The Countess has left her pet project to the last minute. Ordering a contractor to seal up The Cortez’s once-secret wing—not just seal it up, but outfit it with a high-security entrance after installing a dozen cameras for remote observation—by tomorrow, she brushes off his objections. “Details don’t interest me, boo. Results are the only thing that matter.”
A lot of the details in “She Wants Revenge” seem beside the point, too little too late, and uncomfortably low on results. Ramona Royale reappears, with bonus backstory laid in on top of the backstory she was originally given. Donovan swears loyalty to Ramona and to The Countess, lying to at least one of them. A PI has tracked down Valentino and Natacha, and The Countess visits to pledge her undying devotion to him (but emphatically not to her). Iris checks in a party of pornographers, kills them, and bleeds them dry in a scene that’s interminably long for how little it advances the story.
This season has wasted Angela Bassett, and not only by keeping her offscreen for so much of it. It’s nice to see Ramona Royale fleshed out a little beyond a revenge-flick archetype, but this episode piles more clichés onto the clichés already invoked. Ramona wants vengeance against the beloved who gave her eternal life, promised eternal love, then discarded her. Wait, no, Ramona wants vengeance on the enemy who killed her new lover. No, on third thought, Ramona wants vengeance because The Countess is—um, somehow— to blame for Ramona’s sorrow over infecting her father, then suffering through 20 more years of his unaging, unending dementia.
Making her father immortal to save him from Alzheimer’s disease is so obviously shortsighted, only an actor of Bassett’s caliber could make it relatable instead of infuriating. The grief and pain on her face as she soothes him, cleans the blood from his chin, and gravely, firmly, lovingly pulls him under the water almost washes away how foolish the plan was. Almost.
Too many of these characters have foolish, shortsighted, downright stupid plans. Alex saved Max from the measles without considering the consequences. In this case, “the consequences” means unleashing a gang of child murderers upon Los Angeles, little monsters with the power and voracity of vampires and the guileless greed of spoiled children.
Donovan suffered through the heartbreak of being discarded by his immortal lover and creator, and he goes back for more, knowing it will only lead to more pain and desperation. “It’s a terrible feeling to have a craving you can never satiate,” he tells Ramona, and in case the metaphor isn’t thudding enough, he adds, “It’s an addiction.”
The Countess wants the contractor to construct an impenetrable fortress overnight, though it’s essential her prison be eternally impenetrable, and she must know haste leads to shoddy workmanship. It’s just bad planning, that’s what it is. Bad planning is typical of these characters, and too often, it’s typical of American Horror Story: Hotel. “There are a lot of moving parts,” the contractor warns The Countess, and someone should have issued the same warning to writer Brad Falchuk and director Michael Uppendahl, though the latter at least keeps the action moving at a nice clip.
The only one with a clear plan is James March, who commands the contractor with vim and assurance, doing his darnedest to insure his beloved’s happiness even on the eve of her wedding to another man. When she spurns him, March thinks up another plan, showing Will Drake the secret son—the secret abomination—The Countess keeps closeted in one of The Cortez’s rooms.
There’s some subtlety to James March’s approach. When he sits at the bar, asking Drake (who stands behind it) for an armagnac, he casts the bridegroom as the functionary he is: a bankroll, a blood bank, and now a bartender. The Countess, too, uses Will Drake for his talents: “You design my dress,” she tells him, “I’ll take care of everything else.”
In the opening of “She Wants Revenge,” The Countess bemoans her misplaced trust in lovers and companions, but she doesn’t seem to see the people she trusts with the most vital daily details of her eternal un-life. No one sees a private person as clearly as their servants. She demands Liz Taylor order flowers for her wedding, even taunts her with the “genuine hope that you someday may find true love.” The Countess knows how cutting those words are—or, if she doesn’t, that disregard cuts deeper still.
When Donovan double-crosses Ramona and his mother, Iris pleads with him to see reason. “The three of us together, it’s the only way we’ll have a chance to destroy her.” But there’s a different trio who could destroy The Countess.
Miss Evers is the dark horse of American Horror Story: Hotel. Urging Will Drake to call off the wedding to “that poisonous leech of a woman,” she warns him, “No one survives her.” Miss Evers didn’t survive The Countess, but she’s been watching her for nearly a century. When he scorns her warning, Miss Evers predicts the manner of Will’s death with uncanny accuracy: He’ll reach out to her, pleading for help, and she’ll watch him die with a smile on her face, knowing that his death means a chance to launder the stains of blood and shit from his fine evening clothes. Miss Evers has insight, she has passion… and she has access to The Countess’ “impenetrable” vault.
And she’s got reason to resent The Countess. Miss Evers has spent almost a century trapped in The Cortez, watching the man she loves—the man, this episode reveals, she was engaged to marry—spurn her, all the while burbling about her rival’s ethereal beauty and style. “You’re a genius,” James March tells her, thanking her for removing bodily fluids from his suit, “but the countess is a creature from heaven.”
Servants see every side of the imperious, the wealthy, the unwitting. Miss Evers, Liz Taylor, and Iris know The Countess as well as anyone could, and they know the simplest reason for revenge: love snatched away by someone who takes a lover or a life as lightly as a paying customer soils a pillowcase or demands another drink.
- The title of tonight’s episode name-checks the band whose “Tear You Apart” was showcased in this season’s premiere.
- Every week, someone in this overbooked mess gets crowded out of the hotel, and out of the episode. This week, it’s Det. John Lowe, because why would the show bother sustaining the story of the man it just revealed to be a notorious serial killer beset with memory lapses?
- How many pizza delivery drivers were gonna get drunk up before the LAPD figures out they were all heading to the same address? Half a dozen, at least.
- “You killed the pizza delivery guy! In about 30 minutes, they’re going to know he went missing.” Or less!
- “We’re gonna hate-watch.” DO YOU GET IT? It’s the hate-watchers who are the true vampires.
- Natacha returns from Beverly Hills laden down with shopping bags. Valentino laments, “She speaks of nothing but shopping and Uber.” Wampyres be shoppin’.
- American Horror Story: Hotel has a lot of story left to tell, and not many episodes in which to tell it. The writers would do well to take James March’s advice: “Make haste! Much to accomplish!”