The tenth episode of this fifth iteration of American Horror Story is titled “She Gets Revenge.” It’s not initially clear which “she” we’re talking about here. The Countess? She kills somebody, but it isn’t really a “vengeance” killing. Iris? I guess the whole world done her wrong, but her act of violence feels gloriously unmotivated. Ramona? Trapped in the prison corridors. Sally? Sound and fury, thus far signifying nothing.
No, the “she” of the title has to be Liz Taylor, revealed in these final episodes as the true soul of Hotel‘s hotel. Liz welcomes an older couple to the Cortez. The old marrieds are the picture of happiness: together 60 years, four kids, nine grandchildren. But her cancer is spreading, and he can’t live without her. They share a bottle of champagne, count backwards from 3, and blow each other’s beloved brains out.
Liz considers following them, but Iris convinces her otherwise. Can’t die in the Cortez with unfinished business. And Liz still has one task left unfinished: Her long-lost son, left behind in her old life. Hazel calls up Liz’s boy and gets him to come to Los Angeles for a few nights free at the Cortez. (You may ask yourself why on Earth Liz would bring her son to a Hotel Hell filled with serial killers and ghosts and killer ghosts and viralized hedonists.) In return, Hazel asks only for some updated cleaning products.
We’re in the home stretch of the season, so it’s time for some death. Donovan visits Rudy Valentino just as Natacha visits the Countess. It’s a glorious crosscut between bitchfests: Natacha argue-copulating with Gaga, Donovan and Rudy having a chin-off. Rudy pulls a sword on Donovan, who does the Indiana Jones thing and just shoots his romantic rival. (Gaga does the same with Natacha, when she pulls out a knife.) Donovan doesn’t mourn his rival’s death “I have better cheekbones anyway,” he says. “Cheekbones for days.”
Meanwhile, our pal John Lowe has gone cuckoo crazy. He’s got nine commandments down, and just one more to go. His galpal Sally is so proud of him. His mentor James Patrick March is proud, too. But John hasn’t forgotten his old life. He wants his wife back. He finds Alex in the Hotel, and they reconnect. She has a problem, and she needs help. See, there’s a pack of vampire kids that need dealing with…
…and deal with them they do. John and Alex go all True Detective, hunting down the pack of viralized commando-kids and convincing them to return to the Cortez. Because no one should ever come to the Cortez, the kids wind up trapped in the prison corridors with one dead body and one living Angela Bassett.
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Speaking of that dead body: Will Drake’s ghost haunts the Cortez now. He’s not happy — but at least his eyes are wide open. He asks Gaga what she was thinking, killing him. Will she take control of his empire? “I thought I’d dissolve the empire,” she explains. “Convert it to cash.” Oh, she’s not on the will, but she is little Lachlan’s legal guardian until he turns 18. Maybe he’ll never turn 18, one way or another.
Now the Countess has two dead husbands wandering the halls of the Cortez. Not an easy situation — but at least that’s a bit cleaner than the romantic triangle John finds himself in. Fresh from their mission to take care of the little bloodsucking children of Los Angeles Elementary, John and Alex rekindle their romance. Well, half-kindle: She still wants a divorce, but she sees something solid behind John’s eyes now. “You finally got it together, John,” she says, before leaving him for the evening. (The Season 5 Derriere Club welcomes Chloë Sevigny!)
Sally’s not so happy about this. “She doesn’t know about you,” she tells John. “Not the way I do. How’s she gonna take it when she finds out the truth?” Truthfully, it’s hard to know what Alex will think. She’s an immortal blood-being now, their son will never age, and their daughter has the incredible ability to vanish for weeks at a time. How much weirder is a serial-killer cop husband?
NEXT: Liz Taylor, Proud Grandma
Hey, you know who’s great? Denis O’Hare. The actor’s been an essential supporting limb across three previous iterations of American Horror Story. It’s taken a little while, but Hotel is turning into his showcase — what Freak Show was for Paulson, what everything was for Lange. We see Liz Taylor reconnect with her long-lost son. In secret: The son arrives at the bar, and talks about his helplessly normal life back home. The wife thinks he should be his own boss, move to Boulder. Liz tells him he should consider it.
She doesn’t reveal her identity. She considers it enough that she talked to her son again. But then, as she’s preparing to follow Iris into the beyond, her son shows up at the bar again. He’s taking her advice: “Janice and I are Boulder-bound.” Liz says that she has to confess something; the son already knows. Doesn’t he find it weird, that his father is a woman? “I really learned something when Pedro died, on The Real World,” says the son. “And I kept learning. Plenty of time to talk it out, Liz. But hey, there’s plenty of room for another woman in my life.”
Liz goes back upstairs and admits to Iris that she’s having second thoughts with regards to the whole “suicide” thing. Iris is bummed: She already made her tribute video, hoping to create a beacon of hope for her three followers on Instagram. (She set the video to a Lee Ann Womack song!) Liz tells Iris there has to be another way. “You and I are women of a certain age,” she says. “Damn it, we are the ones who should inherit the Earth!” Liz has a plan: To turn the Hotel Cortez into someplace nice. To give the ghost-maid a washer-dryer.
It’s a bold idea and not one I saw coming. This whole season, the Cortez has been a setting for strange sinful behavior, a reckoning between different forces of evil. Could such a setting really be changed — transformed, evolved into something better? (The Lowes don’t think so, or maybe they don’t care. Alex walks out hand-in-hand with John, little vampire child Holden with them, and they go back to the outside world, leaving Sally screaming behind them.)
In the penthouse, the Countess calls upon Donovan. She has a mission for him: to cleanse the hotel of Will Drake. But Donovan reveals that he’s already cleansed the world of Rudolph Valentino, once and for all. Gaga goes to see if this is true — leaving Donovan to dance himself silly to “Hotline Bling,” the greatest song ever written, the greatest dance ever danced. The Countess returns, plotting vengeance — which Donovan welcomes. “Dying is the only way you’ll let me love you,” he declares. The Countess seems just about ready to love him — finally, completely, fully. And then “Hotline Bling” strikes up, and Liz Taylor walks in alongside Iris, guns blazing.
So: What the heck? Is the Countess dead — and if so, will she, too, now haunt the corridors of the Cortez? Can Liz and Iris create a newer, better world in their broken down old hotel? Will John Lowe complete his mission as the Ten Commandments Killer? Dear god, what about Lachlan?
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