Spoilers for American Horror Story: Hotel below.
After its highly rated and resoundingly WTF premiere episode, American Horror Story: Hotel has settled into the anthology’s normal routine of filling a half-concocted storyline with alternating shocking and silly moments. And even though I would have bet money on Evan Peters’ H.H. Holmes-ish hotel architect Mr. March being my favorite oddball in this bunch, he was temporarily knocked down to second place for the “Mommy” debut of Angela Bassett’s Ramona Royale. I kind of need her to get her own spinoff.
Ramona’s introduction came as the broken-hearted Donovan was slumming and sucking blood out of street junkies, and it was while she was holding him hostage that she let her amazing backstory come to light. I gotta say, when reading about Bassett’s character before the show started, I thought that her actress status would be closer in nature to a 1950s starlet like Marilyn Monroe, but I was so pleasantly surprised to see that the glorious flashback scene that introduced her career in 1970s Blaxploitation flicks.
I would have been happy had the episode been set entirely during the filming of one of those movies Ramona was in. While I don’t believe that Ryan Murphy is the perfect person to put together a sorta-spoofy, sorta-realistic take on black filmmaking in the ‘70s – there will never be anything greater than Black Dynamite, anyway – I’d have taken an episode-length departure to see what this creative team could put together. In any case, there was still far too little of it, and I would have preferred her story take up a bigger chunk of the episode, possibly taking the place of the mattress escapee Max Greenfield stab Vanessa Williams, which didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose at this point.
But even when it wasn’t all about Bride of Blackenstein, Ramona’s story was still interesting, as we saw her pretty much throwing a potential career down the toilet so that she could get freaky with Lady Gaga’s Countess. That was something she probably couldn’t help, since Countess has an alluring way about her, but it didn’t look like Ramona was suffering when she was sucking blood off of Countess’ chest. And while that sequence was presumably erotic for some audience members, I was more mentally enthused by what happened as their relationship continued.
The decline of Ramona and Countess’ love is shown not in a conversation where the two argue over petty complaints, but rather in a years-spanning montage in an elevator, as the two characters don the outfits and hairstyles of the changing times while the distance grows between them. This was both a nice job to further show off this show’s stellar costume department, and also one of this series’ best examples of exposition. I guess that doesn’t necessarily make Ramona a better character, but her being in the scene helped her image.
In any case, Ramona’s build-up in this episode will hopefully lead to a similarly excellent arc as she moves on, assuming she doesn’t immediately get killed off at the beginning of next week’s episode. She intends to bring Countess down for wronging her – by blowing the brains from the head of Ramona’s follow-up fling – and she seems to be the only person who wants to do exactly this. Gaga-as-Countess isn’t really doing it for me so far, so you bet your ass that I’m hoping Ramona wins out in the end.
American Horror Story: Hotel airs on Wednesday nights on FX.