TV Review: AMERICAN HORROR STORY: HOTEL Episode 2: “Chutes and Ladders”

ahsIt’s time for the second episode of a show that’s put itself in a position where every year there’s a limited amount of time to set up a whole new world. The season premiere hinted at some crazy stories and promised an orgy of sex and blood and this episode felt the need to extend its hour into 102 minutes, including commercials. Luckily my DVR is set up to record an hour past the scheduled time as seasons before have screwed me over and I would miss the last act of many finales. Unfortunately though, my DVR gets confused as to what to record as each season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY has a different title and this year forgot to record this week’s episode. Fortunately, FX milks this show for all its worth and airs it back to back so I caught the later showing. Now did this episode utilize its extra time slot for the better? Yes and no.

We got to learn of James March, new money who built the Hotel Cortez, secretly using his new foundation to fulfill his deadly desires. Evan Peters is having a devilish time, unleashing his inner Vincent Price as a sadistic murderer who averages three victims a week. His murders are creative and told in a nifty black and white sequence reminiscent of THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL remake. Finn Wittrock makes his first appearance this season as Tristan Duffy, a drug addict runway model who looks like he just stepped out of the pages of a Bret Easton Ellis novel. Duffy’s presence threatens the relationship between Donovan (Matt Bomer) and The Countess (Lady Gaga). A jealousy is born, leading up to a near homosexual encounter that culminated in another bloody bath in the bedroom. I’m hoping Whittrock is given more to play with this season instead of the irritatingly screaming DANDY from FREAKSHOW.

Detective Lowe (Wes Bentley) is a bit stale compared to the season premiere and he spends his time bringing his daughter into a knowingly dangerous hotel and doesn’t even believe the story of March, despite all the unexplainable encounters in his room. He even sleeps business casual and he wonders why he is having freaky nightmares. Naomi Campbell makes her AMERICAN HORROR STORY debut as Claudia Banks, an employee for Vogue who seems to have a sexual desire for our Detective and a promise for future appearances. Another random appearance came from Madchen Amick earlier in the episode as a mother who suffers the consequences of not vaccinating her child in a not so subtle scene that had nothing to do with the rest of the episode.

I’m having a hard time differentiating between Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) and Donovan and it doesn’t help that neither character has yet to be given a chance to flourish to create any kind of interesting dynamics. This extended episode decided to already explain The Countess condition, which it turns out is disease, but, let’s face it, she’s a vampire without fangs. There are the typical rules, but with a slight twist as every vampire property has to do something to sound a little different. This episode was nowhere near as fun as the premiere, but was far from the lowest of AMERICAN HORROR STORY. Still, I’m nervous that HOTEL is getting ahead of itself like FREAKSHOW did and find itself without any material halfway through the season. Crossing my fingers.

 

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