TV Review: American Horror Story: Hotel – Episode 6: ‘Room 33’

Despite a couple of interesting twists, ‘Room 33’ makes it painfully clear that this season has no plot, says


Image: Ray Mickshaw/FX

Image: Ray Mickshaw/FX

This review contains spoilers

Another week, another murder by the Ten Commandments Killer. It’s a pretty impressive feat to be able to make a serial killer boring, but Hotel manages it with ease. This week, the victim is a priest, force fed coins until his stomach splits open as a punishment for breaking the fourth commandment. This sounds pretty gruesome on paper but, in a show as bloody as this, it was actually strangely underwhelming. John Lowe, who desperately needs to find a shower and a hairbrush, wants to get back on the case, but his former colleagues would understandably rather that he didn’t. Cue John, returning to the hotel and engaging in more reckless behaviour, namely a bloody threesome with two Swedish ghosts (which is not a sentence I ever thought I’d write). Unnerved by his own behaviour, he then checks out, returning home to his daughter Scarlett. This development doesn’t prove to be a happy one, however, as Scarlett is furious with both her parents for having abandoned her, and the girl’s anger soon turns to fear upon being witness to her father’s increasingly erratic behaviour.

As I said last time, John is so boring it’s painful. I don’t know why the writers dedicate such a hefty chunk of each episode to him, particularly when it’s to the conspicuous detriment of far more interesting characters. As with last week’s episode, Ramona Royale appears for under ten minutes, and while Angela Bassett does a brilliant job with what little she’s given, it’s still incredibly frustrating. Even the fact that it seems Alex has turned against John since becoming a vampire isn’t enough to make me care what happens to him. In fact, all this change in Alex’s behaviour has done is weaken her own storyline, as whereas I was once invested in her character, it’s now becoming more difficult to sympathise with her.

Speaking of sympathy, the biggest surprise for me this week was that I actually found myself warming to Tristan. It turns out that the apparently shallow, self-obsessed former model does have a heart, as, in a surprising twist, it’s revealed that he’s fallen in love with Liz Taylor. The relationship has only been going on for a couple of weeks, but they’re already smitten with each other; Tristan because Liz makes him feel wanted and doesn’t just see him as a pretty face, and Liz because she’s always wanted someone who loves her for who she is. Tristan wants to tell the Countess about their love, believing that she’d understand, but Liz is more cautious, as she feels guilty for betraying the one who “made” her. Unfortunately, it turns out that Liz had every reason to be worried, as Countess Elizabeth, notoriously bad at handling rejection, slits Tristan’s throat in front of her.

The Liz/Tristan love story made me both very happy and very frustrated. On the one hand, I loved it because, unexpected as their relationship was, their scenes together felt very sweet and genuine. The love in Tristan’s eyes whenever he looked at Liz was almost tangible, as well as genuinely touching considering that Liz never thought she’d be able to find true love. I’ve seen other viewers say that they don’t believe someone as shallow as Tristan could fall for her, but I think that’s pretty cynical – it was very clear what attracted each of them to the other, and I thought it made a lot of sense. On the other hand, while I believed their love story, I wish that it hadn’t been so rushed. The pacing this season is horrendous, and this is probably the best example of that, with what could have been a wonderful love story being squeezed into a third of an episode. It felt lazy and last minute, which is such a shame as Liz is one of this season’s best characters and doesn’t deserve such poor writing.

Negatives aside, one thing I did like about ‘Room 33’ was that we got to briefly return to the murder house from season one. Back in 1926, the Countess went to Dr Charles Montgomery, the house’s original owner, for an abortion. Despite being only three weeks pregnant, her stomach was already the size of a beach ball, and when the doctor removed the foetus he discovered that not only was it fully formed, but also still alive. The child then proceeded to kill the nurse assisting Montgomery, before being taken home by the doting Countess. The second surprise twist of the episode is that Countess Elizabeth’s son is still with her, eternally a baby and hidden away in the titular Room 33. Like a scene from Murder House, the final shot of the episode is of her cradling her son, the camera in close up on his horribly malformed face.

The throwback to season one was a lot of fun, but unfortunately it also served as a reminder that the show isn’t what it once was. This season, the writers seem to think they can throw the occasional dramatic twist into a flat, boring story and call it a plot. Hotel had so much potential, but a muddled, story, poor writing, and neglected characters mean that it’s completely failing to live up to it.

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