FX‘s American Horror Story Mommy TV Show Review. American Horror Story: Season 5, Episode 3: Mommy focused on two mothers who loved and lost their sons to Hotel Cortez. Alex (Chloë Sevigny) and Iris (Kathy Bates) dominated this episode playing two representations of maternal anguish. Mommy delivered on the drama, madness, and the gore as we explored motherhood, suicide, and love in Hotel Cortez. This episode was very ambitious and mostly successful.
Tristan (Finn Wittrock) and March (Evan Peters) are a match made in hell. March was thrilled to have a willing protégé and took Tristan, and us, on a twisted trip down memory lane to what he called “the black closet” – something I can only describe as suicidal. In March’s sick imagination, he actually devised a way for his inhabitants to unwittingly murder themselves (what?!). It made sense then that March called Hotel Cortez his “murder palace” complete with acid pits and asphyxiation chambers. Body count before the opening credits: 2, including poor Claudia (Naomi Campbell). Mommy, however, was more about loss than death.
This episode was beautifully shot. The look and feel of this episode ranged from dark and distorted to misleadingly soft. Sometimes we were in rooms lit with little lamps making us search for details covered in blood splatter. Other moments, we were in smoky atmospheres with bright light streaming in from all angles, then on to murky, drug-blurred points of view. We went outside to inside, to carnivals and therapists offices, from windowless rooms to rooms with panoramic views of the Los Angeles skyline. Mommy really opened up the scale of the American Horror Story: Hotel universe. Expanding and contracting, the episode felt equally vast and intimate.
Alex let us in on a dark secret: she loved Holden (Lennon Henry) more than Scarlett (Shree Crooks), more than John (Wes Bentley), more than life. Alex’s inner monologue was complemented with shots slowly revolving around everyday images of Alex in her past maternal bliss in warm and cold light. The effect was both endearing and sorrowful. At one point, we saw jealousy emanating from John as he watched Alex sleeping beside Holden when he was an infant. Everything is off-kilter in Alex’s mind and the odd camera perspectives really emphasized her reality. She is a pediatrician who lost her child and that truth weighs on her every day. (Just pause and ponder that.) The most haunting image that came out of Mommy, was possibly the sight of Alex floating in a bathtub with her blood streaming from her veins. With that image, suicide emerged as the controlling theme throughout this episode.
Iris told Donovan (Matt Bomer) she loved him, as if he did not know. Donovan told his mother to kill herself. Bates imbued Iris with so much earnestness you knew the exact moment when Donovan broke Iris’ heart. Bomer rose to the occasion spewing such vitriol through Donovan’s mouth that I cringed when he spoke. Donovan told his mother he “wanted to die” so much he did every drug possible to kill himself. Donovan hated his mother for saving him. (Just pause and ponder that.) Now, obviously, social “norms” do not exist in Hotel Cortez, but the way Donovan treated Iris in that moment felt very wrong. Also, the Ten Commandments got a lot of attention this episode. It seems like “honor thy mother” was one commandment (of many) that Donovan did not obey. So, when Donovan flouted his mother’s love it felt like a bad moment even for Hotel Cortez. It was Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) who reminded Donovan that he only gets one mother, and he was wrong to keep “abusing” Iris because she loved him more than anyone ever would. Iris felt so hurt that she asked Sally (Sarah Paulson) to help her overdose because her purpose was Donovan, and Donovan did not want anything to do with her.
The assisted suicide scene between Sally and Iris produced strong, painful images even though they tried to inject some dark humor into it. That scene straddled a very fine line between sympathetic and egregious. Earlier in the episode, Sally said that killing could be “righteous.” What she did to Gabriel (Max Greenfield), stuffing him in a mattress, did not seem righteous. I guess this moment with Iris was a demonstration of her own belief? Regardless, when Donovan wept like a child as he fed his mother his blood to revive her, somehow, I felt sympathy for this mother and son, despite the fact that both of these characters are murderers living in a “murder palace” …I am so confused (that is some serious credit to the writing and the actors).
In other news, Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) was introduced in this episode. Her story was set in the 70’s where she was a rising B-movie star that was depicted like American Horror Story‘s parody of Pam Grier. Ramona was with The Countess (Lady Gaga) for sixteen years before Ramona fell in love with a rapper at first sight (he kind of looked like Suge Knight too). Ramona turned him. We discovered that The Countess does not condone the making of other vampires unless she makes them, thus she killed Ramona’s new love. Now, Ramona wants revenge by taking The Countess’ “babies,” referring to the blonde children. Unfortunately, Ramona’s story was a weaker emotional moment of a very loaded episode. Their relationship spanned late 70’s to early 90’s in the blink of an eye – or an elevator ride – which did not show much depth. I simply was not convinced that Ramona and The Countess loved each other enough to hate each other. This rivalry would need more teeth in coming episodes. Meanwhile, Donovan probably should be worried about the repercussions following his choice to turn his mother. He may have no idea that he has crossed a forbidden line.
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