Despite a mighty effort to keep the Ten Commandments Killer storyline going (zzzz...), it’s Lady Gaga’s Countess who owns this show week after week. In “Flicker,” we got the Countess’ complete origin story—and it’s a doozy, dripping in old Hollywood glamor.
We finally know who turned the Countess: silent-film heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, played by Finn Whittrock, who also played the recently deceased Tristan. That explains why the Countess was so drawn to the cute-but-OMG-so-dumb, rooster-haired male model, and maybe why she was so angry at Liz Taylor for stealing her perfect lookalike boyfriend. (Liz isn’t in this episode at all; no doubt that’ll be a double-take for the ages, when it happens.)
We all knew, especially after last week, that the Countess was an aspiring movie star back in the early days of Hollywood. Now we learn she didn’t exactly fail out of show biz, she just achieved a different kind of immortality beyond the silver screen, thanks to Valentino (the father of her monster baby?) and his wife, Natacha (Alexandra Daddario). But before blood-sucking enters the picture, they’re just a regular ol’ threesome, dancing erotic tangos and whatnot. The flapper (not yet a blonde!) is devastated when she learns of Rudy’s untimely death.
She happens to be at an opening party for the Hotel Cortez at the time, so that’s how she meets March, who saves her from leaping out of a window in her grief.
Props to AHS for including the well-worn Hollywood legend of the “woman in black” who paid regular visits to Valentino’s grave. In this scenario, of course, it’s the Countess, newly blonde and draped in black. She’s leaving a single rose when she encounters Rudy, who’s faked his own death and become a vampire, and turned Natacha into one, too. (The giver of this “gift” is Nosferatu director F.W. Murnau, in a sequence that pays excellent homage to silent cinema.)
So, reunited with her true love, she’s all about that vampire life. But there’s a bit of a wrinkle, since she married March when she thought Rudy was dead. March seems to love her—as much as he’s capable of loving anything—and she puts up with him (and his serial-killing ways) because he’s rich and sometimes she likes to watch. But before March does himself in to avoid capture by the police (which we saw earlier this season) he jealously kidnaps Rudy and Natacha and has them buried alive (buried undead?) in the Cortez’s hidden wing.
The Countess has no idea about any of this until Drake, in ghostly form (apparently they have dinner together once a month), spills the beans in the present day. And now we know why, when two of Drake’s contractors broke through a weirdly reinforced wall during renovations, they were pounced upon by a pair of dehydrated beasties. (Their third victim is Marcy the realtor, a holdover from season one, but they don’t return to their full sexiness until they feast on a trio of robust Australian hotel guests.) The Countess is horrified by and maybe a little frightened of this bombshell.
March is, of course, smug as all hell.
So that reunion should be interesting, to say the least, and we now have exponentially more vampires, young and old, running around Los Angeles than ever before.
Meanwhile, in the Less Interesting Other Storyline, there’s John, who fakes being even more crazy than he actually is so he can get tossed into the same mental hospital as the Ten Commandments suspect. But when he confronts the prisoner, it’s a little girl—one of the Countess’s Hotel Cortez-dwelling vampire children, apparently—who’s accompanied the killer to each of his crime scenes. She offers him some cryptic insight and starts to lead him back to the hotel, before tossing herself in front of a bus before revealing the killer’s identity.
At this point, can the killer be anyone other than John himself?