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‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ Recap ‘Chutes and Ladders’

I want to talk about Sally. What’s her deal? What’s her purpose? We now know that she’s dead—why does she go on wandering the halls of the Cortez?

I can’t shake the feeling that she’s addicted to love more than she is to drugs. It would make sense, wouldn’t it? It’s something in the sad way she begs for love—from that junkie; from John. She seems to be a collector of men. I mean, she’s keeping the junkie from last week in a mattress. And now she has her eyes set on our protagonist John. Can she be trusted? Is she good or evil? Maybe she’s neutral. Or perhaps she’s just lost.  It could also be that she has a master to serve, the way all of these characters do. Whatever her reason for being, I think it’s clear that drugs were what masked her pain. Now that she’s dead, she’s forced to face the source of that pain for the rest of eternity with no opportunity for reprieve.

And then there’s Iris. We know which master she serves. As the Countess’ minion, she does all the dirty work, including exploiting the children for their purified blood. It seems this is how Iris is repaying her debt to the Countess for infecting Donovan. Unfortunately for Iris, Donovan seems to turn a blind eye to the sacrifices his doting mom has made for him.  One thing’s coming in very clearly though: Iris has no regrets, neither about draining the kids of their blood, nor about offing Sally for supplying the drugs that initially killed her son. She does her duty and moves through life with the knowledge that Donovan is always just an arm’s reach away. Given these insights into her character, can we count Iris as a cold blooded villain? Or just misunderstood? Time will tell…

Speaking of dangerously doting moms, we have quite a few this season. The Anti-Vaxxing Mom comes to mind. It looks like her child is doomed. It strikes me funny, though, that the uninfected, like Anti-Vaxxing Mom, breed just as many casualties as the infected. It actually seems as though the virus balances itself out since it simultaneously saves lives and calls for the elimination them.

Let’s think about this for a second—the virus has healing powers. It cures ailments, alleviates addiction, and fights aging. Look at Donovan: he went from being a drug-obsessed guy ready to face his own mortality for a hit to a bloodthirsty ‘vampire.’ All he needs to sustain himself now is blood. Drugs are no longer necessary for him to face the day. Yet we see Sally, who is not infected, continue on in pain because she can no longer mask it.

So, what’s the Anti-Vaxxing Mom got to do with this? Her story serves to show us that the uninfected are weak and need an extra boost (in this case, a vaccine) to survive. Meanwhile, the undead like Donovan and the Countess thrive on natural resources (blood). They can sustain themselves on very little and this is a quality that benefits the undead children more than anyone else. The children, who were all probably neglected in some way when they were alive, can survive and care for themselves without any supervision. In essence, the kids are empowered by the virus in a way that they couldn’t be during their lifetimes. And it’s this kind of empowerment that Sally is missing.


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Tara Martinez

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Tara Martinez is a New York-based writer with a passion for pop culture and a penchant for analysis. She frequently covers film, television, and representations of women in the media.