Since last night’s ninth episode of American Horror Story: Hotel was called “She Wants Revenge” and next Wednesday’s episode is called “She Gets Revenge,” it wasn’t hard to presume that whomever the “She” in question was would have to wait for another week to enact her titular goal.And the “She” to whom the title refers may actually be two shes. The first: Angela Basset’s Ramona Royale, who’s been markedly absent during the show’s one-by-one attempt to unveil the gruesome backstories of all residents of the Hotel.
Finally, now that the last episode devoted a full hour to the twist of John Lowe being the 10 Commandments Killer, it veered from the boring-turned-bloody detective for an episode to shine focus on the status of Royale’s long-time-in-the-making revenge plot that will surely lead to a showdown between Lady Gaga and Angela Bassett in the next episode. This seeming promise can’t exactly salvage the type of narrative mess AHS makes of its seasons, but could certainly be an isolated, memorable TV moment. The second “she” is the Countess herself — though her form of revenge will be enacted on all of society after having her trust betrayed time and time again.
The episode begins with an attempted psychological explanation of the Countess. In monologue form, she gripes about how she’s “controlled nothing — surrounded [herself] by fools and flatterers — put her trust in those who could not be trusted” as a preface to her plans to Take the Power Back (though does she not really already have it… what with that neck-slashing fingernail and the fact that everyone’s petrified of/in love with her?). Tomorrow, she will wed/kill Cheyenne Jackson’s Will Drake and also, we can assume, get revenge on James March, the dead serial killer/her ex who jealousy imprisoned her Great Love, Valentino, in the walls of the Cortez.
“Once she puts the ring on her finger she will bleed you dry,” the bodily-fluid obsessed Ms. Evers warns Drake — seemingly in a small attempt to stymie the the Countess’ plans in retaliation for when, way back when, the Countess stole James March’s heart. But Drake certainly doesn’t listen, and the fatal wedding comes ever closer.
The Countess feels even more vindicated in her callousness towards all beings by what she perceives as across-the-board disloyalty: even Liz Taylor (Dennis O’Hare), she claims, has dashed her trust. Of course, The Countess is too hyperbolically self-centered to realize that she herself kinda dashed Liz Taylor’s trust when she slit Liz’s true love’s throat. Anyway, her disconnect from whatever last scrap of empathy she might have harbored seems to mean we’re in for a bloodbath. But we always are, and the Countess was never truly very empathic, so really… we’re likely just in for more of the same.
Meanwhile, the Countess’ romantic allegiance may truly be back with Valentino (Finn Wittrock — when he’s not playing Tristan), with whom she’s reunited at a generic sex motel. (Formerly the type of hotel we’d associate with gruesome murders, this American symbol of sleaze and death now seems wholly innocuous compared to the towering grandeur of the Cortez). But it also just so happens that she’s gotten back with Donovan. We’re led to think he’s playing her, but she’s playing him as well — winning his loyalty back until he’s willing to betray Ramona and his own mother (he’s dismissed her pretty thoroughly in the past, so this is no big stretch).
As a seeming apology to Angela Bassett for having given her so little to do this season, the show does what it does best. Well no, not best — commonly. Throw a(nother) clunky backstory vignette her way. We learn that after the Countess slit Ramona’s lover’s throat (yes, she does this a lot), Ramona returned to her father, whom she’d neglected when she’d tried to become a staaaah. But now, on her return, she found that he had Alzheimer’s. She assumed that giving him the blood virus would cure it, but even in this fantasy world where Aileen Wuornos appears for dinner parties, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s. And so she gave him a Xanax and drowned him in his bathtub, and then reflected on the mess her life had become ever since she met the Countess. The tipping point, however, may have been Hulu. “Goddamn Hulu. My old movies are streaming for free. For free?!” she exclaims, and you know a battle between her and the Countess is imminent.
Her plans, however, are stonewalled, literally, when she gets locked up in a torture device within the Cortez’s fortified stone dungeon. For it turns out that Donovan, with whom she was plotting against the Countess, had actually fallen for the Countess once again. Honestly, it’s a good thing he deceives Ramona, because her plan to murder the Countess is uncharacteristically dull: she was going to stab her in her sleep. Donovan is also thus simultaneously betraying his mother, who warns him that the Countess has no sense of others — her world is “just her and surviving.” (It should be noted tangentially, because it is indeed completely tangential, that Kathy Bates’ Iris murders a group of porn stars in this episode — in part because she doesn’t appreciate the gender tropes of pornography.) Meanwhile, Bassett admonishes Donovan with a line that’s particularly funny, as it’s spoken from within a neon-lined torture device:
She’s already move on to the next one. If you don’t know that you’re more dumb than you are pretty… And you’re very pretty.
The Countess marries Will and then colludes with March to throw him into the dungeon with Ramona, who begs him for help from her bondage, then proceeds to slit his throat. The episode ends on a note where we’re clearly meant to anticipate the “She Gets Revenge” plot line that’s coming next. Outside of the impressive (for AHS) focus the episode sustained in preparing for the collision of the forces of Ramona and the Countess, it did have one subplot worth mentioning, as it’s clearly building to something. The kid that Alex Lowe (Chloe Sevigny) saved from measles by giving him the blood virus is continuing to wreak havoc on Los Angeles — turning his classmates into parricidal preteen monsters.
Here, Alex confronts them and attempts to convince them to come to the Cortez with her and lead a calm and lawful(ly vampirish) life. Will they all convene to help the Countess battle Ramona? Will they all have a sudden epiphany and set up a clinic devoted to curing the children of anti-vaccers who’ve contracted the measles virus? Will we watch them grow in a poignant montage into the characters of Twilight? One thing that this show proves again and again is that, with no consideration whatsoever for narrative continuity, flow, or sense, literally anything is possible.