‘American Horror Story’ 5.03 Recap: “Killing Is Awesome!”

The latest episode of ‘American Horror Story’ brings back one of the bigger stars from the last couple seasons while also adding a new famous face to the cast. One of them is a good actress. The other… well, less so, but she tries.

‘Mommy’ is another extra long episode. It clocked in around 75 minutes with commercials. We start with Tristan paying a visit to hotel founder James March’s room. He’s come to apologize for his earlier behavior. He says that he’s done some reading up on the man and is a big fan. Now that’s he’s been turned into a vampire, Tristan has a great appreciation for murder, and thinks that March is one of the greatest killers of all time. March is flattered, and shows him his “black closet” which has a huge spike for impaling victims.

They’re interrupted by new hotel owner Will Drake and his assistant Claudia (Naomi Campbell, whose skills at modeling unfortunately do not transfer to acting) as they discuss plans to tear apart this floor of the hotel. Drake can only see Tristan, and is annoyed to find him back in the building. After they leave, March is aghast that anyone would dare to touch his “murder palace.” Tristan tells him that he’ll take care of it.

As much as I enjoyed last week’s episode, one big false note it struck was an extremely preachy storyline in which John’s wife Alex (Chloë Sevigny), who’s a pediatrician, scolded a dumbass anti-vaxxer mom whose son had contracted the measles. This really had nothing to do with anything else on the show and was just a way for producer Ryan Murphy and his writers to make a political statement. As much as I may personally agree with the point, it felt out of place. Annoyingly, that comes back around this week when the kid has to be hospitalized. However, at least this time it leads into a flashback where we learn that Alex had tried to commit suicide after her son disappeared. She admits to loving the boy more than she loved her husband.

After she leaves Drake for the night, Claudia goes to her room and gets ready for bed. This gives the episode an excuse to have Noami Campbell strut around in lingerie for no reason. She’s a little creeped out by spooky things happening in the room, and is then murdered by the weirdo freak (Max Greenfield from ‘New Girl’) who hides in bed mattresses.

Outside the hotel, John works a new crime scene in which the employees of a tabloid gossip site were slaughtered and had their tongues nailed to their desks. This is the work of the Ten Commandments killer. This time he’s upset about bearing false witness.

Tristan invades Blake’s penthouse suite. He tells him that he’s clean now and tries to make nice. He then seduces the man in order to get close enough to kill him, but he stops and suddenly leaves when the Countess waves him off.

Crazy Mattress Guy turns up in a hospital, covered in blood and rambling about something. The doctors peg him as a junkie. Before he dies (of what, I’m not sure), he tells John that he killed the wrong woman, and that he did it for Sally. John returns to the hotel and tries to arrest Sally, despite having no evidence that she’s actually done anything. Sally gets very aggressively flirty and seduces John in the hotel elevator, only to vanish right before his eyes.

Iris (Kathy Bates) is relieved that the Countess has finally broken up with her son Donovan. She tells him that she wants to get an apartment for the two of them. Donovan is not interested. He holds a serious grudge against his mother for kicking his father out of the house when he was young. He also says that he wanted to die when he overdosed, and is still upset that she saved him. He tells Iris that she ought to just kill herself, because he will never love her.

The next we see Donovan, he’s feeding off homeless junkies under a bridge. Suddenly, a mysterious woman (Angela Bassett) stabs him and forces him into the trunk of her car.

Alex visits the hotel to have a drink with John. (He won’t drink any liquor, even though Alex claims that he’s not an alcoholic.) She has brought divorce papers for him to sign. John begs Alex not to leave him, and says that he thinks he’s going crazy. She tells him that things have been much better at home since he moved into the hotel, and she hasn’t missed him. Ouch.

Upstairs, the Countess has a nightcap of her own with Drake. The designer confesses that he’s out of ideas, and had hoped that moving to the West Coast would inspire him. It hasn’t. The Countess puts the moves on him and isn’t deterred by the fact that he’s gay. She even successfully gets a rise out of him, but they’re interrupted by Tristan, who’s very upset and believes that the Countess is already tossing him to the wayside. The Countess says goodnight to Drake and finds Tristan in her room. She explains that she was a victim of Bernie Madoff and is dead broke. She plans to marry Drake and then murder him. Tristan is relieved.

Because John is all worked up to quite a state, Alex brings him back to his room and gives him some sleeping pills. She then storms out when he tells her that he wants to have another baby with her. In the hallway, Alex sees Claudia covered in blood. She’s naturally freaked out about that, but gets distracted when she then sees her son Holden.

Despondent at the way her son treated her, Iris goes to Sally and says she wants to die. She asks Sally to give her a heroin overdose. Sally agrees only on the condition that Iris stay dead and not stick around as a ghost. “Don’t haunt my hallways, bitch.”

Donovan wakes up and finds himself connected to a blood transfusion machine. The woman who kidnapped him says that she’s cleaning the drugs out of his system. She introduces herself as Ramona Royale. This then leads to a terrifically entertaining flashback to 1977 where we discover that she used to be a blaxploitation film star in the Pam Grier mold until the Countess seduced her and turned her into a vampire. Ramona was the Countess’ companion until 1991, when she fell in love with a rapper and turned him to be her own progeny. This so upset the Countess that she killed the rapper and banished Ramona. There can only be one queen.

Ramona has plotted revenge for years, and plans to use Donovan to get it. She wants to take away the only thing the Countess loves as much as Ramona loved her boyfriend – the vampire children she has created. She’s very upset when Donovan informs her that the Countess dumped him.

Kicked to the curb once again, Donovan has no choice but to return to the hotel. He has no friends and no money. The bartender Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) chastises him about how he’s treated his mother. Humbled, Donovan searches for Iris to grovel for her to take him back. He finds her with Sally, almost but not quite dead. When the heroin didn’t do the trick, Sally wrapped a plastic bag over Iris’ head. Frantic to save her, Donovan feeds her some of his blood to turn her into a vampire. “Now there’s some twisted poetic justice,” Sally remarks sarcastically.

We’re only three episodes into the new season, so it’s certainly too early to make any pronouncements. That said, so far this is my favorite season since the show’s first. I may have some quibbles about Naomi Campbell’s acting (or Lady Gaga’s, for that matter) and the anti-vaxxer stuff, but a scene like that Angela Basset flashback more than makes up for those deficiencies. I hope this can hold up.

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