Angela Bassett's American Horror Story Return Was Well Worth Waiting For

Illustration for article titled Angela Bassett's American Horror Story Return Was Well Worth Waiting For

As the episode title suggests, “Mommy” is all about American Horror Story: Hotel’s various mothers: Alex the Miserable Pediatrician, Iris the Pitiful Front Desk Clerk, and the Gold-Digging Vampire Countess. There’s also a new queen on the scene, and this show just got way more interesting because of her.


Not that there were too many shocking twists this week, but you know ... some spoilers follow.

First, catching up with the bummed-out Lowe family. Detective John is involved with presumably the biggest case of his life ... the “10 Commandments Killer,” whose latest target is the staff of a gossip mag that’s been bearing false witness with their naughty wagging tongues. But even a serial murderer’s handiwork can’t compare to the horrors inside of John’s own mind; he’s in such a weakened state he’s actually tempted by Sally’s dubious junkie-grunge-princess charms. And it isn’t going to get any easier for John; Alex wants a divorce. He’s way too wrapped up in himself, so we’re behind this decision, even without the benefit of a flashback that details Alex’s deep grief—including a suicide attempt—after losing Holden, her favorite child. (Sorry, Scarlett.) But will she go through with the split, now that she’s seen Baby Vampire Holden lurking in the Hotel Cortez with her own skeptical eyes?

Even worse off than Alex is Iris, whose petulant son Donovan was first a junkie and then a vampire, and who is consistently hateful toward her. Dumped by the Countess, he flounces from the Cortez in search of fresh blood, but not before telling his mother how much he loathes her, for reasons like “you made me be a vegan and I pooped my pants at school that one time.” He also encourages her to kill herself, which she takes to heart, believing that if she’s not Donovan’s mother, she ain’t nobody. Sally, ever-helpful, offers to shoot her up with a lethal overdose, but it’s not enough. So, she ties a plastic bag around Iris’ head and waits. In the least dramatically surprising script move ever, Donovan has a change of heart and races to his mother’s room just as she’s breathing her last. The obvious solution: bring her back from the dead by making her undead. And so much for Sally’s strict instructions for Iris in the afterlife: “Don’t haunt my hallways, bitch.”

And then, of course, there’s the Countess. She’s still loving on the only male model dumber than Derek Zoolander: Tristan, who takes it upon himself to forge a vampires ‘n’ evil ghosts alliance with long-dead Cortez builder March. Tristan’s first move is to target the hotel’s newest owner, fashion designer Drake, who’s planning extensive renovations with the help of “that shit don’t stink fashion editor” played by Naomi Campbell (RIP that character, please keep popping in to make catty remarks in ghostly form). But the Countess has a better plan than simply adding him to their ranks. We learn she lost all of her money to Bernie Madoff (ha!) and plans to seduce Drake (even though he’s gay) and marry him ... ensuring a rich-widow future once he’s out of the picture permanently. “All great ideas are deadly,” she purrs.

But by far the best part of “Mommy” is Angela Bassett, who zaps Donovan with a Taser when he’s pretending he can hack it on his own on the streets of Los Angeles, and proceeds to unfurl a backstory that suggests this character might be Hotel’s saving grace. Like Donovan, she was loved, turned, and ultimately rejected by the Countess; unlike Donovan, her pre-vampire days were spent starring in Blaxploitation movies, in a montage that pays loving homage to Pam Grier and other badass women of the era. Facing sexism and racism in 1970s Hollywood, Ramona Royale decides to throw her lot in with the Countess, and we get another amazing montage, this time of the power couple dressed in outlandish fashions as the years tick by. So much leopard print! In 1991, though, this pairing went to shit when Ramona fell for a budding hip-hop artist, and the Countess got homicidally jealous.

So, Ramona and Donovan have a common enemy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be buddies. The vengeful Ramona’s mostly interested in taking out the Countess’ baby harem, which includes Holden Lowe. We don’t see for certain if Donovan agrees to help her or not, but he does end up back at the Cortez under the watchful eye of Liz Taylor (“No pity party in my bar,” he warns; when are we going to learn more about the show’s most wry and grounded yet fabulously sequin-draped character?) just in time to save Iris, as described above.

So. Welcome, Ramona. We can’t wait to see what you do next. And we’ll admit it ... we’re also pumped for the inevitable introduction of Vampire Kathy Bates.


This week’s on-the-nose goth music cue: “Just Like Honey” by the Jesus and Mary Chain:



The third episode of AHS: Hotel provided us with a healthy dose of mommy issues. I mean, we get it Murphy. You have issues with your mother. Sheesh.

This is what I wrote prior to the episode in the Observation Deck’s weekly live-viewing reaction post.

My hope is that it doesn’t include a grown man breastfeeding from a grown woman. This isn’t Grapes of Wraith for Pete’s sake.

Well, we didn’t get exactly that scenario, ala AHS: Asylum, but we did get two similar scenes.

  • Will Drake latches onto Tristan’s nipple like a lamprey to the side of a fish.
  • Ramona laps blood from Gaga’s bosom

The whole episode was a swirl of mommy issues (the episode was aptly titled Mommy), daddy issues, and a disintegrating marriage. My mind is dryer than 1930s Oklahoma today and I have nothing snappy, funny, or insightful to say about this other than Murphy likes to beat a theme to death with a sledge hammer.

I would like to get back to the overarching (I hope) theme of the season which (I hope) is addiction. That is definitely interesting, and other than the thirst for fame as personified by Lange’s characters, is something not well explored in the AHS universe.

On a side-note, I’m also looking forward to the inevitable Tristan and Mr. March psycho team-up.

If we do get a present day cameo of a character from past seasons, there are a few that we can assume are still alive. Here’s what I have:

  • Constance Langdon & three year old Michael (Harmon) Langdon - really any reason for a cameo by Lange as Constance is a welcome cameo.
  • Lana Winters - last seen in 2013, when she killed her son, perhaps now looking for something to write a new book about. Current age 77.
  • Fiona, Zoe, Queenie and/or Kyle - perhaps Scarlett is a witch. Someone needs to get Scarlett away from her parents (who will probably end up dead anyway) and the Hotel Cortez.
  • Elsa Mars - unlikely this would be a character to make a cameo because she’d be in her 90s, I think. But assumed to be living in California.

If I were a betting man*, then I’d go with Constance & Michael OR Zoe and/or Queenie.

Other astute reactions to last night’s episode from my fellow Observation Deck peeps over this way.

*I’m not a betting man.