American Horror Story: Hotel – TV Series (Season 5)
Running Time: 60 minutes
Created by: Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Starring: Lady Gaga, Kathy Bates, Denis O’Hare, Wes Bentley, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Matt Bomer, Angela Bassett, Chloe Sevigny, Finn Wittrock, Cheyenne Jackson
Season 5 of AHS focuses on Hotel Cortez in Downtown LA back in the present year. The 90-year old Hotel has recently been purchased by a New York fashion designer, Will Drake (Jackson) without the knowledge that the building is haunted by demons and ghosts. The Hotel’s unsettling patrons and staff includes the founder of Hotel Cortez, James Patrick March (Peters), a heroin junkie, Sally (Paulson), a vampire known as The Countess (Gaga), her boyfriend, Donovan (Bomer), the manager and front desk clerk, Iris (Bates), and the transgender bartender, Liz Taylor (O’Hare). Detective John Lowe (Bentley) finds himself drawn towards the Hotel as he investigates a series of murders committed by a serial killer. With each episode, we learn more about the backstory of each character and how their stories interweave.
With Jessica Lange’s absence from the show, Murphy hired singer/actress, Lady Gaga as the leading lady.You can definitely sense the writers and creators of the show trying to up their game this season with so many of their key performers who made the past 4 seasons great absent from this season. In some ways, it worked but in others it left the show with quite a few plot holes. For one, I love the premise of this season, a haunted hotel, which echoed that of the Murder House (Season 1). The set and prop design team definitely outdone themselves this season by creating such an intricate setting for the story. You can definitely say the Hotel is a character on its own. Secondly, the cast this season is not only star-studded but they definitely brought their A-game to ensure that the show maintained its legacy. The show started off strong (as per usual) with a few episodes sort of pieced messily but it eventually picked up its momentum again near the end.
In terms of storyline, I love the whole Det. John Lowe solving a case and his eventual spiral and revelation. I’m also a fan of the haunted hotel, in other words James Patrick March’s storyline and the whole serial killer bit. However, regarding the ‘vampire’ storyline, I’m a little on the fence about it. I love a vampire storyline as much as the next person but in this case, it felt a little too much to incorporate it alongside a haunted hotel and serial killer plot (I would have loved a pure serial killer plot). I can see why it’ll be a little dull and trendy to have a standalone vampire season, but at times it caused this season to be a little anti-climatic and wishy-washy. However, Lady Gaga, Matt Bomer, Finn Wittrock, Chloe Sevigny and Angela Bassett did bring their A-game portraying these mythical creatures which helped make the season more watchable. The one really great thing about this season if you’re a fan of the show since the beginning is the connection it made with previous seasons, especially that of Season 1. I truly can’t wait to see how all the characters and seasons are connected. If you’re really curious, simply Google it and you’ll find a bunch of fan speculations and detailed analysis.
In terms of acting, I would say Denis O’Hare really outdid himself this season as the sassy transgender, Liz Taylor. I truly believe he deserves an award for this season’s performance. Lady Gaga definitely surprised me. She’s a solid actress who carried the show well for a newcomer. Matt Bomer on the other hand was great but he was definitely overshadowed by the vast storyline and cast of this season. I would have loved to see his character being developed more. The same goes for Paulson, even though she had a lot of screen time but her character this season pales in comparison to her previous ones and that of her costars. Peters was great as a psychopathic villain but once again it was slightly overshadowed by the vampire storyline. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of him as a villain or a role which is very different from his previous ones in future seasons (if he returns). As for Wes Bentley, I felt his performance was a little flat which is a shame, but it’s partly to blame with the way his character was written for the show. Lastly, it’ll be nice to have Wittrock and Lily Rabe to have a bigger part and more complex characters in this season since they have both given captivating performances in previous seasons.
Visually, this season was more sleek and stylish than its previous seasons to fit with the era and the setting of the story. However, I do miss the cinematography seen in Asylum. Overall, this season had a better pace than Freak Show and Coven but still ranks behind Murder House and Asylum for me. It had been a roller-coaster season with more bloodbath than before. Notable episodes include: Checking In, Chutes and Ladders, Devil’s Night, Battle Royale, and Be our Guest.
Regarding Season 6, nothing much has been revealed, including its cast with the exception of Angela Bassett who has recently confirmed her return to the show. I’ll be rooting for some alums to return for sure (as always) and here’s who I would like to see return next season: Evan Peters (it’ll be heartbreaking if another AHS alum leaves the show), Sarah Paulson, Denis O’Hare, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy (this season felt odd without her), Angela Bassett, Zachary Quinto, Finn Wittrock, Matt Bomer, Kate Mara, Taissa Farmiga, Gabourey Sidibe, Jamie Brewer and Dylan McDermott.
Rating: 7 1/2 out of 10