With an inconspicuous start several years ago on the FX cable network, American Horror Story rose quickly from the dust of low level social media fame to the heights of cult classic popularity similar to the likes of Beetlejuice and Clueless. Every season of the star studded thriller show features a different theme and alternating cast, unique every year. The current season’s theme is Hotel, and although the title may seem less than terrifying, producer Ryan Murphy has a talent for shocking viewers beyond belief. The first surprise for fans and casual viewers alike came long before the show’s actual premiere. The cast of the upcoming season would be headlined by versatile pop singer and songwriter Lady Gaga, instead of the show’s usual lead Jessica Lange. Some of the rest of this seasons cast includes some familiar faces and some new recruits: Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Kathy Bates, Chloe Sevingy, Angela Bassett, and Donald Sutherland.
Unlike last seasons convoluted plot, Hotel begins by giving viewers a character or two they can relate to. Detective John Lowe, played by Wes Bentley, comes to the Hotel Cortez while investigating a string of gruesome murders in Los Angeles. Juggling a strained marriage and the bizarre disappearance of his son Holden, Lowe is also placed in a stressful situation when the Ten Commandments Killer beings to threaten his family.
Another permanent resident of Hotel Cortez is none other than The Countess herself, played by Lady Gaga. The Countess is revealed to have a unique sort of blood disease with traits similar to a vampire. Lady Gaga’s character has been known to share her abilities with her lovers and children that she abducts, and it’s later on shown that she may be responsible for the disappearance of Detective Lowe’s son. She also shares these traits with her ex-boyfriend, Donovan, who she “turned” as Donovan was dying of a drug overdose. Donovan’s complicated relationship with The Countess isn’t made any easier when it’s revealed that his overprotective mother, Iris, works as the hotel’s manager just to keep an eye on her son. Iris and Donovan are played by Kathy Bates and Matt Bomer.
While the introduction of countless new characters and differing personalities do add to the show, it’s difficult to ignore the commonalities between this season and the first, the Murder House.. Both are set in Los Angeles, and many of the Hotel Cortez’s residents haunt the hotel as ghosts once they die, a concept also found in the Murder House. The main character, while relatable, has a marriage falling apart as the result of tragedy, another theme found in the first season. A mysterious killer titled the Rubber Man was also featured in the first season, and Ryan Murphy repeats the idea again with The Addiction Demon. A creature without eyes or a mouth, The Addiction Demon violently assaults hotel residents.
Despire all the commonalities between the first season and the now fourth, I’m interested in how far Lady Gaga’s acting abilities can propel the show, and how Detective Lowe will fare in uncovering the murders that are turning his city upside down.