FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 3: “Mommy”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Chutes and Ladders” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Devil’s Night” – click here
Back for another night checking in at the Hotel Cortez.
Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock), former badboy model cum vampire, heads back to try and find Mr. James March (Evan Peters). He said he didn’t understand March, but now he does and is a self proclaimed “fan.” Tristan has obviously studied up on ole James, even going so far as to list off his birth date. Though, he chalks it up to Google (“That sounds obscene,” says March).
There’s comedy, dark, here in spades. At the same time most of it is creepy throughout this scene. Loved the Black Closet. Impressively morbid fun.Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) is bringing his high profile Vogue friend Claudia Bankson (Naomi Campbell) around the hotel for a tour. Naturally, they run into Tristan. Is this going to spell trouble for them, made even worse by the fact Tristan is falling into line as being an apprentice to James March? Absolutely, at least for Drake. March proclaims he can’t be allowed to “touch a single room“, so to preserve the legacy Tristan offers to take care of him saying “Don‘t worry, I got this.” Such a nonchalant attitude towards murder. A dark soul, that one.
Dr. Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) continues to deal with the anti-vaxxer parents. One child has come down with the measles, all due to the pseudoscientific approach to parenting and medicine so many seem to be adopting in the 21st century, more and more. This is, again, a reason why I love American Horror Story in general. Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk & Co. always manage to work in present day issues of relevance with each season. It’s part of why I keep coming back, aside from the horror and the psychosexual thriller aspects.
Furthermore concerning Dr. Lowe, she recounts the tragedy of her son, from the way he affected her life coming into it to how devastating it was to see him go out of it. This is an incredible sequence, very intense and dramatic. I love Chloë Sevigny, even if she says some wild shit as a famous personality (I won’t go into that here; she’s said a few dumb things during her time in the spotlight). She is a great actress who is not at all afraid to take risks. Coupled with her, literally in terms of character, is Wes Bentley as Detective John Lowe. He is great, too. Always been a fan of him since American Beauty, and he keeps doing great work in each of these episodes. He and Sevigny have excellent chemistry, working well as a troubled married couple.
Oh, Claudia Bankson. I feel bad for her. She’s obviously a high class type woman. Now here she is staying at the Cortez, a hotel which may as well be a tourist stop on the Dante vacation guide. When she lays down to go to bed, poor Gabriel (Max Greenfield) emerges screaming from the mattress after having been sewn in last episode by Sally (Sarah Paulson). Even worse? He stabs Claudia to death in a mad rage. Wow. I expected her to go, just didn’t see her getting slashed so quickly into the episode. Fair enough, though. A vicious and welcomed surprise.
In another part of the city, Dt. Lowe and his partner Dt. Hahn (Richard T. Jones) investigate more work by the serial killer they’re hunting. Once Lowe arrives back at the Cortez, though, out comes Gabriel painted in blood, panting, falling into the unsuspecting detective’s arms. Another whoa moment and I dig it. Later at the hospital things get crazy – Lowe’s given little morsels of information before Gabriel dies on a gurney suggesting Sally did something to him, as well as the fact there was a murder.
But I’m genuinely worried for Will Drake. The newly vampirised Duffy is lurking around, tempting weak-willed Will with a bit of skin and seduction. Out of nowhere, The Countess (Lady Gaga) emerges to cut off Tristan’s fun.
Another interesting dynamic so far in Season 5 is the one between Hypodermic Sally and Detective John Lowe. There are several things at play in their tenuous relationship at the Cortez. First, we have Lowe as cop versus Sally the criminal. Secondly there’s Lowe as a man who is trying hard to abstain from alcohol, while Sally is – clearly – an relentless junkie. And finally we don’t know how deep Sally’s influence goes, how embedded in the hotel she truly is in terms of what her ultimate power holds.
The other team I’m loving is Iris (Kathy Bates) and Donovan (Matt Bomer), the troubled mother-son relationship. Iris is stuck at the hotel by necessity, not in terms of the supernatural like it seems Sally is trapped. She wants to be close to Donovan. On the other side of things, Donovan himself would rather be far away from her. Within all the supernatural/ghostly this is some of the solid real life drama happening among a cast of pretty kooky (though awesome) characters.
“Fine, you make a list of all the ways I failed you. And you know what I say to your list? Shit on it. ‘Cause my list beats yours. Item 1: I gave you life. Item 2: I saved your life.”
“I wanted to die!“
More good music in this episode with “Rich Kids Blues” from Lykke Li playing over a scene where Donovan feeds on whoever he can along the streets, wandering where he pleases. Except he stumbles across someone he never expected, a woman named Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) who immediately tasers him before he can do anything with the knife he wields.
Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) is always a treat to see. We’re going to find out more about her soon, I guarantee. She serves up some soda pop for Dt. Lowe, whose troubles are beginning to get worse. Meeting with Alex, she brings him divorce papers, which seem a huge surprise to him; he is devastated, actually. This is more of the solid acting from Bentley especially. He does a fantastic job with the emotional aspects of his characters, I’ve found that even in the worst of the films he’s been in over the course of his career; here, with Dt. Lowe, we’re able to see a lot of his range come out because of the insane situation he’s found himself in at the Cortez. Their situation gets murkier with each step throughout “Mommy.”
Alex wanders down one of the hallways to find a bloody Claudia Bankson standing there, mocking. Creepy enough for you? She then sees Holden down another corridor. Just what she needs after all the horrible tension and resentment happening between her and husband John.Up in the penthouse, The Countess meets with Drake – “What if I told you Will Drake had to die?” she asks him. Figuratively? Literally? Either way some saucy stuff is happening in a dangerous triangle between Tristan, The Countess and Drake.
Apparently The Countess has moved on, once more. Obviously to Drake now because of his money. It’s amazing how they work Bernie Madoff into the script as the reason The Countess has depleted funds in the old life savings account. Turns out Bernie did her in, similar to Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick and many other less famous victims. So that’s a fun little modern addition. Turns out she’s now planning on marrying Will – which has begun with her trying to switch him from the gay team (seriously?) – before killing him. No wonder she stopped Tristan earlier. She needs that cash before they can feast on his delicious blood.
Possibly the most strange and shocking moment in “Mommy” comes when Sally is readying herself to shoot Iris up with heroin. Apparently Iris has decided there are no reasons left to live. Following the huge altercation earlier with her son, Iris obviously doesn’t see any point in going on (Iris: “I just don‘t get the joke anymore… I am the joke?”). Will Sally help Iris, or is she going to do something terrible with her like she did with Gabriel, and who knows how many countless others before him?
Once the weary Donovan wakes up, he finds Ramona Royale in his face. He’s strapped to a chair by the neck. She is pumping his blood, trying to clean him out for some purpose. Then we have an amazingly executed sequence where Angela Bassett playsa very Pam Grier type character; I could not get enough of this, at all! She’s on a set very similar to something like Coffy and playing a definite homage, at certain points, to Grier. I have no doubt about that.
CAN YOU SAY HOLY FUCK? A lesbian love scene between Bassett and Gaga? I mean, that’s just unreal. But the whole sequence here is what’s worth it – they’re together, as lovers and partners, throughout decades, falling apart eventually because of The Countess’ never ending need for variety. Then it moves into Ramona and her new lover, which becomes something DEVASTATING. I won’t spoil this any further. Totally need to see it yourself.
What I’m very intrigued about now is how the relationship between Donovan and Ramona will work going forward. There’ll definitely be a lot of fun happening from here on in. Even though it seems things end between them here, I can almost certainly say we’ll find them together again soon enough.
The episode’s finish is a real gut punch, as Donovan finally comes to find love for his mother once she has died in Sally’s room. He cuts his wrist and pours blood into her mouth. Now she won’t be able to die, well at least not easily anyways according to the rules set out last episode by The Countess. An interesting last minute development in “Mommy”, which made it more enjoyable than I found most of the episode. A good one, just not as good as either of the first two.
Can’t wait for the next episode titled “Devil’s Night” directed by the man himself Ryan Murphy. Stay tuned and I’ll be back for another review next week, my fellow horror fans!