Wow. What an episode. Hotel is truly the most complex and richly-developed horror story since the first season, and it's a pleasure to see the layers of references and real-life history gradually unwoven as the series continues its bloody rampage.
This week, all of the "things you may not have noticed" kind of weave into one... possibly solving one of the coolest mysteries about the season so far...
Vampires, ghosts and now... zombies? All will be explained, but this first scene is the groundwork for some dynamite revelations... who are the zombies?
2. They're Rudolfo Valentino & Natacha Rambova!
The Countess's paramours, Valentino and Rambova, were real people. Valentino was one of the last great silent movie stars, and women really did kill themselves with hysterical grief when he died. He also had a famous preoccupation with the morbid and bizarre, saying:
"What the average man calls death; I believe to be merely the beginning of life itself. We simply live beyond the shell. We emerge from out of its narrow confines like a chrysalis. Why call it death? Or, if we give it the name death, why surround it with dark fears and sick imaginings? I am not afraid of the unknown."
Valentino is also rumored to have owned a cursed ring that brought many people to their deaths... maybe that will turn up in a later AHS: Hotel plotline?
Of course, this being American Horror Story, not 'American Happy Endings Story,' Rambova and Valentino don't live happily ever after...
3. The Mausoleum
The Mausoleum is the next stop for our pair, who meet the glamorous third wheel to their three-way affair in this morbid place. Horror fans may have noticed the striking resemblance to the scary funeral home in classic horror Phantasm where the kids are chased by the Tall Man. The Countess turns up to grieve for Valentino, but meets him there, seemingly alive. Who saved him from the clutches of death?
4. Enter F.W. Murnau
The man who gives Valentino the vampire virus is F.W. Murnau, real-life director of iconic silent horror movie Nosferatu. The show plays with the ideas of "living forever" both on screen, in memory and through timeless vampirism with ease, including a glorious flashback to a Carpathian orgy that would make Hammer Horror blush happily...
5. The 'Identical Dudes' Mystery: Solved?
The other week I posted an article about the one weird thing about AHS: Hotel that even the cast had noticed: all of the handsome dudes look the same! This episode solves that... and it's totally heartbreaking.
The Countess fell in love with Valentino, who she grieved twice; first because he "died" and secondly because he "ran away"... she's been chasing handsome youths to replace him ever since he was taken from her: Donovan, Will Drake and Tristan Duffy (who, in a bold move by the AHS writers, is even played by the same actor as AHS's Valentino, Finn Wittrock).
This also adds some more depth to her freak-out when Liz Taylor confessed her love for Tristan; he's the spitting image of the man she sees as her long lost love... and he falls in love with another.
This episode also reveals that Lady Gaga's character was married to James Patrick March – I punched the air when this happened as I nervously predicted it back in October – and this detail was cleverly concealed by her epithets; The Countess and Elizabeth. Now we know the depth of The Countess's heartbreak and the nature of her relationship with Mr. March, I'm even more eager to find out what happens...
Bonus! 'Murder House' Crossover: Part II
One of Rudi and Natacha's first victims is none other than real estate agent Marcy, who showed prospective buyers around the Murder House and brought Will Drake to the Hotel Cortez. R.I.P. MARCY.
In case you were wondering about the musical choices in this week's episode, I've created a Spotify playlist for every song featured. I'll be adding to it every week as the series goes on.