Oh, American Horror Story: Hotel, I had such high hopes for you. You were off to a decent start, but this last episode just mashed my tiny, lingering belief into the dirt. My disappointment is vast.
I’m going to assume at this point, if you’re reading this article, you’ve caught up on the series. Just in case you haven’t, I’m going to be talking about the 10 Commandments Killer, from plot line to reveal. If you still want to be surprised, or think you can be surprised at this point, you may want to come back.
The opening credits of this season’s narrative were interspersed with the Biblical Ten Commandments. You know: “Honor thy mother and father,”“Don’t bear false witness,”“Thou shalt not kill.”(Whoops. Guess AHS forgot that one.)
I was truly excited about this concept, from the moment I saw the hints in the title screen to when John Lowe (Wes Bentley) walked into the first crime scene. Come on, there was a couple nailed to a bed! The guy’s eyes and tongue were cut out. This was going to be serious, and I was so ready.
Well, the best laid plans of mice and scriptwriters, I guess.
Let me back track. We get half of the Commandment killings on screen:
1. Thou shalt not commit adultery – the above-mentioned couple nailed to the bed.
2. Honor thy mother and father – a couple of disemboweled guys who killed their parents for inheritance money.
3. Thou shalt not worship false idols – movie fan and pedophile beaten with an Oscar. You don’t want that one, Leo.
4. Thou shalt not bear false witness – gossip editors had their tongues nailed to their desks.
5. Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain – disemboweled televangelist.
6. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife – well…this one’s kinda spoilery. We’ll get back to this one.
John is on the hunt, but let’s be real here; he’s not wound too tight. He’s got a lot of mental and emotional baggage weighing him down, what with these serial murders, the dissolving of his marriage, and his self-blame and loathing for losing his son. John needs a good therapy session. Several of them—and not the kind you get at the bottom of a bottle.
Honestly, I like John. He’s my preferred level of unreliable, he’s determined to do the right thing, and he just keeps faltering. He’s in this insanity spiral that won’t quit, and he’s out of his element. His obsession with the 10 Commandments Killer is pretty unhinged, which is why, when he finally gets the hint he needs from Wren (Jessica Belkin), one of the blood-sucking children, I was a little relieved. He’s been looking in the right place all along.
He just needed to look in a mirror.
Honestly, I’m totally fine with John being the killer. Part of me feels it was incredibly heavy-handed and obvious, but truth-be-told; it was the execution of that reveal that destroyed any hope I had.
The episode opens with Sally (Sarah Paulson) consoling a thoroughly distraught John, who finally realizes he’s the one. I’d have preferred this to have been a concluding scene before the break, leaving us questioning if it was true or if John was finally having that much needed nervous breakdown. Instead, we get an episode’s worth of explication and “shocking confessions.” I liked the integration of John’s past with the Cortez, but I feel like we waited so long for a lot of nothing. I wanted this to be the thread that held Hotel together.
As it turns out, John started his reign of madness in 2010. He visited the Cortez and kindled a bromance with James March (Evan Peters), who spoke to John about the rage he harbored inside and his power not to uphold the law, but to bring justice upon the heads of the vile and grotesque. March, being dead and all, needs a living apprentice and who better than John?
But you know, you can’t create a serial killer without pushing him over the edge. So naturally, March and the Countess (Lady Gaga) form a plan to kidnap John’s son.
Dun, dun, DUN!
And there goes John, unraveled and angry. You know, if it’s not the butler, it’s the detective.
March, by the way, was responsible for two previous crimes: thou shalt not steal and remember the Sabbath Day, bringing our kill score to an impressive eight out of ten. John only has two to go to collect them all!
After that, John enters this fugue state where he lives as Detective John Lowe, and alternately enacts crimes as the 10 Commandments Killer. He can’t remember events outside the Cortez, but appoints himself lead detective on the case. His seedy hotel room also has a trophy closet, and boy is Mr. March delighted to see John’s additions.
There were some nice moments in the “reveal,” I guess. John decides it’s a grand idea to confess to his partner, Hahn (Richard T. Jones). Do you see where I’m headed with this? He tells Hahn this crazy story about ghosts, and murder, and madness, describing March as his guide and mentor.
“His voice was like a sliver of silk thread, a thin strand to wrap around my head before burrowing inside me with his ideas.”
John, you’ve got a promising career writing Gothic fiction. You have a poet’s tongue. It’s on the shelf to the right of the jarred spleen. In a moment I didn’t quite find as impactful as I should, John stabs Hahn for apparently dating and sleeping with his wife. All right, then.
Here I heave a sigh. This episode felt out of order. I know American Horror Story isn’t known for linear storytelling, but I’d have preferred to keep this “secret” until the end. I’m more interested in a John who doesn’t know what he is and keeps us guessing. That being said, his becoming at the end was pretty brilliant. Maybe I’d have liked that closer to end of the season, where he reveals what he is and Alex (Chloe Sevigny) reveals what she is…but there’s no sense mourning what you can’t change.
As far as I can tell, there are only two episodes left this season. Were you surprised? Upset? Bored? What punches do you think Hotel has left to pull?
Meghan Harker grew up in a small, awkwardly-named town in Georgia. She attended Brenau University, where she earned her BA in English and a minor in Graphic Design; she also attended the University of Cambridge, England, where she didn't quite master the perfect Oxbridge accent. She's an avid reader, writer, and fire spinner. She's currently working her first novel, a paranormal thriller. Visit her blog at ExquisitelyOdd.com.