American Horror Story: Hotel

american horror story hotel poster season 5 review episode guide
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Always interesting to see how people are cast and the path the show takes

Beginning of show meanders for too long before finding direction

american horror story hotel title card review episode guide listThe Hotel Cortez in Los Angeles has a storied past.  Built by James March (Evan Peters), the hotel houses secrets and horrors.  Under the watchful eye of Countess Elizabeth (Lady Gaga), Iris (Kathy Bates), her addict son Donovan (Matt Bomer), Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson), ghost maid Hazel Evers (Mare Winningham), and Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) keep the Cortez’s secrets secret…but that’s all about to change.  Fashion designer Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) has bought the Cortez and is bringing into modern day.  In addition to that Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) has tied the Cortez a series of murders by the “Ten Commandments Killer” to the Cortez.  People check into the Cortez, but they don’t check out…ever.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 1 checking in bed monster

The Cortez has a nice bed turn down feature

American Horror Story:  Hotel is the fifth season of the FX anthology horror series.  Airing from October 7, 2015 to January 13, 2016, the season received a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Lady Gaga) with a nomination for Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, and Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Makeup for a Limited Series or a Movie (Non-Prosthetic) and Outstanding Costumes of a Contemporary Series, Limited Series, or Movie (“Chutes and Ladders”) with nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie (Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson), Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or a Movie, Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie, or a Special, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special, and Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More).

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Vampires who are sloppy eaters loose cool points

American Horror Story is always a toss-up.  I’ve sometimes really enjoyed it, and I’ve also been quite bored.  Regardless, I will say that the series is fantastic on changing up the genre and style of the show while still having a “feel” to it that carries on season to season.

American Horror Story:  Hotel was a struggle.  The beginning of the season moved at a snail’s pace and often characters didn’t seem to make many logical steps.  The series begins to smooth out toward the middle of the season as the characters became fleshed out and quirky characters like Liz Taylor got the depth they needed to make them feel real instead of gimmicky.  It is both the strength and the weakness of the series which relies on connections between the viewers and the characters no matter how horrible they are and the decisions they make…this season was harder to connect to.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 6 room 33 ten commandments killer wes bentley

The collection plate at church was full

What is interesting and different as the show moves along is the greater connections between the seasons.  The show is beginning to connect itself to other seasons and actors like Sarah Paulsen are starting to play multiple characters within a season as a result.  You get season 1 “Murder House” connections and a visit from Queenie from American Horror Story:  Coven.  It is a strange “world” that the characters are creating around them and it is part of the fun of the anthology aspect of the show.

The series also always features great casting.  This season was noted for casting Lady Gaga which also was divisive.  The first half of the season, she does come off as a music video star in a series, but as mentioned above, the series begins to flesh out her character in the second half to give her perspective.  Kathy Bates always dives into her American Horror story roles and this season is no different.  I’m still not the biggest fan of Wes Bentley whose gruff voice seems almost comic book like as he experiences the hotel while his wife played by Chloë Sevigny also starts out interesting but seems to falter in the second half of the season.  I love Mare Winningham in her rather small and inconsequential role as Hazel, but Evan Peters was kind of irritating as March.  Angela Bassett also plays a great character that could have even more screentime.  The biggest turn during the season is Denis O’Hare whose Liz Taylor becomes one of the better characters of the series.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 7 flicker rudolph valentino natacha rambova finn wittrock alexandra daddario

All your favorite old-timey celebrities stop by the Cortez!

The show always looks goods.  It is generally stylishly shot.  Hotels always give way to creep factor and if you’ve ever been in an old style (aka dark and dank) hotel, the Cortez captures it both in opulence and worn-out nature.

American Horror Story:  Hotel isn’t my favorite season, but it does improve over the course of the season.  The series has changed things up by incorporating new cast members and different locations each season, and that is the fun of the series.  You tune in to American Horror Story at the beginning of the season and you are never sure what you’re going to get…and honestly by the end of the season, you might have an entirely different show then when it started.  American Horror Story:  Hotel is followed by American Horror Story:  Roanoke.

American Horror Story:  Hotel Complete Episode Guide:

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 1 checking wes bentley cortez

“Checking In”

5.1       Checking In Airdate:  10/07/15

Swedish travelers Vendela (Kamilla Alnes) and Agnetha (Helena Mattsson) have checked into the Hotel Cortez, and they won’t be checking out when they enter Room 64.  Countess Elizabeth (Lady Gaga) and her lover Donovan (Matt Bomer) spend a night with swingers…and dine.  Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson) enjoys a heroin addict named Gabriel (Max Greenfield).  Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) investigates a sexual murder of a couple and finds himself drawn to the Aztec Hotel by the potential murderer.  Manager Iris (Kathy Bates) learns that the hotel has been sold to Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) and things might be changing while recalling how she entered the hotel in search of her son Donovan.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 2 chutes and ladders countess lady gaga

“Chutes and Ladders”

5.2       Chutes and Ladders Airdate:  10/14/15

Sally learns the secret of why John gave up drinking and the loss of his son Holden (Lennon Henry).  Will Drake has taken control of the Hotel Cortez and is throwing a party for his fashion line.  Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock) enters the Cortez and learns the secret of Countess Elizabeth’s abilities and has a deadly encounter James March (Evan Peters).  John’s daughter Scarlett (Shree Crooks) finds a secret in the Cortez that could change her family and bring her mother Alex (Chloë Sevigny) and her father back together.  John confronts Iris about the events in the Hotel Cortez and learns the story of how James March constructed it…leading John to his own discovery about his Ten Commandments serial murder case.

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5.3       Mommy Airdate:  10/21/15

Alex remembers her love of Holden and what it did to her to lose him as she and John try to cope with Scarlett’s claims that her brother is living in the hotel.  Will’s assistant Claudia (Naomi Campbell) has an encounter with one of the hotel’s visitors…putting John on the suspicion of Sally.  Donovan deals with Elizabeth “replacing” him with Tristan, and Tristan learns why Elizabeth suddenly has an interest in Will.  A trip into the city to eat has Donovan meeting Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) who has her own past with Elizabeth.  With Donovan disowning her, Iris goes to Sally for a favor.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 4 devils night serial killers

“Devil’s Night”

5.4       Devil’s Night Airdate:  10/28/15

It’s Devil’s Night, and the Cortez has some special guests.  The discovery of the past of the hotel from Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) leaves John questioning reality and what is happening in the Cortez.  John March throws a party for Richard Ramirez (Anthony Ruivivar), John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), the Zodiac Killer, and Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe) and gives John a special invitation to the party.  Alex tries to determine what has happened to Holden when she finds him in the Cortez and is given a choice by Elizabeth.

american horror story season 5 episode 5 room

“Room Service”

5.5       Room Service Airdate:  11/04/15

Alex tries to adjust to her new hunger and tests her new found abilities in an attempt to cure Max Ellison (Anton Lee Starkman) from the measles…with disastrous results.  John tells of his experience with the serial killers but discovers that it has a negative effect on his career.  Iris is suffering from the hunger of being turned and is offered up by Donovan to Ramona Royale as a means to get inside the Cortez.  When Iris is faced with demanding guests (Darren Criss and Jessica Lu), a lesson from Liz Taylor helps Iris find her voice.

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“Room 33”

5.6       Room 33 Airdate:  11/11/15

A trip by Elizabeth to see Dr. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) in 1926 leads to the birth of her child.  Alex learns John has found the coffins in the Hotel Cortez and goes to Liz for help to keep him from uncovering the truth.  Ramona and Donovan learn from Iris that Elizabeth is out, and the chance to make their move is here.  When the Swedish travelers find their “purpose” by visiting John, John decides it is time to leave the Hotel Cortez, but he unknowingly has a stowaway.  Liz and Tristan find their relationship ramping up…but telling Elizabeth might be a problem.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 7 flicker elizabeth rudolph valentino natacha rambova lady gaga


5.7       Flicker Airdate:  11/18/15

As renovations of the Hotel Cortez continue, a previously sealed hallway is opened and two hungry monsters are unleashed.  Elizabeth recalls being a starlet in 1925 and falling in love with Rudolph Valentino (Finn Wittrock).  Entering an arrangement with Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova (Alexandra Daddario), Elizabeth finds Valentino’s death hits her hard and drives her into the hands of James March…but tales of Valentino’s death might be exaggerated.  Out of his job and with hints that the Ten Commandments killer has been caught leads John to seek out the locked up killer himself.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 8 the ten commandments killer

“The Ten Commandment Killer”

5.8       The Ten Commandments Killer Airdate:  12/02/15

Wren (Jessica Belkin) is dead, and John finds his memory returning when he is prompted by Liz and Sally.  Going to his partner Detective Andrew Hahn (Richard T. Jones), John tells him a story of his first trip to the Cortez in 2010, the horror he uncovered, and how it became a part of him.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 9 she wants revenge wedding lady gaga cheyenne jackson

“She Wants Revenge”

5.9       She Wants Revenge Airdate:  12/09/15

The wedding between the Countess and Drake is coming, and Elizabeth has plans.  Iris continues to come into her own with her new abilities and learns Donovan has worked his way back to the Countess.  Ramona remembers how she left the Hotel Cortez and returned to her parents (Marla Gibbs and Henry G. Sanders) only to have it be marked by tragedy.  Alex finds her actions with Max has consequences and questions what to do about it.  Ramona and Donovan plan to double-cross the Countess, and Miss Evers warning to Drake might not stop the wedding from going on.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 10 she gets revenge liz taylor iris kathy bates denis ohare

“She Gets Revenge”

5.10     She Gets Revenge Airdate:  12/16/15

Liz and Iris decide that the end is here and to go out with a bang.  Donovan sets out to ruin Elizabeth’s future by visiting Rudolph Valentino.  Alex tries to fix the problem she started involving Max and brings in John to help her.  Drake’s death brings the police to the Cortez, but people have a way of showing up when unexpected.  A visit by Liz’s son Douglas (Josh Braaten) could mean a change in plans for Liz and Iris.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 11 battle royale ramona vs elizabeth lady gaga angela bassett

“Battle Royale”

5.11     Battle Royale Airdate:  01/06/16

Liz and Iris’s attempts to kill Elizabeth fail, but they claim another victim.  Sally helps Elizabeth with strings attached, and Elizabeth is forced to make a choice she hoped to avoid.  John finds keeping ahold of his family could be harder than he thought even out of the Cortez and discovers he might have to complete March’s dreams for the Ten Commandments Killings.  A visit by Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) could provide the means for Ramona to get her revenge.  March learns the truth about why he was caught.

american horror story hotel season 5 episode 12 be our guest cast

“Be Our Guest”

5.12     Be Our Guest Airdate:  01/13/16

Things are changing at the Hotel Cortez.  Under Iris and Liz’s management, they hope to turn the estabilishment around…if the ghosts can stop killing the guests.  While trying to strike a truce with the ghosts, a new problem arises in the form of psychic Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) who turns the Hotel Cortez into a tourist attraction…and desperately wants to meet with John.  Devil’s Night is coming, and Billy Dean might get her wish.

Related Links:

American Horror Story:  Murder House (Season 1) Review and Complete Episode Guide

American Horror Story:  Asylum (Season 2) Review and Complete Episode Guide

American Horror Story:  Coven (Season 3) Review and Complete Episode Guide

American Horror Story:  Freak Show (Season 4) Review and Complete Episode Guide

American Horror Story:  Roanoke (Season 6) Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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