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‘American Horror Story’ Review: “Checking In” – Ready to Check Out of the 'Hotel' Already

Jacqueline Gualtieri ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Film Staff Writer
Copy Edited By: Lindsey Buttel ‘18

Oh, Ryan Murphy, what is he doing? He had premiered American Horror Story: Hotel in a time slot of an hour and a half and managed to introduce no plot. When American Horror Story: Murder House premiered, the audience already is introduced to Rubber Man, sees a relationship start between Tate and Violet, and realizes that Vivien is already pregnant. Five seasons later, Hotel starts off with the episode “Checking In,” but it seems as if Ryan Murphy has already checked out.

Photo Credits: idigitaltimes
Photo Credits: idigitaltimes

Throughout the episode, time jumps in a very similar way as it does in Murder House and viewers learn that, as “Hotel California” teaches us in the ending sequence of the episode, people can “check out anytime you like, you can never leave.” Again, very similar to Murder House. The characters seem quite stuck, but what’s worse is that the characters do not have much that could make them connect with the audience. Sarah Paulsen is a sad junkie, seemingly desperate for love. Kathy Bates is desperate to cure people and make them clean, which becomes her own addiction. Lady Gaga seems to be addicted to everything, including blood, and Matt Bomer seems to follow suit. The only saving grace character-wise appears to be in Wes Bentley and Denis O’Hare. Bentley plays a detective and also seems to be a good dad, therefore, compared to everyone else, it seems like he’s the most likely candidate for the “good guy.” O’Hare plays cross-dresser Liz Taylor, an employee at the Hotel Cortez’s bar. Unfortunately, O’Hare appeared very little in the first episode, but with any luck he’ll get more screen time as the season goes on.

Kathy Bates as Iris Photo Credits: IMDB
Kathy Bates as Iris
Photo Credits: IMDB

The characters were undeveloped for one major reason: shock value. Sure, the other seasons had shock too, but it was shock to advance the plot. It’s already evident that this season plans to use addiction as its theme. So many drugs, so much sex, and so much nudity. Bomer is a very attractive man, but is it necessary for him to be naked more often than he is clothed? It kind of takes away from the seriousness of his situation. The only sex scene that one might be able to argue was shocking but also advanced the plot was the orgy between Bomer, Gaga, and another couple they met at a screening of Nosferatu. It starts as a kinky sex scene and changes into a blood bath plus sex scene, but it least it gives the audience an understanding of the addictions the couple faces and how they love it.

But the worst shock value was unfortunately not unexpected in today’s media. Game of Thrones took a hit when they decided to have the rape scene of Sansa Stark. One would think Ryan Murphy would understand, then, that rape for shock value is never a good idea, but he decided to go on with it anyway. When Max Greenfield checked into the hotel, playing yet another junkie, he barely had three lines before he was brutally raped by what is being called The Addiction Demon with a spiky, conical dildo. The metaphor is shoved down the throats of the audience that drug addiction has this hold and power over its users. However, this metaphor could have been done in a much more subtle way. The scene was painfully graphic and hard to watch. To shock, disgust, and terrify the audience in such a brutal manner is something that American Horror Story is better than.

Max Greenfield as Gabriel Photo Credits: IMDB
Max Greenfield as Gabriel
Photo Credits: IMDB

It’s hard to give this season the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was just a bad first episode. Maybe there will be more plot in the next one. Maybe the characters are more compelling than the first episode made them out to be. That’s a lot of maybes though. With any luck, Hotel will prove to be better than Freak Show but, as of now, it’s not looking that way. Perhaps it’s time for American Horror Story to admit defeat.

Episode Grade: D

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