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TV Review: American Horror Story Hotel (Season 5 Finale, Episode 12)

01.14.2016by: Jake Dee

EPISODE: BE OUR GUEST

THE SCOOP: Under new management of Liz and Iris, the Hotel Cortez is in for some new changes. Or is it? It all ends here!

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW! IF YOU'VE NOT SEEN THIS EPISODE, STOP READIN HERE!

THE SKINNY: How's that for a f*cked up finale! A most wicked welcome we were certainly given in the ultimate episode of American Horror Story Hotel, "Be Our Guest." The final frame began with the dust settling from the utter mayhem last week afforded, as Liz and Iris are now in charge of running the Hotel Cortez. One problem, the perverted jinnis roaming the halls of the hotel continue killing new guests cold. This includes Will Drake, who dons a creepy black trench-coat and plunges a butcher knife in a guest's jugular. Liz calls for a meeting at the bar, pleading for the sadistic spirits to refrain from killing. Most refuse, until James March's crusty ass comes in and claims that, in ten years, the hotel will be declared a national landmark and legally avoid being torn down. Hence, he decrees no more murder within his walls. To make things easier and restore jollity to the Cortez, Liz introduces social media to Sally, who's purgatorial continuum is stuck in 1994. She takes to it like a duck to water, at first at least. Liz also encourages Drake to begin sketching again, having once been a fashion design tycoon. All fine gestures, right, but will it really prevent one last baleful blitz of butchery?

Not for a goddamn day. Thing is, we aren't talking about murders of malice here. See, turns out Liz is, as she says it, the first woman to contact prostate cancer. It's spread into her spine and become inoperable. So, as a means of rebirth and remaining eternally tethered to the Cortez, Liz implores her ghastly guests to choose from a barrage of weaponry and kill her ass for good. Well, that is until she resurrects as a purgatorial phantom. The guests agree, but just as they employ everything from a revolver to a noose, The Countess makes her way into the room and gives Liz, for old time's sake, one last gnarly throat slashing, ear to ear, until a viscous mound of grue piles up under one of the beds. Liz hovers over her corpse, reborn, ready to start anew. Some good acting from Denis O'hare here, as he's done all season long, where he gets to emote across a wide range of feelings. The scene where he interacts with a psychic brought in by Iris, and played by Sarah Paulson in a dual role, was also a nice touch. It was also good to see Paulson gorgeously dolled up and remind us how pretty she is after a season of grimy, grunged-up filth. She too demonstrates that, when given good material, she's a real force onscreen.

Back to the story though, as we soon flash-forward to Devil's Night 2022. John Lowe makes a return to the hotel, greeted by Iris and Ramona. It seems that very psychic lady, Billie Dean, is doing a retrospective news piece on the Ten Commandments Killer, conducting a meeting with John Lowe in the Hotel face to face. He confesses, then claims to have gone the straight route. But remember, Lowe is a ghost himself, having been plugged in the back by a bunch of blue boys after procuring fresh blood for his wife to ingest. Lowe finally shows the probing Billie Jean what Devil's Night is all about, and we're given a fun call back to the diner party featuring many of the various guest spots from this past season - John Carroll Lynch, Finn Wittrock, etc. March's murderer's row tie Billie Jean up, descend upon her with buzzing half-foot drill-bits and scare the ever loving piss out of her. Ramona comes in and gives the psychic her last goodbyes before the gang drills the bitch the death. The show ends with Lowe reuniting with his family, Scarlett now a teenager, Alex asleep. A sense of attempted normalcy is felt, but really, to what end and at what cost? We fade to black as the ghost of The Countess seduces another nameless future victim. The Cortez continues to run on the fuel of the deceased!

I'm not sure about you, but I dug this finale well enough. Sure, it's wasn't decked with wall to wall carnage and kitchen-sink theatrics. But so what. The things it did well, namely give the best actors of the show time to shine and land their character arcs, was a smart enough way to end on a strong note. Denis O'Hare and Sarah Paulson in particular really stood up and stood tall in this episode, as they have all season long, delivering heartfelt turns in what is otherwise completely ludicrous material. Somehow they ground it though and make it believable. To that end, I really liked the way Liz went out on her own terms, and how her murder was done out of care and compassion rather than hate and malice. Of course, as is all the rage in finales for decades now, the requisite call backs to earlier characters in the season is always a cheeky touch to enjoy. What didn't work so well for me, which frankly I came into the season thinking would be the one emotional nexus to guide us through, was the Lowe resolution. Nothing about his family storyline with Alex and the kids felt satisfying or worthy of empathy. Not that AHS is known for being warm and fuzzy, or even that we want it to be, but for what clearly seemed to be the one rooting interest to cling to, not enough pathos was paid off by the Lowes. Oh well, minor gripe. Who needs heart with a face like homey below!

KILL OF THE WEEK: Most definitely the death, or rebirth, of Liz. Not only was it the only death of substance, but that the murder was done out of love rather than hate or harm, was kind of a cool spin in an otherwise ruthlessly unforgiving show.

BLOOD & GORE:

  • Neck stabbing, mini blood geyser.
  • Huge throat slashing, gooey puddle of grue.
  • Another knife puncture to the throat, exploding blood from the neck.

WTF CHARACTER MOMENT: Why the hell didn't Lowe just whack Billie Jean himself. Seems mighty cruel, no?

OVERALL THOUGHTS: When all is tallied, I think that despite Jessica Lange's glaring absence, AMERICAN HORROR STORY HOTEL is one of the better seasons of the show yet. At its best, it created and enveloped the viewer with an eerily surreal mood, the kind of vibe you get when your semi-somnolent and can't really tell what's real or not. A hard feeling to recreate! The maniacal menagerie of characters were all pretty memorable, particularly for the strongest actors on the show like Denis O'Hare, Kathy Bates and Sarah Paulson. The level of violence was steady, at times exorbitant, but never so over the top and gratuitous that you become completely desensitized to it. The only complaint in that department was that about 80% of the fatalities or more came by way of simple throat slashing. That's the only thing that grew a bit tiresome. But hey, if that's one of the only minor improvements that needs to be made between now and season 6, American Horror Story is in pretty good shape!

Extra Tidbit: What did you think of the entire season of American Horror Story Hotel?
Source: AITH

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