If any of us were wondering whether this series still had IT, allow American Horror Story Season 5 Episode 3 to serve as proof. The answer is yes, in case you were curious.
Fans of Ryan Murphy's works know better than to get their hopes up when one episode shines more brightly than the others, but it's hard not to look to "Mommy" as evidence of what this series can be.
If last week's episode of American Horror Story: Hotel was all blood and guts and gore just for shock's sake, "Mommy" was an episode focused on story telling and character development.
It's hard not to be optimistic that maybe, just maybe, American Horror Story: Hotel will manage to pull out a cohesive season of stories where characters and arcs converge. Tonight gave me hope that maybe that will happen.
I know, I know, it's early in the season. This is only the third episode. But it's pretty easy as a fan of the series to know what's coming in terms of everything falling completely apart. We've seen it time and again.
Part of the problem is and always will be cast bloat. As a rule, Murphy seems afraid to cut anyone loose, and instead of working solely with the talent he has, he's always bringing new talent into the fold, thus bloating the cast even more. See Glee for a case in point.
What worked tonight is that, even though this is an exceptionally large cast, everything felt balanced.
We were treated to thoughtful moments with nearly every character, and the moments were written in such a way that can start to see the bigger picture forming around all of them.
Hypodermic Sally hates Iris as much as Donovan does. Or did. It might be their junkie natures uniting them against someone who is so doting she actually drove her son to seek an escape through drugs. That she would go to Sally for help ending her life only to be saved by the son who wanted her dead was poignant. It was, as Sally smartly said, a bit of "poetic justice."
What's also interesting about that story is the way Donovan saved her.
He turned her into an immortal, infecting her with the virus. Only moments before he learned that the Countess doesn't look kindly upon those who seek to make their own immortals. In her world, she's the only one with that power.
When her lover Ramona Royale decided after twenty years with the Countess that she had fallen in love with another and turned him, the Countess responded by murdering him and his entire crew. She can't stand to lose.
Now we know what she's working for and what's working against her, which suddenly makes her more interesting.
The Countess is flat broke, and while I felt like the Bernie Madoff bit was shtick-ish and silly, we saw her powers of persuasion in action as she seduced Will Drake, who is gay, with plans to marry him so she can take his money. And WOW is she persuasive. (By the way, that answers the question of who was married to James Patrick March.)
In taking Drake's money, she'll secure a home for her children, but her children are what she stands to lose, and she has more than one enemy on that front.
Alex now knows that her daughter wasn't lying when she said she saw Holden at the hotel, and something tells me Alex won't chalk this up to being a figment of her imagination. The pull toward him which she talked about in her opening monologue will reassure her that this is her son, however different he may be. (Dollars to donuts she'll try to find a way to move into the hotel.)
A war between mothers is brewing, and Ramona threatens to come between both mothers and their shared son. And that leads back to Donovan and Iris and how she's an immortal and mothers and sons and on and on. Themes, you guys. We have them.
We might even be able to make a case for Sally and her monster and Gabriel fitting into the mother-son dynamic since we now know that he's still alive. Ish. He's alive-ish. He did get stuffed into a mattress and appears to have been living there until the point at which Claudia laid down upon the bed.
Thanks to that scene between Sally and John when the elevator turned into Willy Wonka's tunnel, we know ghosts can't leave the hotel. Or at least that's what we think we know. Whether that scene was all in his head or he really put her in cuffs and planned to take her in is anyone's guess, but watching that play out was definitely...entertaining. I'm curious to know what you guys think on that one.
Can the ghosts leave the hotel? Is Gabriel dead? If the ghosts can't leave, does that make this Murder House 2.0? Let's chat in the comments below! Remember you can always get your Hotel Cortez fix and watch American Horror Story online.
Miranda Wicker is a Staff Writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.