Jacqueline Gualtieri ‘18/ Emertainment Monthly Movies Staff Writer
This season has, so far, been a bit of a disappointment, and this episode began quite the same way. It was an unfortunate choice to have the beginning narrated by Chloe Sevigny, who plays Dr. Alex Lowe this season. As one of the weakest characters in an already weak season, it was tempting to tune out the episode because of how dull she is. Her character is rude, boring, and obnoxious. She tells another mother who is distraught over the illness of her son that it is her fault for not having vaccinated him. She constantly blames the woman for messing up and makes her more and more upset.
Through her narration, the audience learns more about Alex, her depression and suicidal tendencies since the disappearance of her son. Viewers should probably feel bad for her, but the blandness of her character makes it hard to care much at all.
When Alex is not on screen, the episode admittedly develops a bit of a stronger pace. It finally seems that the season is getting a plot, rather than just a lot of backstory. However, there is not one set plot. Altogether, this episode introduced three plots, as well as elaborating upon the storyline regarding a suicidal killer who uses the Ten Commandments to plan his murders.
The first plot is about The Countess (Lady GaGa), who describes her diabolical plan to marry Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) and marry him for his money. She describes that she lost all her money to Bernie Madoff, which almost seems silly. The show is so outrageous, with storylines so far removed from reality, that it’s strangely comical to have characters with problems so rooted in reality.
The second plot is regarding a new character, Ramona Royale, played by the remarkably talented Angela Bassett, who was finally introduced in this episode. She tells the Countess’s latest lover, Donovan (Matt Bomer), her tragic tale of going from being the Countess’s lover to being forced to watch the Countess murder the man she really loves. She’s out for blood now, but her scheme is half-baked, and made even worse by the fact that she wants Donovan’s help although Donovan fell out of favor with the Countess a week before.
The final plot centers on Donovan and his mother, Iris (Kathy Bates). This storyline was, by far, the most compelling of the episode thanks to the compelling dynamic between the two. Their story is traumatic and horrendous and depressing. Each blames the other for everything that has gone wrong in their lives and it’s a mother’s love that eventually destroys Iris. Not being able to bear the thought that her son has spent his entire life trying to escape her, she takes his advice and ends it all. With the help of Sally (Sarah Paulson), she manages to do as Donovan wished and takes her life, just as Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) convinces him that he was wrong to be so cruel to his mother, and that he would never find another woman who loved him as much. Distraught and guilty, he finds his mother taking her final breaths. Overcome with grief, he does the unthinkable, and uses his blood to save her life. After trying for so long to escape her, he will now be stuck with her forever.
The major issue with this season so far has been the obsession with shock value. The previous seasons did consist of sex and gore and drugs but there was a plot beyond those scenes which made the shock more accessible. In this episode, we see drug use galore, with a little less violence than usual, which is saying something, considering a woman was brutally stabbed in this episode. Every moment otherwise these scenes on screen seemed to consist of sex, sex, and more sex. There’s nothing wrong with expressing different sexualities on screen, but there is no meaning behind it. There’s nothing that we know about these characters that makes us care about their romantic relationships. They are all fairly flat, and all we seem to know about them is their addictions. How can we care about their addictions if we don’t care about them as people at all?
The only relationship worth watching in the season, so far, is that between Donovan and Iris, a mother and son who have fought each other all their lives. Iris loves her son more than anything and says that she wants the best for him, but she never quite knows how to do that. Bates shows her vulnerability and her weaknesses, making her a real person, not just some stock character. She is a mother who wants to do right by her son, to get him clean and happy, but in doing so she becomes obsessed with taking care of him. Unlike most of the characters, it’s easy to feel something for her, namely, that it’s easy to feel pity and sadness for her. Without her son, she is alone in the world. Without him, she truly believes she has no reason to go on. Donovan is a bit harder to feel sorry for because of his temper. At some points, he comes across as a selfish little boy, ungrateful for what his mother gave up for him, but Bomer’s anger comes with a sadness. When he screams about how badly he wanted to die to escape his mother, he looks wild, crazed with emotion. When he finally learns how wrong he was, he lets the emotion come rushing forth, playing the remorseful son. With Iris joining Donovan as a newly born person — vampire? — this relationship will hopefully only develop more and give both actors the screen time they deserve.
The ending of “Mommy” perhaps gives this season a bit more hope. With such a weak start but such a strong end, American Horror Story: Hotel might be getting into the swing of things and we may just get a better season than we expected.
Episode Grade: B-