countess who drinks blood and abducts children? Is it the killer? Or is something we haven't seen yet? What makes this season different from others is that we don't really have, apart from Bentley's character and his wife (played by Chloe Sevigny) truly innocent people. But given how mischievous Murphy is he is probably gonna make us feel for those who inhabit the hotel.
Kathy Bates' character is given a bit of depth in the premiere - she is a receptionist and at first she seems to be a villain but then, in a flashback to 1994 we find out her character is Donovan's (Matt Bomer) mother. Turns out Donovan is a junkie and his dealer is Sally. Bates follows them into hotel and what follows is a very thinly veiled mystery - Sally is pushed to her death by her, yet we saw her walking around years later. Given how her and Donovan were sharing a needle while injecting drugs, there's probably some sort of immortality virus at play here.

We also get a nice little tie in to season 1 when a realtor, Marcy, shows up talking about having to put down her dog - no doubt the one who belonged to the Harmons - and showing the hotel to potential buyer who I'm sure the Countess is gonna either murder or manipulate.

The biggest asset of the show - apart from truly beautiful production design and great music (the score this season is so atmospheric and the selection of songs, from another homage to Hunger in Bela Lugosi's Dead to brilliant use of Hotel California, is better than ever) is the acting. And Sarah Paulson is yet again stealing the show, threatening to top her work from Asylum. She is completely unpredictable and clearly has a lot of fun playing a dark role this time.

Denis O'Hare is brilliant as always as a cross dresser nicknamed Liz Taylor and Kathy Bates is solid as usual. But everyone is wondering about how Gaga did and I though she did very well. She is well suited for a mysterious, larger than life character and her presence is not jarring, given how the screen time seems evenly spread between the characters.
All in all this is a very good opener and I'm excited to see where it goes from here - hopefully it will be more like the show's first two seasons which were great from start to finish and not follow the steps of Coven and Freakshow - both entertaining and well done, but ultimately disappointing and a bit of a missed opportunity. 



12 comments:

  1. I'm really looking forward to catching up with this tonight, especially after reading your brilliant review! I haven't seen the earlier seasons of the show; I caught about half the season of Freakshow and got bored. I like the concept of this one, so I'll definitely have to check it out!

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    1. Hope you liked it! I think you'd dig Asylum, it's very atmospheric and the performances are crazy good

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  2. This show looks super f--king weird.

    I'll be happy enough to read your posts, as the one episode of the Circus Style AHS didn't float my boat in the least. And honestly, Gaga frightens me in every way possible.

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    1. Gaga is kinda scary but she is actually a surprisingly good actress so far

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  3. I knew you'd love the premiere as much as I did. This definitely felt like AHS's best first episode of any season and definitely in my top 10 for the whole series so far. Everything just oozed surrealistically dark atmosphere and had amazing sequences. Loved the whole silent film aspect of it, indicating possibly the Countess' origins possibly or just adding to the list of homages Murphy is adding to the show. It's definitely going great so far and will be glued to the end.

    I personally loved Freakshow after Asylum, maybe more so after my re-watch. There's just something very....otherworldly about it that doesn't seem it be in any other season of the show except for Hotel that I can't exactly articulate.

    Also, will you be putting a review for Scream Queens?

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    1. None of AHS seasons is actually bad and I find both Coven and Freakshow very entertaining and watchable but it's a little bit of a wasted potential for me, especially Coven. It's like there are all those subplots that could go somewhere great but end up being disappointing.

      Had I started Scream Queens when it began airing maybe I would but it's already 4 episodes in and I don't think many readers of my site watch it. But I'm gonna write about it in my Friday posts for sure, love that show!

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  4. Yay! I'm glad you're doing the recaps because I love reading them!

    I loved Bomer and.. clearly, everyone else as well. You can't hate that guy, he is just.. perfect.
    And Gaga is alluring which I had no doubt she could be, I hope she surprises us throughout the season because it would be great for her to branch out to the acting world.

    The first episode was quite okay, I did, and I keep telling everybody, wish there was a little smoother introduction to the hotel's creepy side but I mean, no worries, bring out the white version of the rape man and let him drill poor Schmidt. When not in the premier, then when right?

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    1. Thank you so much!

      He is actually too perfect, much like Henry Cavill :) I don't think I want her to branch out, I think she is good here as one time deal but I know Murphy wants her to be back in season 6

      I heard Addiction Demon is gonna be in every episode... :/

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  5. What an amazing analysis Sati. I desperately need to catch up with AHS, still haven't seen Freak Show yet.

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    1. Freakshow is actually very entertaining. It has tons of awesome horror homages in it, the one to Freaks is particularly creepy

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  6. This show always has solid premiers. I can't agree more that the last 2 seasons were a total mess. I'm uncertain as to whether or not Murphy will make this one different from the previous 2 as their ratings were much higher than the ones of the first two, which were unique.

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    1. It depends if he gets bored with it, as he usually does midway. But between this and Scream Queens I just hope he focuses more on Scream Queens

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