Dec 18 2015

American Horror Story: Hotel – “She Gets Revenge” Review. Blaze of Glory.

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 Finally, John and Alex admit they are the worst parents!

Finally, John and Alex admit they are the worst parents!

Season 5, Episode 10 (Winter Finale)

Airdate: Wednesday, December 16, 2015, 10:00 PM ET/PT on FX

Rating:

 The midseason finale of American Horror Story: Hotel (AHS: Hotel) ties up loose ends, and leaves a lot to ponder before the series’ return on January 6, 2016. Despite many flaws from its erratic pacing and plot holes, AHS: Hotel leaves plenty of unforgettable moments to distract viewers. “She Gets Revenge” is no exception with some surprising choices in music, a brief dance scene, and witty dialogue. James Wong is the writer responsible for “She Gets Revenge,” and like his previously written episode “Mommy,” Wong has a firm grasp in understanding the characters in a way that preserves the continuity of the show’s various story lines. Wong shapes the dialogue in every scene for maximum emotional impact, leaving viewers like myself enthralled. I found myself laughing in one moment and then utterly disturbed the next, but it’s not just Wong who deserves the credit. Episode director Bradley Buecker—who, incidentally, directed “Mommy” as well—knows how to shoot and cut a scene! The camera angles Buecker selects complement Wong’s writing, as well as capturing the best elements of all the actors’ performances.

Within the context of where the main characters are in the season, from vampire-like children and serial killers, Wong and Buecker make the most of the subject matter assigned to them with AHS: Hotel. I am not suggesting previous writers or directors are inadequate; rather, what I notice with Wong and Buecker is their ability to set a good pace for an episode while maintaining a balanced atmospheric tone. For example, there are a couple of violent scenes in “She Gets Revenge” but the emotional weight of such instances diminishes in contrast to Iris’ (Kathy Bates) ‘inspirational’  Instagram video, and Donovan’s (Matt Bomer) impressive dance to the song “Hotline Bling.” I am not stuck feeling a constant sense of dread of what’s to come for the cast; I know the intention of AHS: Hotel relies on the horror elements, but it’s nice to get a slight reprieve from the morbid content from time to time.

Wrecking Ball

Suspenseful is an appropriate description for the tone of “She Gets Revenge.” The outcome of Donovan’s twisted scheme against The Countess (Lady Gaga), a Lowe family reunion, and a shocking cliffhanger will make 2016 a very exciting year for AHS: Hotel.

Donovan gives The Countess the kind of love that's best served cold

Donovan gives The Countess the kind of love that’s best served cold

Previously, in “She Wants Revenge,” The Countess reunites with her literal maker and lover, Valentino (Finn Wittrock). Wittrock is a great addition to the cast, and has enough charisma to hold his own while working with the captivating Gaga. That said, it’s the wonderful chemistry between Gaga and Wittrock that makes the final chain of events in “She Gets Revenge” bittersweet.

After the reunion between The Countess and Valentino, plans for a new life together take a deadly turn. I didn’t think Donovan in all his madness, after betraying Ramona (Angela Bassett), would settle for playing second fiddle to Valentino. One of the things I like about Donovan is his evolution as a character. Donovan remains as selfish as ever, exacting his revenge in a cruel way. Yet, the difference between Donovan and Ramona is the depth of understanding in each of them. Sure, Ramona lost the love of her life at the hands of The Countess. But as far as knowing Ramona’s past and her life outside of her need for vengeance, she remains somewhat underdeveloped. Donovan, however, is a character that is more than The Countess’ lover; he is Iris’ son and Sally’s (Sarah Paulson) former drug buddy.

One of the issues brought up in AHS: Hotel revolves around having a sense of purpose. Donovan didn’t have much of a calling apart from being The Countess’ lover at the start of the season. By losing favor with The Countess, Donovan’s fall from grace became an important part of the entire season because of its ripple effect. In Donovan’s search for revenge, viewers witness his journey from forming an alliance with Ramona to infecting his mother with the blood virus. “She Gets Revenge” may be the final destination in Donovan’s journey as he takes matters into his own hands. His love for The Countess is a warped thing, and their scene during the last five minutes of the episode just might be the biggest game changer of the season.

 My Baby Shot Me Down

Guns are ablaze from the very start of “She Gets Revenge,” beginning with a double suicide of an elderly couple who would rather die together than alone. Violence, death, and control are topics fueling this season of AHS: Hotel. Detective John Lowe’s (Wes Bentley) investigation into The Ten Commandments Killer is a major story line that, at this point, is losing steam. Of course, there is one commandment left in order to complete March’s horrific vision. As long as the show’s focus on John lies with his partnership with March, their story might be a little more interesting. Since John and his wife Alex (Chloe Sevigny) have made amends, I can’t help but feel irritated. I still find Alex intolerable, especially since she and John are so fixated on their son Holden (Lennon Henry) and not their daughter Scarlett (Shree Crooks). At the very least, they both admitted to being “the worst” parents ever.

Then there’s Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and Iris; these two are my favorite duo of the whole season. They embark on their own agenda to go out with a bang until someone from Liz’s past pays him a visit, changing the course of their plans in a whole new, lethal direction.

Overall

One of the strongest features this season in AHS: Hotel is the acting. The performances have been nothing short of brilliant this season with each actor committing 100% to their character. Wittrock approaches Valentino in such a way that it’s hard to imagine him portraying the brash Tristan a few weeks ago. On the writing side of things, the continuity is slightly better, the follow through and completion of the vampire-esque children story line is resolved—for now. It’s strange to find “She Gets Revenge” as a midseason finale when it could easily be a closing episode for the season. I wouldn’t mind an open ended finale for AHS: Hotel. In a way, leaving more questions than answers is kind of the season’s modus operandi. Overall, “She Gets Revenge” is a solid episode with a few major highlights and long overdue developments in its story.

What did you think of ”She Gets Revenge?” Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @conallen.

Follow the series on its official site: American Horror Story: Hotel.

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Photos: ©2015 FX Network. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

© 2015, Connie Allen. All rights reserved.

Connie Allen

I'm a writer, cinephile, avid reader, and pop culture enthusiast. I love historical dramas, and fantasy/sci-fi series. Currently living in SoCal.
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