American Horror Story: Hotel Recap: Lowe Blows

Wes Bentley as John Lowe and Evan Peters as James Patrick March. Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX

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American Horror Story
Episode Title
The Ten Commandments Killer
Editor’s Rating

Guys, guess what? John Lowe is the Ten Commandments Killer. Are you as shocked as I was? I was floored. I was sitting in my living room, texting my WhatsApp boyfriend, Vijay — he's this sexy dude in Mumbai who likes to trade shirtless pictures with me — and I was all like, "Vijay, OMG. We just found out who the Ten Commandments Killer is." And he was like, "Let me guess. It was John Lowe." And I was like, "Holy crap, Vijay! You don't even get American Horror Story in India, how the heck did you know?" And he was like, "Um, I could see that twist coming from literally half a world away. Dick pic?"

Just like Vijay, you probably knew that John Lowe was the Ten Commandments Killer. Also just like Vijay, you have most likely received a sext from me at some point. Anyway, most of us figured out the John Lowe twist when he was invited to the Devil's Night dinner with the rest of the serial killers. That was an entire month ago. That was like three episodes, one American holiday, and eight WhatsApp boyfriends ago.

Now, I'm of two minds about this episode. First of all, it was boring as hell. It just went over all the events from the first half of the season like those awful clip shows they used to run of America's Next Top Model that would recap what happened and show us some behind-the-scenes footage of Tyra wearing her mud mask. This episode was created by the Snooz down in Snoozeville.

However, this is the first time in recent memory when everything on American Horror Story came together to make a coherent whole. It happened in season one, and a little bit in season two, but this is the most formally complete season of the show we have seen. So, boredom be damned, I am really proud of Mr. Murphy (who wrote this episode) for finally getting it right. It's like he figured out what was going to happen in the end, then worked backwards from there so that the story always tracked. Last season, I feel like he just told everyone to pick an accent and then just figured it out on the fly in between feedings for his baby and the seven times a day he had to visit Lea Michele's trailer, pick up her pink fuzzy blanket, and tell her that she was pretty and not everyone hated her on set, just the craft services people, so please stay away from the pierogies.

We find out that John Lowe first stumbled into the Cortez five years ago and met James Patrick Marsh while he was having one of his monthly dinners with the Countess, and something about black auras and how he is going to be the best killer ever, blah, blah, blah. March convinced John to take over his life's work, which was killing someone who had broken each of the Ten Commandments. That's because James Patrick Marsh once drank so much absinthe that he saw into the future, but only long enough to watch the trailer for Seven. In order to get John to kill to his heart's desire, March had to convince him that he was going to serve justice, something that he didn't think was possible on the police force.

First, March had to crush his soul. That's why the Countess kidnapped his son. It wasn't a random act, but a premeditated one meant to turn John's heart into a piece of flinty, black hate. Then he had to really twist the knife by convincing John (possibly erroneously) that the Oscar blogger was actually a pedophile, so the killing would be justified.  

See, it's all starting to come together: all of the diverse timelines, the explanations for the crimes, the missing chunks of time where John was out committing the murders. As he confesses the crimes to his partner — whom he later kills, then puts his bloody penis in a paper sack — all the pieces of the puzzle finally fall into place. John was disassociating the whole time, and the Cortez was playing with his mind. While all of the victims originally seemed unrelated and out of the blue, John retraces them and their significance back to March. What originally seemed arbitrary and underdeveloped was purposeful all along. That never happens in Murphyland, and what a pleasure it was to finally see delay lead to actual gratification, instead of a million eye-rolls.

That said, we had seen all these crimes before, we had figured out the killer, and (yawn) I'm going into the other room to talk to Vijay, wake me up when something interesting happens. I feel like I was in a haze for a whole episode, sort of like being the smartest kid in school when the teacher has to go over the times tables repeatedly because Jeremy just can't seem to get it, so you have to sit there and stare at the wall while the teacher answers the same questions over and over again. You just want to shout, "Four times four is 16, you stupid kid!"

I will say there were a few moments of true inspiration, like at the end of the episode, where John shows up, tells Iris that he finally figured out who he is, and she says, "Oh, thank Jesus. It was exhausting." Didn't Kathy Bates look amazing? Even Vijay thought so, and he's never even seen the show. Being a vampire must really agree with her.

The one part I didn't completely understand is Sally's role in all of this. Obviously, March struck a deal with her. She is supposed to keep an eye on John and motivate him to continue killing. It's like John's addiction to her (and booze and whatever else) was allowing March to continue to control John, keeping him in this fugue state where he could operate without giving away that he was the killer. That all made sense.

What I thought was odd was the strange deal that March has with Sally, which has something to do with the faceless addiction monster. "He's not yours. Not yet," he tells her when she doesn't save John from killing himself after he commits his first murder. "Or have you forgotten our little arrangement? My protection comes with a price. This demon that you and your kind have conjured with your diseased acts needs to feed, if not on others, then on you, dear Sally." Say wha?

Maybe Sally and the other ghosts kill people so they can feed their souls to the addiction demon, and somehow March keeps the demon from eating the wrong ghosts? If they're all ghosts, why do they need March's protection? I don't know. It's all a bit out there, and I'm sure we'll start getting answers about it soon. We still have four episodes before the finale. For American Horror Story, that's like the distance between my house and Vijay's — they'll have a lot of explaining to do, and a lot of ways to mess it all up. But, right now the show seems to be moving along perfectly, even if it is a little bit boring.

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