American Horror Story: Hotel Finale Recap: Closing Time

American Horror Story

Be Our Guest
Season 5 Episode 12
Editor’s Rating *****
Evan Peters as Mr. March. Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX

American Horror Story has always had trouble sticking a landing. The show’s best finale was the last episode of Coven, which saw the girls finally compete to be the next Supreme. It gave us an answer to the season’s ongoing mystery; it was a perfect way to wrap everything up.

Other than that, though, the finales are rather different from the rest of the series, and often feel tacked on. This was great for the finale of Asylum, as it jumped into the future, and we learned Sarah Paulson’s Lana becomes a Barbara Walters–type figure who finally gets her comeuppance for abandoning her son — once again, the show gave us an answer to an ongoing mystery. In Murder House, the last episode arbitrarily focused on the ghosts in the house terrorizing a new family that moved in. (We won’t talk about the Freak Show finale because I have vowed to never discuss that season ever again.)

Like Murder House, this episode of Hotel, which I think is one of the anthology’s better chapters, didn’t have much to do with the rest of the season. All of the mysteries were wrapped up last week, so this episode is essentially an epilogue. The one huge question about the addiction monster — why does he have sway over this place, exactly? — is alluded to but never answered. Instead, we get another Will Drake fashion show, the reintroduction of a mostly forgotten character from season one, and a whole bunch about Liz Taylor’s relationship with Tristan, that coupling no one cared much for anyway.

The episode is split in two: The first half is about Liz Taylor, and the second is about John Lowe. After Liz ensures the long-term viability of the hotel (and Will Drake’s flagging fashion empire), she lets herself get killed by the Countess on those new 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets so she can spend all of eternity with her “family.” That family is, of course, ghosts: Sally, Will, Miss Evers, some Grindr dude who Donovan killed, the Swedish girls, and a shirtless Asian guy whom I can’t place to save my life but definitely remember for his hotness. What I mean is, these ghosts are randos. Where is Naomi Campbell? We’ve seen her ghost before. What about the junkie played by Max Greenfield? Or that super-hot porn star who was murdered in the bathroom? What about all the other hundreds of people who died in the hotel over the last century? None of them want to hang out, but Liz is besties with the Swedes?

I also wasn’t crazy about the endings given to Will Drake and Sally. First of all, we’re suddenly supposed to believe that Liz Taylor “bleeds Dior.” The dresses we usually see her in, while fabulous, are less couture and more SequinQueen.com. Then she boasts about walking into the Will Drake boardroom in “six-inch Guccis,” as if it’s a brand particularly well-known for its heels. That’s how she saves the fashion empire? And before that moment, Will never thought to pick up a sketch pad because he was so intoxicated with murder? I don’t buy it.

I buy Sally’s internet addiction even less. It’s so cute when Iris shows up in her room with an iPad Mini trying to buy a petulant little girl’s affection with a luxury electronic good. (Just like a real parent would.) But now she’s going to become an internet superstar? I mean, which Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, Tumblr, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Reddit, or Peach user wouldn’t be sucked in by her incredible “content” that consists of lipstick photos and deeply philosophical musings like, “I hate everybody.” No wonder her engagement numbers are through the roof. (That’s sarcasm.) Is Twitter supposed to be the soul mate she’s been pining for all along? And social media celebrity is so intoxicating that Sally tosses her work out the window? Try again.

Through Liz’s story line, we’re reintroduced to Billie Dean Howard, the psychic played by Sarah Paulson in season one. (Paulson also plays Sally. Having her play two unrelated characters in the same episode bugs me, but whatever.) Iris brings her in to find Tristan’s spirit — he hasn’t appeared in the hotel yet, but he refuses to talk. Once Liz is dead, we learn that Tristan wanted her to keep living until the cancer got her or whatever. That’s why his spirit hasn’t been around at all. This is all a bit spotty, but it’s the only explanation in the finale I sort of fell for.

The rest of the episode is dedicated to John Lowe, that drag of a policeman/serial killer I thought we ditched episodes ago, but I guess not. He apparently needs to get rid of Billie Dean Howard — a character introduced about 15 minutes before the season ends — because she’s made the hotel too popular. Um, like that’s a problem? We revisit the serial-killer party on Devil’s Night, which, in my opinion, was absolutely the worst episode of the season. I love Lily Rabe, but watching her do that Aileen Wuornos head-jerk again was enough to make me nauseous.

John Lowe gets a fitting, failing end to his story, which made me happy since he’s been mucking things up since he first arrived on the scene. He can’t keep Chloë Sevigny and his son fed with blood, and he’s on the run from the cops, who figured out he was a killer. He’s gunned down in a standoff right in front of the Cortez and dies on the curb, just steps away from immortality in the hotel. He can still hang out with his wife, son, and daughter (the always-forgotten Scarlett, who is still mortal) — but only on Devil’s Night.

Speaking of forgotten children, both Scarlett and Will Drake’s son Lachlan are sent off to the Thatcher School, a private prep school in Ojai. Hmmm, this place is conspicuously mentioned twice by name in the final episode of the season. I wonder where the next season will be set? Hmmm. I wonder. Can’t you already see Golden Globe winner Lady Gaga as a headmistress terrorizing a bunch of witless teens? I sure can.

It’s fitting that the season ends on the Countess in that stunning blue gown, with her hair so 1950s-perfect, luring another adorable man into her deadly web. This was Gaga’s season — and yes, I think she deserved that award. She was consistently the most interesting thing in the Cortez, from her drop-dead ensembles to her bored demeanor, which showed just the right amount of menace trickling below the surface. She was a fascinating actor to watch, and it’s a shame she isn’t given more to do in this finale. Her last witty rejoinder, “You have a jawline for days,” is the perfect end to a well-crafted season that felt far less scattershot and arbitrary than its immediate predecessors. It’s just too bad the rest of the finale didn’t have the same spark.

AHS: Hotel Finale Recap: Closing Time