Monday, October 26, 2015

American Horror Story 5x03 "Mommy" (Three, I Count Three Episodes Ah, Ah, Ah) [Contributor: Melanie]

Original Airdate: October 21, 2015

Last week’s episode of Hotel was probably one of the more boring ones we’ve had this season, and since not a whole lot went on, I thought I’d take the time to finally discuss one of the biggest fixtures of the season: vampires. A lot of people guessed early on that Gaga would be portraying some kind of vampire iteration, and with things like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, vampire media has been pretty saturated in the last few years. And now it’s American Horror Story’s turn to tackle the classic trope, seemingly by taking a page from Guillermo del Toro’s book and portraying vampires less as mythical boogeymen and more so a possibility under modern science.

A quick lesson in vampire lore (thanks to two semesters of folklore classes): while what we would today call vampirism goes back thousands of years in multiple cultures, the western world is highly preoccupied with the vampire folklore of Eastern Europe. In that part of the world, vampires are a common legend springing from a few things: the inability to properly diagnose someone, thus incorrectly declaring them dead and becoming shocked when they “rise from the grave”; a biblical allusion in the Old Testament warning that anyone who ingests blood from an animal shall be “cast out”; and the rule of proximity. The first two are obvious causes, but the rule of proximity is an interesting one, essentially classifying the beasts and spirits that lived in places farther from home as more dangerous (ie: the domovoi, or house spirit, is much kinder and more helpful than the vodnik, evil and violent spirits of lakes and rivers). So the temperament of the time was grounded in a mixture of Christian and pagan fears, in which a vampire was a potent combination.

Fast-forward to the 19th century when vampire literature boomed. This time the audience was less inclined to be fearful of forest spirits and folk monsters and was more interested in the temptations a vampire brought with them — sexual and otherwise. Up until this time, vampires were actually thought to be ugly, described as blotted with a blotchy red appearance from their diet. With the arrival of literary vampires such as Lord Ruthven, Countess Carmilla, and Count Dracula, they became figures of attraction, noble status, and dark temptation. They were given the power of thrall over their victims and converting one required an intimate relationship. They also became Gothic creatures, stalking castles and gliding around in black capes.

The recent development of vampires often sees them as tragic figures, even antiheroes. Thanks in large part to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, vampires took on a mantle of soul-searching figures of torment looking for a shred of their former humanity. This motif has been followed up on in less potent renditions like Twilight. Recently, Guillermo del Toro has taken on a rendition of his own with his book series and subsequent TV series The Strain. This story paints vampirism as a disease and contagious virus that turns its victims into blood thirsty and rabid vampires. AHS seems to be blending the 19th century depiction with del Toro’s virus explanation. Wooden stakes, holy water, and fangs are out, but eternal life and blood drinking are in. And... it’s okay. While the vampire genre does need some serious reinventing, AHS is certainly not going to be the piece of media that does that. If it wasn’t for one of them being played by Lady Gaga, these vampires would be incredibly boring.

But, folkloric history lessons aside, on with the show...

The episode begins with Duffy returning to March’s room, this time to inform him he’s seen the beauty of murder. March asks him to continue his legacy and use the hotel’s traps to his advantage. Drake enters with plans to remodel room 64 and tells Duffy to leave before he calls the cops. Seeing March’s discomfort over remodeling his hotel, Duffy promises to handle the issue. Meanwhile, Alex is making another house call to the boy with measles, this time insisting he go to the hospital because he’s contracted pneumonia. She also delivers a monologue about her attachment to Holden — you know, in case anyone had forgotten — and how she tried to kill herself a year after he went missing. During a meeting with a family counselor, Scarlett reiterates her claims that Holden is in the hotel.

Elsewhere in the hotel, Claudia is in her room getting ready for bed when suddenly Gabriel appears and violently kills her. Speaking of death, Lowe is investigating another gruesome murder, this time at a local gossip magazine where all the reporters’ tongues have been nailed to their desks, enacting “thou shalt not bear false witness.”

Duffy confronts Drake, revealing to the audience that they once had a romantic relationship, but Elizabeth stops Duffy before he can kill Drake. Lowe returns to the hotel just in time to run into Gabriel, who’s covered in blood and pleads for Lowe’s help. Lowe attempts to interrogate Gabriel while he’s rushed to the ICU, and while Gabriel ultimately dies, he manages to pass Sally’s name along to Lowe. She’s arrested, though she casually assures Lowe she had nothing to do with the day’s incidents. She manages to seduce Lowe to distraction in the elevator before disappearing.

Meanwhile, Donovan and his mother have it out in the lobby when he insists on moving out. They trade harsh words and he insists she was an awful mother and human being, though she refuses to acknowledge his complaints. He leaves, saying he’d rather live on the street than with her. He starts feeding from a random junkie, but gets attacked by Ramona (Angela Bassett). Back at the hotel, Lowe meets with Alex, who serves him divorce papers, claiming her life has been easier with him out of the house and that he has issues with control. Further complicating our view of Lowe, Alex raises the implication that his drinking problem is fictitious. He breaks down and she brings him back to his room. She gets him sleeping pills, refuses to change her mind about wanting a divorce, and on her way out, spots Holden in the hallway.

Elizabeth and Drake have a night out together, and as we’ve gotten accustomed to seeing with Elizabeth, she starts coming on to him, despite his insistence that he’s gay. Ultimately he gives into his attraction to her, but a jealous Duffy quickly interrupts them. Later, Elizabeth explains to Duffy that her money is gone and she needs to marry Drake to ensure she receives the hotel back when he dies.

In the aftermath of Iris’ spat with Donovan, Sally realizes that Iris has no unfinished business, and thus wouldn’t haunt the hotel after she dies. Donovan would probably be interested to hear that, but he’s a little busy with Ramona, who’s put him on dialysis. She tells him she’s an actress who was trapped in B-horror films and endured racial prejudice earlier in her career, and that Elizabeth turned her decades ago. They had a relationship until 1997 when Ramona fell in love with a rapper. She turned him into a vampire, but Elizabeth was jealous of their relationship and killed him. After revealing that he too was a former lover of Elizabeth, Donovan is set free. Wandering aimlessly, he runs into Liz Taylor who berates him for his ungratefulness and poor treatment of his mother. Meanwhile, Iris has been injected with enough heroin to kill a horse but remains alive, perplexing Sally. She attempts to asphyxiate her but Donovan arrives and — unable to let his mother die — cuts open his wrists and turns her.

So it looks like there will be one more person to spell out AHS’ take on vampire lore. Check back here every week for more recaps as this season saunters on!


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