The seventh episode of American Horror Story: Hotel introduces some intriguing new characters and information, but their introduction is too ill-timed and poorly executed to pull you into the material.
“Flicker” opens up by putting the spotlight back on Will Drake for a hot second. He’s back from his trip to Paris and is now more eager than ever to make the Hotel Cortez home sweet home, that is, after he renovates it. When Will demands that the construction crew demolish the mysterious steel hidden in the walls, the men stumble upon an eerie chamber, step inside and have their throats ripped out by two very hungry vampires. A little while later, Iris and The Countess inspect the carnage. Even though The Countess has seen quite a few gruesome scenes and has been right in the middle of many of them herself, this one makes her especially uneasy.
During a flashback to Hollywood 1925, we get a peek at what The Countess was like back in the day, just a young girl from Bensonhurst trying to become a movie star, so it’s no surprise when she’s seduced by one of the most famous actors in the industry, Rodolfo Valentino (Finn Wittrock). Apparently every episode of American Horror Story: Hotel needs a threesome, so after a little sexy time with Valentino and his wife Natasha (Alexandra Daddario), we find The Countess at a party at the Cortez, one thrown by Mr. March to celebrate the opening of the hotel. She’s getting a kick out of Mr. March’s showmanship and all the bubbly, but when The Countess gets word that Valentino is dead, she attempts to follow suit and jump out the window but before she can take the leap, Mr. March pulls her back in.
Even though she’s heartbroken and visits Valentino’s tomb every day to leave a single red rose, that doesn’t stop The Countess from marrying Mr. March, indulging in all the riches he has to offer and trying to benefit from his hobby of murdering people. However, one day, during a visit to the tomb, Valentino surprises her and reveals he’s not dead after all but rather, reborn. In another flashback, Valentino explains that F.W. Murnau got super authentic while making Nosferatu and wound up contracting the ancient blood virus and becoming a vampire himself. He gave it to Valentino who gave it to Natasha and now they want to pass it on to The Countess and all run away together. The Countess is 110% in and ready to go, but unfortunately for her, Mr. March overhears the whole conversation and entombs Valentino and Natasha in a hidden hallway in the Cortez without The Countess knowing. But now the wall is down, Valentino and Natasha are loose again, and they’re hungrier than ever. While they ravage every hotel guest they can get their hands on, Mr. March reveals what he did to them to The Countess over dinner.
All of the issues mentioned at the beginning of this recap apply here, and then some. First off, we’ve got enough key characters to worry about. Did we really need to throw Rudy and Natasha into the equation? (Although I will be annoyed if they waltz out of the hotel and never come back.) Secondly, did they really need to bring Wittrock back to play another character this season? I think he’s fantastic, but having him return as someone other than Tristan is distracting. And lastly, even though Wittrock makes quite the pair with Daddario, Peters is killing it (no pun intended) as Mr. March and Lady Gaga is delivering quite the performance as well, the way they structured their story is a total mess. The details are easy to track, but by jumping back and forth and back again, the episode fails to established a catchy beat you can get caught up in.
And then there’s John who’s still in the middle of his meltdown. Or is it a “meltdown?” Last episode it looked like he was really losing it, but now he’s manipulating doctors into admitting him into a hospital just so that he can catch the Ten Commandments Killer. While there, John casually overhears a security guard bragging about the big, bad killer and then effortlessly knocks the guard out, steals his keys and walks right into the room expecting to find a hulking mass murderer. But instead, it’s just a young girl named Wren (Jessica Belkin).
In yet another flashback, it’s revealed that in 1986, The Countess stopped Wren from killing herself in a stifling car to escape her father’s threats. We don’t see it, but it’s safe to assume that The Countess ultimately turned Wren into one of her vampire children and now Wren’s sick of it so strikes a deal with John; if he gets her out of the facility, she’ll lead him to the Ten Commandments Killer. Even though Wren seems supportive and digs the idea of John taking this guy out, before she reveals his identity, she opts to kill herself.
Again, Wren is an interesting character and Belkin out-acts Bentley in their scenes, but her involvement is completely unsatisfying given that she first appears so late in the game and then exits so quickly without giving John much concrete new information. Wren narrowed his search down to the Cortez, but we all knew that it would come back to the hotel the moment the show began. The big problem with “Flicker” is that it’s got no forward momentum. Between its own bizarre storytelling format and where it falls within the season, it feels like the episode just dumped more details on us while making little to no progress.
Episode Rating: ★★
Odds and Ends:
- “How would someone even know their anus needs bleaching? I couldn’t pick my butt hole out of a line up.” – Iris
- “What?” – The Countess “I’ve just never seen you scared before.” – Iris
- “I think the flickers are the future.” – The Countess
- “Who’s the lucky fellow? I’d like to send him some steaks.” – Mr. March
- “Might I suggest that when you murder him you do so off the property. It’d be damned awkward to keep running into him for all eternity.” – Mr. March