On Oct. 7, the anthology series “American Horror Story” premiered its fifth season, “Hotel.” Each season of the show is a separate, self-contained story with the returning actors playing different characters each season. This season’s storyline follows detective John Lowe, played by Wes Bentley, who is sent to the Hotel Cortez to solve a string of murder cases with the help of the concierge, who have a darker past than they lead on.
Judging from the first episode, the series shows promise of being crazier and bloodier than ever, with several arranged deaths that Detective Lowe must investigate. Some of the scenes inside the hotel are disturbing and haven’t been seen since the first season, “Murder House,” such as the eerie-feeling two Swedish tourist girls.
The junkie-hating hotel manager Iris, played by Kathy Bates, returns and is able to achieve the menace exhibited by her previous character, Madam Delphine Lalaurie, from “American Horror Story: Coven,” despite a lackluster performance as the bearded lady Ethel. As Iris, she retains the motherhood characteristic while adding enough chill for anyone to question her true motives.
This season also shows a big shift in character for Sarah Paulson, who plays Hypodermic Sally, a junkie who lives at the hotel and, rightfully so, Iris’s antagonist. In past seasons, Paulson portrayed the more good-natured characters, such as the righteous reporter Lana Winters in “Asylum,” the witch Cordelia Fox in “Coven” and the naïve conjoined twins Bette and Dot in “Freakshow.”
Joining this year’s case of characters is Lady Gaga, who I find works well in the “American Horror Story” arc. Her quirks play to the benefit of her mysterious character, the Countess, and also owner of the Hotel Cortez. Though Jessica Lange, long-time series regular, retired from the show, Lady Gaga assumed her absence perfectly. Gaga figures as the lover of Donovan, played by Matt Bomer, and her eclectic style fairs well as she and Donovan go about the town and work with the staff of her hotel to complete her ulterior motives.
This season’s plot is looking to be the most gruesome yet, with Detective Lowe tracking down a serial killer called The Ten Commandments Killer, and several murders already taking place inside the Hotel Cortez. Character-wise, this season has one of the strongest casts since “Asylum,” with the staff and residents of the hotel all having unique and outstanding personalities.