'American Horror Story: Hotel' recap: 'Flicker'

For The Baltimore Sun
The Countess finally gets an elaborate backstory on "American Horror Story: Hotel."

Another week, another mystery on "AHS: Hotel." This time, there's something creepy trapped in the walls -- and it's not any of the ghosts, vampires, or mattress-prisoners we've met before.

But, more importantly, we finally get an extended flashback focused on the Countess’ origins, which confirms some intriguing connections.

Will Drake’s renovations: Still happening. In case you’ve forgotten, Will Drake still exists, and is still renovating the Hotel Cortez for some dumb reason. He also has to explain to his son, who’s been missing since the third episode, that he’s planning to marry the Countess and live happily ever after.

“But I thought you were gay,” Irritating Son Whose Name I’ve Forgotten asks. So did we, kid. So did we.

Meanwhile, some construction workers discover that one particular section of the hotel has been sealed off with steel. Drake tells them to just tear it up; he’s got a schedule to keep. They try, but the two guys get end up getting their throats ripped out by two unidentified figures, and it’s time now for us to guess whether they’re vampires, ghosts or some other kind of heretofore-unidentified hellbeast.

Detective Lowe’s plan seems problematic. John checks himself into a mental hospital, claiming that his life has so many problems right now he feels like the walls are closing in. He tells his new shrink that the Ten Commandments Killer case has been kind of stressful, and everyone’s pleased John’s acknowledging his need for professional help.

Joke’s on him though, because John’s only there to try and get some dirt on a suspect in the case, and he thinks the suspect is being held in this same facility. This plan seems very legal and sane and not at all like something a crazy person would do, right?

The origins of the Countess, revealed. Iris, looking remarkably zen and put together now that she’s accepted her undead lifestyle, shows the Countess the dead construction guys. She points out that whatever killed them had to be starving, and the Countess is visibly nervous.

Iris, in her new Zen Master persona, points out that she’s never seen her boss scared before, so that’s how you know it’s bad.  

This leads into a lengthy flashback. We're suddenly back in 1925 on a movie set, where we meet the woman who will one day become the Countess. For now she's just a girl trying to be an actress.

She’s watching a man perform, who turns to be none other than iconic actor Rudolph Valentino (and played by for-some-reason-doing-double-roles-this-season Finn Wittrock, to boot). They make eyes at each other for a split second before Valentino invites her back to his special bungalow for dinner and overly tiresome conversation about art and immortality.

Valentino is apparently every irritating hipster you’ve been on a coffee shop date with.

Wittrock plays Valentino as a smarmier, less crazy version of his character Dandy from “Freak Show," complete with an occasionally hilarious heavy accent. Their date continues until Valentino’s wife Natacha Rambova comes home.

Things are momentarily awkward, but then they all start making out and have a threesome, because that seems to something that happens a lot this season.

Some time later, the Countess goes to a party with a friend who’s annoyed she’s been missing in action the whole summer. The Countess smiles and says she’s been “around," which is probably code for “having threesomes a lot."

The party is being thrown by Mr. March, in honor of the grand opening week of his new hotel, the Cortez. March and the Countess make dramatic eye contact (with bonus slow-mo!) but the moment is interrupted when a man rushes in with a newspaper proclaiming that Valentino has died in New York.

The Countess is devastated by this news and immediately tries to throw herself out of a window. Her suicide attempt is thwarted by March, who decides that this moment of deep despair is the time to try a really creepy pick-up line about “never letting her go” ever again. (Yuck.)

But back to the vampire thing. A few months later, the Countess has established a reputation for herself as the infamous “Woman in Black," a mysterious figure who visits Valentino’s grave daily to weep and leave flowers.

She has also managed to get married and is now Mrs. March, having decided that since life has no meaning anyway, she might as well be rich. She has even discovered his secret habit of murdering people all over the hotel, but because she has decided she’s “drawn to darkness” or something, she just gives him advice on how to pick his victims and says she wants to watch.

Of course, it turns out that Valentino isn’t dead after all. He and Natacha find the Countess at his graveside and confess that the body in the tomb is none other than his (apparently extremely devoted) stunt double.

Further, they’re both immortal. According to Valentino, during his press tour for the film “Son of the Sheik”, he met famous German director F.W. Murnau. Apparently, Murnau researched his film “Nosferatu” thoroughly enough to discover that the “ancient blood virus” was real, and become a vampire himself.

He turned Valentino, who turned Natacha, and now they want to turn the Countess so the three of them can run off to Europe and live happily ever after.

Meanwhile, in the mental hospital. John, having determined what room his partner had been visiting as part of the Ten Commandments case, knocks out a security guard and sneaks into the ward’s restricted section.

At the end of a mysteriously empty and poorly lit hallway, he discovers a creepy little girl named Wren. She confesses that she has been hanging out with the killer, even admits that she killed the security guard in the church.

She talks about her terrible father, who planned to force himself on her when she got older. Her father used to drink at the Cortez, where she was rescued by the Countess after he left her locked in a hot car. Of course this girl is a vampire. Duh.

Wren won’t tell John who the killer is, but she says if he gets her out of the world’s least secure mental facility, she’ll show him where he lives. After they just basically walk out the front door, Wren tells John that he needs to go back to the Cortez.

“Will you kill him?” she asks.

“If I have to,” says John.

"I really like you,” Wren tells him, “I hate to see it end.”

Then she runs into traffic.

Breaking up is hard to do. Meanwhile, the Countess is busy having dinner with March, which is apparently something they do once a month. She shares the news that she’s planning to marry Will Drake, because that’s the storyline that just won’t die, and March advises her to kill him away from the property, so they’re not all stuck running into him for eternity.

Honestly, this building must be so packed with dead people already, given the rate folks seem to die there.

The two then proceed to squabble – the topic feels well trod, like it’s a fight that happens frequently, even if the names have changed. March seems jealous and angry, insisting that he thought he could make the Countess love him by giving her everything she’d ever wanted – riches, comfort, the hotel itself – but nothing moved her.

The Countess says that she was always honest with him during their marriage, but claims she never loved him anyway. March complains that he just couldn’t compete with the shadow of her ex.

This is where March decides to reveal that back in the 1920s, in a jealous rage, he had his men jump Rudolph and Natacha on their way to the train station to run away with the Countess. He then locked them into a section of the hotel, reinforced the walls with metal and bricks, and left them there for nearly a hundred years. That ... really sucks.

This is the first time the Countess has heard any of this. She clearly thought that the two of them had abandoned her, and she’s super-upset, particularly when she realizes that her exes are what killed those guys earlier in the episode. 

She’s too late though, as Rudy and Natacha are power walking out of the hotel at that very same moment, on a quest to reclaim all they lost in their years of imprisonment, having finally eaten enough people to restore themselves to human form. (This season sure has featured a lot of very dramatic entrances and exits.) Will be see them again? Who can say?

Odds and ends

The lack of Liz Taylor in this episode was criminal, particularly after her character had been so heavily – and fantastically – featured the past couple of weeks.

Kathy Bates has won an Oscar, and has also uttered the line “I couldn’t pick my butthole out of a lineup.” What a time to be alive.

I’m so upset about the fact that Valentino and his wife murdered Marcy, the real estate agent from the "Hotel" season premiere and the first season. It seemed so unnecessary for anything other than shock value.

I am beginning to wonder why they even bothered to cast Angela Bassett this season. She can’t possibly have had more than 10 minutes of screen time in seven episodes. What gives?

What happened to the classroom full of vampire children? Did they just all go home and eat their families?

Thoughts, comments or elaborate theories to share? Hit me up on Twitter: @LacyMB

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