This week we learned all about the Countess, whose life was a dreary silent film until real-life Italian movie star Rudolph Valentino plucked her from a crowd of extras to… awkwardly tango in his living room? Not quite the twisted backstory we’d expect, but sure, we’ll take it. “You were like a loin-shattering sex machine, bursting with pleasure!” cried Dancing with the Stars judge Bruno Tonioli in my imagination. Bravo! Tens all around. The Countess’ flashback kicks off after a brutal but brief double murder of the Hotel Cortez construction crew, who blaze through an inch-thick steel wall to find a secret death tunnel and two ancient vampires in tasteful Art Deco skin suits. Just as we're thinking, Ugh, what is THIS? Do we really need more THINGS? the show barrels back in time to 1925 Hollywood, where a brunette Lady Gaga is gossiping with her appropriately pointy-faced flapper friend (seriously, how did they find that face?) as extras on a movie set, and all is well in the alternate universe. She zeros in on the matinée’s male lead. Is he…her type? Yes! Valentino is played by Finn Wittrock, whose present-day character Tristan died last week. So now we know why the Countess was willing to break Matt Bomer’s heart for a dumb male model with red highlights: Tristan reminds her of her first love. And because she’s an emotionless vampire. But not back then, not yet. As a New York Italian from Bensonhurst with stars in her eyes and fear in her heart, the Countess understands the romantic gobbledygook Valentino serves up before dinner; she just hesitates to respond because spoken words are forbidden to innocent church mice of her kind. The pair fares better in the tango, especially once Valentino’s lover Natacha joins in and elevates the experience to big-picture level: “You’re here because gods have appetites,” the cat purrs to the mouse. And this was before any of them had even heard of the ancient blood virus! Oh, actors. Their summerlong three-way affair brings out the passionate character the not-yet-Countess has always dreamt of channeling. So she ups her game, attending major society events like the grand opening of the Hotel Cortez. It’s there that she learns of Valentino’s presumed death and all hell breaks loose, manufactured drama-wise. She tears through the halls, stunt tears streaming across her double eyebrows, angelic white fringe flying everywhere. And the world’s greatest serial killer, J.P. March, saves her from flinging herself out of a window just in time to confirm the worst: “Your heart’s beating like a hummingbird.” It was settled, then. He was rich enough, so they would marry.
“I was drawn to the darkness within him. I ached to be consumed by it,” the Countess explains of her her rushed nuptials. She was never in love with March, but eventually found her sweet spot in watching him kill for sport — only after insisting he stop slicing up hobos and “select a victim with money and jewels” instead. So that’s the Countess’ origin story: She’s always been a sick bitch, she just didn’t know it until Hollywood plucked it out of her like a gem-encrusted feather. And she’s been getting off on her own flair ever since. A twist! It turns out Valentino faked his death, opting instead to drink the ancient blood virus from the heaving pec of F.W. Murnau, director of the first-ever vampire movie, Nosferatu. Just go with it, this makes tons of sense, for sure. He picks up the A.B.V. at a life-changing mountain orgy and is eager to give Valentino googly eyes on a train and preserve his body for all eternity — but only if he's ready to leave the screen forever. Ha, no problem: Valentino has a stunt double totally willing to die for him and that guy is also probably Finn Wittrock, maybe with green eyes this time. Or what the hell, red. No, black. Brown with red streaks! Anyway: Refreshed from travel and infused by the vitality of the lower-case gods as decreed by a movie director, Valentino and Natasha dart back to L.A. to pick up their faithful mouse. But Mr. March is conveniently lurking in the same mausoleum his new wife visits every week to be all twisted and fashion-y about her grief with mysterious black costumes and single red roses. (LOVE IT.) He overhears the threesome’s plan to go take over the world together — “Train to Europe. Anywhere. Everywhere.” — and nopes it forever, trapping the pair of ancient blood vamps within the walls of the palace he built for his queen. Now, 90 years later, they’re still just as pretentious and hundreds of times more bloodthirsty. That nice realtor lady from season 1 had to go, as did a trio of Australian porn stars or just really friendly men; I couldn’t tell. Somehow they acquire modern-day duds, including some killer boots on Natacha, and strut past Iris on their way to infect everyone else in L.A. That night, March reveals his dark deed to the Countess during their regular rendezvous — a monthly dinner, proving she truly never fancied her dead husband as much as her original dead lover. And she looks…well, the same, because Lady Gaga really only has the one expression. But it’s INTENSE. Meanwhile, over in an actual mental institution, Detective Wes Bentley checks in under the guise of “admitting his fragility,” but really he’s there to continue “investigating” the Ten Commandments serial killer situation, which we can all guess at this point has a lot to do with the indecipherable mess in his head because the killer is PROBABLY HIM. He finds young (but a vampire since ‘86) Wren, a former bloodlet of the Countess. She’s seemingly an accomplice of the killer's, but possibly a figment of Detective Wes’ imagination? Wren promises to show him where the murderer lives, laments that they have to say goodbye because she really likes him, and then throws herself in front of a bus. For the record, he blames himself. I believe him when he says it’s his fault that everything happened. Everything on the show, really. Even — and this is a stretch — Iris’ old-lady hipster glasses. It’s just a theory.