‘American Horror Story’ 5.05 Recap: “Look at You in Your Moment of Transplendent Rebirth”

After getting sidetracked a little by that disappointing Halloween episode, ‘American Horror Story’ got back to business last Wednesday and, at least for the most part, back on track. That’s a relief. I was starting to worry about the season.

I’ve complained previously about the annoyingly preachy storyline in which Alex (Chloë Sevigny) lectured an idiot anti-vaxxer (Mädchen Amick from ‘Twin Peaks’) whose son contracted measles. I really didn’t see the point of it, other than to give the show’s producers an outlet to make a political statement. Although that story is back in this episode, it finally pays off with something relevant.

After having been vampirized by the Countess, Alex returns to work at the hospital, looking much worse for wear. She finally starts to feel better after guzzling a bunch of blood bags in a supply room. While doing her rounds, she finds that the anti-vaxxer’s kid is dying and the other doctors don’t think they can do much for him. When she clears the room, Alex mixes some of her own blood into his IV drip. Almost immediately, the boy, Max, starts to recover. Soon enough, he’s discharged to his mother’s care. Alex feels very proud of herself. Her affliction has actually helped someone.

Not so fast. The next time we see him, Max has slaughtered both of his parents. He blithely heads to school on Halloween costume day dressed as a pirate. In short order, he spreads the vampire plague to a bunch of his classmates and murders several of his teachers. He encourages his friends to drink the victims’ blood. “It’ll make you feel awesome!” he exclaims.

With bodies in the hallways, the school is put on lockdown and a S.W.A.T. team rushes in to rescue the children from a presumed psycho killer. Unfortunately, the cops don’t know that Max is the psycho. By the time all the kids are ushered outside to safety, they all recite a consistent story about a masked intruder in the building.

Alex later returns to the hotel with her son Holden. The Countess doesn’t mention anything about Alex inadvertently starting a vampire outbreak. Is she unaware of it, or is she pleased by it? I expected her to be upset at Alex for bringing unwanted attention their way. (Also, we were told previously that she became furious when her progeny made new vampires on their own.) In either case, it appears that Alex is done being a doctor. The Countess tells Alex that she wants her to stay at the hotel and act as governess for the vampire children. Alex consents because it will allow her to be with her son. However, she expresses concern about running into John in the building. The Countess says she’ll handle that.

Hipsterism = Worse Than Vampirism

The episode’s title, ‘Room Service’, refers to a new storyline where a pair of obnoxious douchebag hipsters (Darren Criss from ‘Glee’ and Jessica Lu from ‘Awkward’) check into the hotel demanding a discounted rate for “influencers.” (Criss’ character arrogantly boasts that hotel owner Will Drake has Liked a bunch of his photos on Instagram, as if that were a tremendous life accomplishment.) They treat Iris like a pile of hot garbage and verbally abuse her with their demands. Given that Iris was recently vampirized by her son, is struggling to prevent anyone from finding out, and hasn’t fed yet, the hipsters’ behavior puts her in an irritable mood.

Liz Taylor immediately recognizes that Iris has turned and gives her a little blood to tide her over. As she self-pityingly moans about her miserable life, he tells her the story of how he came to live at the hotel.

In a flashback to 1984, we learn that, in his former life, Liz was a milquetoast salesman and family man with a secret passion for cross-dressing that nearly crippled him with shame. While staying at the hotel for a business conference, he was visited by the Countess, who encouraged him to embrace whom and what he is. She told him, “You don’t lack beauty; you lack commitment,” and christened him with his new name. When his homophobic coworkers spotted him in drag and harassed him, the Countess murdered them in the hallway and offered Liz a job as the hotel bartender. He never returned to Topeka again.

Back to the present day, the hipsters place a ridiculous room service order for the likes of pâté and “grilled romaine.” Liz slaps some cat food on a plate and tells Iris to present it to them as the pâté. She does so, and of course they obliviously eat it and can’t tell the difference. When they scream at her about forgetting the grilled romaine, Iris hits her limit. She stabs them both to death with a corkscrew and drinks their blood. Good riddance.

Liz helps Iris dispose of the bodies. In the more than two decades they’ve worked together, this is the first time the two of them have genuinely bonded. All it took was Iris’ death to do it.

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness or Commit Adultery

When John tells his police captain (Robert Knepper) about his dinner adventure with a roomful of historical serial killers, the captain naturally enough assumes that he’s cracking up. John theorizing that the killers were part of a copycat blood cult imitating famous criminals doesn’t convince him otherwise, so the captain puts him on suspension.

John later wakes up in bed with Sally, his body covered in scratches. He claims that he doesn’t remember being with her and angrily kicks her out of the room.

Episode Verdict

The school massacre and hipster stories in this episode are both hilariously satirical. More importantly, the Liz Taylor flashback brings some genuine depth and pathos.

At this point, I assume that John himself will turn out to be the Ten Commandments Killer. The clues all seem to point to him having a psychotic break with periods of lost time. Among other things, that would explain why James March invited him to the serial killer dinner. If that turns out to be where the show is going, I hope the season doesn’t drag out the revelation too long. We still have eight episodes to go before the finale.

1 comment

  1. Spot-on review! I laughed my ass off at the ‘pâté’ thing, as I presume every cat owner did. The hipsters got what they ordered, just not in the way they meant.

    One lil nitpick tho: post-Countess encounter, Liz Taylor uses she/her pronouns. Denis O’Hare does this in interviews, and describes her as ‘gender-fluid’. I agree about the pathos. I just wanted to hug the poor gal. I usually find O’Hare’s characters to have the most tragic backstory (Larry Harvey in S1; Spalding in S3) and usually makes me cry at least once. (Exception to his slimeball salesman in S4, although his end fate was beyond cruel.)

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