Thursday, January 14, 2016

American Horror Story: Hotel--Episode 12

5.12: Be Our Guest

--Part of me was hoping the finale of Hotel would go thusly: we see Liz Taylor and Iris behind the front desk, beaming. All loose ends have been tied, all ghosts have been defeated and/or placated, all is well. The Hotel Cortez is ready for its rebirth! The main doors swing open. Liz and Iris beam wider. And in barge eight thousand police officers brandishing nine thousand search warrants. Close-up on Liz as he utters a pitch-perfect “Well, ffffffuuuuuuuu--” And cut to black.

--But, no, in the end, it seems the Cortez emits a magical reality-altering field which ensures anyone murdered within its confines will vanish from the consciousness of the outside world, never to be sought after or mourned. I guess we must accept this as some sort of skewed internal logic. Anyway, a bigger part of me was hoping for a happier ending. Which we got! AHS has a tendency to focus its season finales on strong emotional payoffs, often at the expense of dangling subplots, but it mostly works. This worked, all right, despite some odd creative choices, like replacing Sarah Paulson with a different Sarah Paulson. Mind you, things didn’t look good at the outset: we opened with a mournful VO from Liz and a closeup of him getting his throat slit by a sequined finger that could only belong to The Countess. I was not eager for another downbeat finale, after Freak Show slaughtered its freak show. But much was in store.

--Initially, Liz and Iris’s plan to revolutionize the Cortez hit some snags, because all the Egyptian cotton and Star Trek toilets in the world can’t help when a wrathful Sally and a pouty Will Drake are still murdering away. Liz and Iris called a ghost meeting, summoning such guest-stars as Marcy, the Swedes, that bearded dude Tristan killed...and Miss Evers, who is apparently sticking around after all. Dammit, Miss Evers, did you not read the awesome send-off I gave you last week! Now I look like a doof! Anyway, March dropped by to explain his new agenda: he’s murdered enough to satisfy and now wants the Cortez immortalized. That means keeping its doors open until 2026, its centennial, when it can became an historic landmark. Sally and Drake were all like, “Fuck you, pedostache!” Time for an exorcism, maybe?

--Actually, Iris and Liz decided to help their haunts instead, which was kind of cool. Iris hooked Sally up with a smartphone and showed her the wonders of the internet, a heavenly realm where a trapped ghost can float free, exploring at will -- and, more importantly, accruing bushels of likes, faves, upvotes, and e-friends who don’t care who you really are, only who you present yourself as. Blissed out by her newfound freedom, Sally ditched her drugs. Did this satisfy? I’m glad Sally got a happy ending, but it seemed too easy for a character so angry and tortured -- plus, the Addiction Demon remains maddeningly undefined. Another one of this show’s cool monsters who never got the proper amount of curation. Sally’s early deliverance also left her with nothing to do for the rest of the episode. I’ve come to suspect that, after pulling a double shift as conjoined twins last season, Paulson asked for a lighter workload in Hotel. Then they shouldn’t have given her a character I enjoyed so much!

--Meanwhile, Liz consoled Drake, who was bitter at the disintegration of his fashion empire. Liz broke through Drake’s malaise and got his creative juices flowing again, making him into a mysterious, quasi-mythical recluse that the public ate right up, while Liz rose to dominate Drake’s boardroom. Drake happily presided over ultra-exclusive fashion shows at the Cortez, with Ramona and the ghosts serving as models. (Guess Ramona didn’t want to rule the Cortez. Can’t say I blame her.) Liz remained melancholy, and I was quite pleased when they addressed a big loose end: what happened to Tristan? Liz had been wondering this himself. Bad enough to see your lover killed, but when you expect him to reappear as a ghost and he doesn’t? Agony. To suss out Tristan’s whereabouts, Iris brought in none other than suave psychic Billie Dean Howard, Sarah Paulson’s very first AHS character. Billie Dean reached into the Beyond and produced A) a touching message from Donovan, and B) stubborn silence from Tristan. Oh, he was there, but he wasn’t talking. Liz felt broken.

--Can we all agree that Liz Taylor had the best character arc? Such a great role, such a great performance from Denis O’Hare. The real heart of the hotel. Liz kept in touch with his son and witnessed the arrival of his granddaughter, and then came the prostate cancer. Liz wasn’t interested in Drake’s doctors or Ramona’s offer of vampirism. He summoned all the ghosts for a going-away party, providing them various weapons to take his life in the most overdramatic and grisly fashion, a team effort. The show made this seem unbelievably touching, and that kind of zany emotional back-and-forth is why I adore AHS so much. However, one ghost had dibs on Liz’s mortal coil: The Countess. Yes, it was she who killed Liz, but the act was not cruel or horrific, but tender. I approve of this; liberating Liz was the one act of pure good The Countess did in her lifetime. No sooner had Liz risen as a ghost than Tristan appeared. Yes, he still loved Liz, and simply hadn’t wanted to distract him while he still had mortal work to do. Awwwwwwww! While I do think the Liz/Tristan romance was badly introduced (i.e., not foreshadowed or allowed to develop in any natural way), it’s still so cute and cuddly. What a well-deserved happy ending.

--But the introduction of Billie Dean Howard into the Cortez’s soup of paranormality had consequences. Flash forward to Devil’s Night, 2020: the Cortez is swarming with annoying wannabe ghost-hunters, thanks to Billie Dean’s Lifetime specials. (“Mr. Wu doesn’t pay for what?”) How can it ever be a respectable establishment? Enter John Lowe. The prodigal returns to his true home...a home that is now closed to him, save for one night. It took me a bit to realize Lowe was dead. How? Why? Lowe lured Billie Dean in for a private interview and gave her the...heh...lowdown (this was the season of bad puns, I guess). After the Ten Commandment killings, he went on the run with the family in tow, murdering criminals to feed Alex and Holden. Eventually, he returned them to the Cortez, all save for Scarlett, who didn’t belong and never would. Off she went to the same private school as Lachlan Drake. Can we see a spinoff starring those two? It’d be pretty interesting. The police caught up with Lowe, and his final seconds were spent on the pavement right outside the Cortez, riddled with bullets, trying and failing to cross the threshold. He didn’t get his family after all, and I dunno if he deserves them, frankly.

--Lowe then took Billie Dean to March’s little serial killer party. Billie Dean’s reaction to Gacy, Dahmer, Wournos, and the rest was more orgasmic than terrified; she was probably already composing her next big TV event. However, she soon found herself cuffed to a chair while the ghosts menaced her with power tools. Oh, they didn’t kill her, they just put the true fear of God in her. Ramona appeared as well, promising to hunt Billie Dean down if she continued to sensationalize the Cortez. Billie Dean got the point. She fled, and Lowe went to his family. Alex and Holden slept, watched over by Scarlett, now a young woman. Lowe climbed into bed with his vampire wife and son and slept the sleep of a sad man. An eternity of distance from his equally eternal loved ones, the rules of the afterlife prohibiting any sort of real contact. If Liz Taylor got the perfect happy ending, I’d say John Lowe got the perfect unhappy ending.

--And I guess that’s it. The Cortez thrives. The ghosts are all happy. The rooms and hallways of that cursed edifice keep their secrets. And, of course, the season ended with The Countess, elegant at the hotel bar, her sights set on a handsome young man with dark hair, a silent film star profile, and......cheekbones for days. Will The Countess rise again? Will the evil that infects the Cortez overwhelm any good intentions, or has it been tamed? That, children, is a story for another day.

--AHS: Hotel was pretty bodacious. And despite its excess, it grounded itself better than Freak Show or Asylum and waaaayyyyy better than Coven. It couldn’t touch all its bases -- Angela Bassett was badly underused from start to finish, and one or two elements, most notably little Bartholomew and the Addiction Demon, never truly came to fruition. But none of it felt pointless. Nothing made me bored or impatient. It was a streamlined season that, once again, felt distinct from each AHS tale that has come before. And the emotional arcs of its characters satisfied me, gaining more resonance as the season went on. As for Lady Gaga, well...I can’t believe she got a Golden Globe nod for Hotel, and fucking won. Her performance was good -- she nailed The Countess’s sexual allure and pulled off the trickier emotional moments too -- but the way everything revolved around her, on- and offscreen, still seems like a big fat gimmick. I don’t think AHS needs to rely on such attention grabs going forward. Because they still have mojo. Blood still pumps through the show’s veins. I’m still in love with it, am I not? Let’s ring out this bizarre, glorious season. A-one and a-two and...

Be our guest! Be our guest!
Let us butterfly your chest!
Throats are slit, you’re in the shit,
Miss Evers waits to swab your mess!
Hipster ghosts, horny Swedes!
We’ll exceed your every need!
Our facade is rather arty --
Just steer clear of little Barty!
Here a vamp, there a slut!
Sarah Paulson’s extra-nuts!
How could anyone expect a full night’s rest?
Just let your clothes go flying,
Blow your load, start crying!
Be our guest! Don’t be stressed!
Calm your tits -- it’s AHS!
Be our guest! Be our guest!
Be our guesssssssssssssssssssssst!

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