'American Horror Story: Hotel,' episode 2: Tall, dark and murderous
‘Chutes and Ladders' was dripping with bloody decadence, perversion and guilt. I didn't think anyone or anything could surpass American Horror Story: Hotel's ghastly season premiere, but then along came the Hotel Cortez's master builder, James Patrick March, and the beautifully tortured Tristan Duffy.
Heartbreaks: the bigger, the better
Tristan, the eccentric, spoiled model played by Finn Wittrock, makes his grand entrance during Will Drake's fashion show in the hotel's lobby. Will Drake only invited the elite of the Hollywood fashion world, including a cutthroat fashion editor played by Naomi Campbell. She may reign in her silky fur shawl, but Liz Taylor slayed in her glittery turban.
Tristan makes a big scene on the runway, mostly due to his constant need to shove crushed pills up his nose and "I-don't-give-a-s***" attitude. He may have ruined the fashion show and abruptly quit modeling by cutting his beautiful face, but the Countess is obviously smitten.
"He's full of rage, I can smell it," she says as he passes her on the runway.
Other fun facts about Tristan: bondage bores him and he really hates Kendall Jenner (she ignored him at Coachella). She's the first victim he mentions wanting to feed off of after the Countess turns him into a trendy, modern vampire. Side note: These vampires aren't your typical fanged freaks. Shortly after his turn -- and the multiple romps in the bedroom -- Countess gives him tips and trips for modern vampirism. No fangs ("we cut"); avoid the diseased, the dead, the sick, druggies and the sun; don't get caught or fall in love.
Tristan is thrilled to have this "ancient blood disease." He's flawless, and as long as he feeds, he will never age. We also get part of the Countess's backstory -- she's more than 100 years old. Her favorite time period? The late 1970s. "I was the disco queen," she says. "I still am."
Donovan finds them scantily clad in bed, more furious that she turned Tristan than her adultery. His interruption prompts Tristan to flee in his tight, leopard-print skivvies and I almost fainted. Side note: Finn Wittrock should just never wear a shirt. Ever.
Countess kicks Donovan out. She was sick of him anyway, only wanting to "Netflix and chill" while she wanted to go out. What a buzzkill.
A monument to excess and opulence
As if we didn't have enough tall, dark and handsome fellas this season, in comes Mr. James Patrick March, the hotel's designer and builder, played by Evan Peters. He's an art deco freak who set out to create this hotel in the midst of the Great Depression.
Iris tells Detective Lowe Mr. March's story after Lowe tries to arrest her for accessory to murder. Lowe knows something is going on in this hotel, he just doesn't know what. He's been hallucinating during his stay at the Cortez. He's seen visions of his lost son, Holden, along with flashes of the Addiction Demon and two rotting corpses doing naughty things in his shower. His investigation of the serial killer keeps leading him back to the hotel. Lowe puts his puzzle pieces together and sees the killer is sending a message with his killings -- they all relate to the 10 commandments.
Lowe finds out from Iris that Mr. March had a deep hatred for organized religion, which could mean he's carrying on his torturous work in the afterlife. Iris' storytelling gives us a vivid black and white mini movie about Mr. March. He designed the Hotel Cortez to be the perfect torture chamber -- darkened hallways with no escape, secret tunnels, walls lined with asbestos to mute screams and laundry shoots to dispose of bodies. His vice was killing for pleasure.
A particular scene shows Mr. March scoffing at a man praying before his inevitable demise. "I guess I'm just going to have to kill God," he says before smashing the man's head with a hammer and throwing him down a shoot.
Mr. March wasn't alone in his endeavors though, he had a wife (who looks strangely like Countess) and his ever-faithful maid, Ms. Evers. Ms. Evers, who can get a pesky blood stain out of anything, is the nail in the coffin of a fan theory suggesting most of the hotel's inhabitants are already dead. Sally is dead, Donovan was dead and was saved by the Countess through vampirism, Ms. Evers is dead (Mr. March and she offed themselves rather than be taken by police) and Mr. March haunts his old office/torture chamber -- room 64.
Lowe says he doesn't believe in ghosts. You're in the wrong show, buddy. But he's determined to find out the hotel's truths.
"I'd rather watch."
Fans are going to have a tough time choosing a favorite character this season. We haven't even seen Angela Bassett or more of Naomi Campbell's character yet! And what about those creepy, giggly children? Also, Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters are both playing villainous character this season -- a first for them both. And they're KILLING it. Literally.