American Horror Story: Hotel Recap: Queenie for a Day

Kathy Bates as Iris. Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FX
American Horror Story

American Horror Story

Battle Royale Season 5 Episode 11
Editor's Rating 4 stars

Queenie! I squealed at the screen when I saw Gabourey Sidibe show up in the lobby of the Hotel Cortez, sporting her signature poppin’ lipgloss and multicolored hair. Sadly, though, this refugee from American Horror Story: Coven didn’t last very long. She survived the never-ending torture of working in a fried chicken joint in hell, only to be felled by James Patrick March two seasons later. Does that mean she’ll stick around the hotel for good?

As much as I loved seeing Queenie — and as much as I hate that she’s robbed from playing Plinko on The Price Is Right — her appearance points out two big problems with the season. The first is the connections between anthology chapters. It’s one thing when you have the Realtor from Murder House showing Will Drake the Cortez, since she was just a bit character who appears in two different seasons with no real effect on either story. The same actress plays the same role in both chapters. Sidibe has no role in the Hotel universe, so she can play Queenie without confusion.

But why doesn’t she recognize Ramona Royale as, you know, Marie Laveau? They’re the same damn person! Well, they’re different, but they look exactly the same. Not only that, but Ramona/Marie drinks her blood right up when March kills her. So, yes, that means one actor can play two totally different characters who co-exist side-by-side, but if all of these universes are connected, does that mean that Ramona and Marie could be in the same room together? Would they bring up the fact that they look like identical twins? How does this all work?

Also, since we’re talking about Ramona eating Queenie’s blood: We know that it’s powerful because she says she has “grizzly bears running through [her] veins,” but shouldn’t she also have Queenie’s powers now? Probably not, but I really wanted her to have gain witch powers. That would have been seriously cool, like Cleopatra Jones cool. Can’t Ramona please have powers?

Also, if Queenie died in the hotel, does that mean her ghost will be stuck there forever? And, if so, why don’t we see her again? The same goes for the Kurt and Courtney stand-ins that Sally human-centipeded. Why is she the one that becomes the ghost, rather than the two of them? And why is there no gaggle of children with vampire smallpox running around the hotel, looking for candy and outlets so they can charge their smartphones? It’s as if you only get to become a ghost if you’re a main character or Naomi Campbell.

There are an awful lot of deaths in “Battle Royale.” Not only does Queenie get felled by a ghost, but Donovan dies in the gutter, yards away from the eternal clutches of the hotel’s lobby. The biggest downfall is the Countess, of course, who gets gunned down twice: first by Liz Taylor and then by Iris. She escapes long enough to recuperate, thanks to an assist from Sally and two of her blond babies with bad haircuts. Then, just as she’s leaving the Cortez for good — and after she cedes control of the hotel to her ex-lover Ramona — John finally kills her. He cuts off her head and mounts it as a trophy for March, who has collected the full set of Ten Commandments deaths like they’re some kind of Star Wars toy given out at McDonalds.

I know that people either love or hate Lady Gaga’s performance, but I think she’s absolutely stunning in these scenes. She shows us just the right amount of pain, tempered with arch indifference. The moment when she struggles under Sally’s needle is especially great, particularly as she murmurs, “Your timing is off,” with the faintest hint of a growl. Another stellar scene: Her standoff with Ramona, when the two circle each other like two dingos trying to eat the same baby. “I’m not used to this. Cut me some slack, bitch.” Gold stars all around.

Speaking of outstanding, can we just give the show’s costume crew their Emmy now and be done with it? The Countess slayed in her bustled traveling number, which she wore to the elevator just to be murdered while wearing it. The black dress she wears to her final dinner with March — the one with the huge shoulder embellishment and the plunging neckline — is perhaps the most exquisite thing she’s worn all season. I wouldn’t mind being stuck in that little number for the rest of existence. And while we’re praising killer ensembles, how about the black dress Ramona borrows from Liz Taylor? Oh, and don’t Liz and Iris look amazing when they shoot the Countess? Their looks are right out of Gucci Spring 2016.

With only one episode left, “Battle Royale” brings everything together nicely, wrapping up many of the season’s story lines. John is finished as the Ten Commandments Killer, March can be with the Ghost Countess for all eternity, Iris and Liz got their revenge, Ramona is freed from her prison, the anti-vaxxer kiddies have all been eaten up, and we finally learned that it was Miss Evers, not the Countess, who called the cops on March way back in the 1920s.

Mare Winningham, who is so down-to-earth on The Affair, has been wonderfully daffy all season. Sometimes, I forget what a skilled actress she really is. I love how she boomerangs from hysterical to resigned and back again when March banishes her forever. “I suddenly feel free,” she says, as if released from the shackles of her own desire. Will she find a way to get out of the Cortez now that her unfinished business is wrapped up? Or is that not how things work?

There’s not much left for the finale. The show still has to settle things with John, Alex, and their family. And what about Scarlett? She’s back from that open-ended stint at her grandmother’s house where everyone forgot about her. Will she turn out to be the most evil one of all? I have a feeling she will.

Another loose thread: Sally wants John killed in the Cortez, so she’ll be with him forever. March has other plans for him, though. Now that the Ten Commandments have been met, what does he have in mind?

I feel like Sally has the most questions that need to be answered next week. What exactly is her deal? We know how she ended up as a ghost, but why do she and March need each other so badly? Does the answer involve the Addiction Demon? And what is his deal? Does Sally serve him now? He tortured her for days when she was stitched to Smells Like Teen Spirit and his wife. We’ve only got one more week to find out.

American Horror Story Recap: Queenie for a Day