Richard Ramirez walks into the Hotel Cortez. Richard Ramirez died a couple years ago; if you haven’t heard of him, it’s because you only know the really ultra super famous serial killers, like John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer or Hannibal Lecter or Kevin Spacey. Richard Ramirez was no joke, though: Mass murderer, satanist. He’s checking in for Devil’s Night. He sneaks into a room, bashes in a sleeping husband’s face, then chases the wife down one of the Cortez’ eternal corridors. And there’s our pal James Patrick March, welcoming his old pal with a gift of fresh victims. The husband and wife are from Arizona; the Marriott was full. (Sorry: Were from Arizona.)
Detective Lowe doesn’t hear the Arizona wife’s deathscreams. He’s got his own problems. His wife’s talking divorce. His daughter would rather learn how to make banana cream pie with Gramma than hang out with him for a day of quiet pensive mourning. “Things are a little bit weird right now, aren’t they?” says Detective Lowe. (My third most favorite thing Wes Bentley says in tonight’s episode!) Then he notices the blood pouring from the ceiling all over his Carrie Mathison wallpaper.
Upstairs, he meets Hazel the Ghostmaid. Turns out Hazel has a flashback origin story. Los Angeles, 1925: She puts a sheet over her little boy, turns around for just one second, and the little boy gets kidnapped. His killer took him to Wineville, where he kept all his captives in the chicken coop. The police found the killer — but not before he dipped Hazel’s boy in quicklime and buried him on the ranch. “That is a terrible story,” says Detective Lowe, which is my second most favorite thing Wes Bentley says in tonight’s episode.
Kidnapping is a running motif for this season: It’s like deformity in Freak Show, or adultery in Murder House, or killing Emma Roberts in Coven. Alex kidnaps her own kid, bringing little Holden back home. She takes his temperature: 75.7 degrees. The kid says he’s thirsty, and while she turns her back, he tears the family dog apart and starts slurping him dry. Holden brings Alex back to the hotel, so she can meet his new mommy: Lady Gaga.
Gaga knows all about Alex: Knows about her devotion to Holden — and Holden’s devotion to Alex. (Apparently, there is still some notion of love buried deep under Alex’s Vulcanized exterior.) Gaga claims that she saved Holden from a wasted life of neglect, and specifically calls out John as the neglectful parent. That seems like a pretty harsh crit to lay on a guy for turning his back to answer his cell phone just once — but Gaga’s memory of taking Holden gave us the memorable shot of Gaga leading the child north from the Santa Monica Pier, up the coastline.
That little boy became a Little Monster — a phrase that looms large over the Gaga legend. It’s hard to remember precisely when Gaga gave her fanbase a catchy moniker. It’s even harder to pinpoint precisely when her use of “Little Monsters” shaded into overuse, when it sounded less like she was empowering them and more like they were empowering her. Part of Gaga’s point was always that it was better to be weird, that monsters were more interesting than the alternative.
Before she got famous, Gaga wrote a song called “Ugly Sexy,” or possibly “Sexy Ugly.” She never talked much about that song or its central notion after her 2009 Rolling Stone profile, where she told Brian Hiatt: “I don’t feel that I look like the other perfect little pop singers…I think I look new. I think I’m changing what people think is sexy.” This is already Gaga going Messianic, but it’s also a helpful way to decode some central idea she once had about herself: “How can I be as strange, as weird, as gross, as society’s-definition-of-“ugly” as possible, and still be as tantalizing, as attractive, as fun to look at, as society’s-definition-of-“sexy” as possible?”
One of the interesting things about Hotel is how it’s literalized Gaga’s Little Monsters with the little platinum-blonde vampire kids. They are beings of pure consumption: When they aren’t playing videogames, they’re drinking blood. This strikes me as a fascinating deconstruction of what it means to be a “follower,” at once cynical and poignant. (Remember: The Little Monsters might drink blood, but Gaga drinks their blood.)
Gaga tells Alex that Holden has an ancient virus, a blood disorder that gives him health, vitality, and everlasting life. The only way Alex can join Holden is to join him. The price? “Undying loyalty. You’ll be working for me.” And remember: Gaga, or the version of her we’re seeing on Hotel, will tolerate only servants, not competitors. (Ramona Royale found that out the hard way last week.) Alex refuses, runs away. Gaga smiles. She’ll be back.
NEXT: “Sweet Jane”