It’s been a tough road for American Horror Story: Hotel, no matter what Lady Gaga’s Golden Globe win may say. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s anthology series has always been a bit risqué and taboo-flouting, but at least in the beginning it had a purpose. If there’s anything to be said about Hotel, it’s that the rambling, incoherent season with a thousand meandering plot lines has been one glittering, bloody mess. And we’re kind of glad the curtain has closed.
This season had the misfortune of following what was arguably the weakest season to date, the dull and oddly fascinating Freak Show. Gone is the seriousness of the fan-subtitled first season, ‘Murder House,’ or the aching pathos of Asylum, which was the epitome of this series — confusing, horrifying and tantalizing. Those seasons broke ground, and Hotel marketed itself as a return to those better days.
What we got was a mock-nihilistic show that flaunted its lack of purpose the whole way through before finally demanding us to feel sympathy for its characters. At the end of the day it’s hard to know what the finale — or better yet, the entire season — was about. Was it Sally’s (Sarah Paulson) moment of overcoming addiction and loneliness, Liz’s (Denis O’Hare) final transition as a matriarch of the ghostly realm or maybe John’s (Wes Bentley) transformation from a serial killer to a normal human being? We’re not completely sure; in fact, we’re still trying to get over Iris (Kathy Bates) smearing her son’s cremated remains all over her room last week. What a mess.
Unfortunately, the finale by itself was not that bad — it’s unfortunate, because it’s marred by all the preceding episodes. “Be Our Guest” emphasized community, just like season one ended with the ghosts of Murder House coalescing, and it began with the prominence of trans character Liz Taylor, who’s had it pretty good lately renovating the Hotel Cortez with Iris and being present for the birth of her grandchild. There’s just one problem: the ghosts keep killing the guests, Sally and Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) being the prime culprits.
After rounding up the ghosts, Liz and Iris have a kumbaya moment with everyone — including the Swedish girls, Mr. Wu, Miss Evers, the realtor and the ‘lumbersexual’ — which is interrupted by Mr. March’s (Evan Peters) insistence that the “Killings have to stop!” Because, you know, the hotel could be investigated and closed, or worse, torn down, leaving the ghosts without protection and sending them to Hell. But if they stop stabbing people with ice picks, then by 2026, the hotel will turn 100 years old and become an official historical monument unable to be touched.
The ‘come to Jesus’ meeting works, and turns out for the best, actually. One of the most satisfying parts to this finale was the way that Liz becomes a sort of matriarch for the ghosts, coaxing Will out of hiding and encouraging him to start sketching again — which turned into a fantastic fashion show in the hotel with the ghosts and Ramona (Angela Bassett) acting as models.
But the night was strangely sympathetic, beginning with Sally’s heartwarming present from Iris: a smartphone that she could use to connect to the outside world. And then there was the whole ‘all seasons are connected’ bone with Paulson pulling double duty as her season one character Billie Dean Howard, whom Iris had hoped would be able to contact Tristan (Finn Wittrock) for Liz. Missing her deceased boyfriend, Liz had high hopes until Howard reports that it’s not Tristan she felt but Iris’ son Donovan (Matt Bomer). And we definitely didn’t feel anything when Donovan ‘said’ that he missed his mother’s pancakes before saying “I love you, Mom.” Nope, not a thing.
The feels keep coming when Liz tasks her ghostly ‘children’ with killing her.
“I’m the first women in the world to have prostate cancer,” she jokingly remarks before rejecting Ramona’s offer of immortality. Deciding that her son can visit her ghost at the hotel, she makes the hard decision to die. But before anyone can make the fatal blow, in sweeps Gaga as The Countess, who lovingly helps “her fondest creation” transition one last time — by slitting her throat of course. And after the heartbreak of losing him, Liz finally gets her happy ending when Tristan’s ghost reveals his presence after hiding for so long, since he did not want to stop her from living life. Who knew that was underneath his emo hair and makeup?
The sentimentality of “Be Our Guest” overrules most of its detractors, none so great as John Lowe’s storyline being almost swept under the rug until the last few minutes. And reintroducing Billie Dean, who’s become a celebrity after airing several Lifetime specials at the hotel, into the story was an exciting decision, but it was a bit silly to have John and the rest of his Devil’s Night murderer palls threaten Billie into leaving the hotel alone.
Despite the criticism and somewhat disappointing material, American Horror Story: Hotel still managed to entice and entertain viewers, and it wasn’t without a purpose. Perhaps the most exciting part of this season has been the Easter eggs throughout, those moments where this season connects with the others. The Countess going to Murder House decades ago and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and Billie Dean coming to the hotel — suggesting that at least two of Paulson’s characters are alive at the same time — are just some of these moments, and fans will be sure to dissect them until Murphy finally reveals his secrets.
Until then, we eagerly await the arrival of a new horrifying adventure this October.
Follow Sara Snoddy on Twitter at @Sara_Snoddy.
To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email firstname.lastname@example.org.