American Horror Story: Hotel finale recap: Be Our Guest
Everyone dies. Not everyone truly lives.
Iris and Liz Taylor have big dreams for the Hotel Cortez. They want respect, critical adoration. They want Five Stars. They invite some reviewers from that Internet Site, TripAdventurers.com. They like what they see. A mini-bar! A Japanese self-cleaning wonder toilet! The ghost of a grunge-era heroin addict shooting up on their bed!
Soon, they’re dead. Murderous phantoms are a problem for a hotel looking to revamp its image. The owners call a meeting of the ghouls. Everyone’s in a remarkably good mood — besides Sally and Will Drake. Sally is sad and lonely; Will is frustrated, with himself as much as anyone else. But James Patrick March declares a new mission for the Cortez. On Aug. 23, 2026, the hotel will be a hundred years old. They can declare it an historic landmark. So everyone just needs to behave for the next decade or so.
That means the gang needs to get together to solve all Sally and Will’s personal problems. Sally’s an easy fix: Iris plugs in the Wi-Fi and sets her loose in the brave new world of social media. (Solving a haunting with Twitter is by far one of the funniest and most believable things American Horror Story has ever come up with.) Will Drake is the harder nut to crack. Even death hasn’t solved his biggest problem: How to find the creative spark? Liz Taylor gives him an idea: What if he became the Howard Hughes of fashion? Nobody knows he’s dead; with Liz as his representative to the outside world, he can become the world’s second undead fashion designer! (The first was Karl Lagerfeld, who arguably produced his finest work only after dying in the French Revolution.)
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The Cortez is rebranded. Will hosts fashion shows inside with the ghosts as his models. No cameras are allowed; the mystique of Will Drake’s clothes grow. Still, Liz Taylor is unhappy, yearning for Tristan, who refuses to appear despite dying inside the Cortez. Iris brings Liz a surprise guest: Billie Dean Howard, the initial variation of Sarah Paulson, who in the years since Murder House has gotten her own show on Lifetime. Billie makes contact with Tristan — but Tristan won’t talk to Liz Taylor. (She does contact Donovan, who’s in a heaven that smells like pancakes. Pause to imagine Matt Bomer dancing to “Hotline Bling” eternally in a land of pancakes.)
Still, Liz finds a way to live. She reconnects with her son, Douglas; meets his beautiful bride, Janice; becomes proud grandma to little Isabel. In the fullness of time and apropos nothing, Liz gets ill: “The first woman in the world to have prostate cancer.” She asks the ghosts to kill her, and they agree to send her into the netherworld of the Cortez. Surprise, surprise: The Countess appears, ready to help him with one last transition. In death, Tristan awaits. A happy ending, for everyone lucky enough to die.
NEXT: High and Lowe
In the years that follow, Billie Dean Howard becomes a frequent guest at the Cortez. She films several specials inside its walls, communing with the spirits. The Hotel becomes a haven for lovers of the supernatural: “Freaks and weirdos who want to be plowed by ghosts.” Lo and behold, on Devil’s Night in the year 2022, there is Detective John Lowe, back from his travels.
Some years have passed since we saw John escape in the night with his family. The world knows that he was the Ten Commandments Killer; Billie Dean’s been trying to contact him for years. He finally agrees to see her. He tells the full story: A life on the run, killing to put blood on the table. The Lowes returned to the Cortez. John dies one night chasing bloodbags: The cops shoot him down just beyond the Cortez entrance. He can only return one night a year, for Devil’s Night, to take his place at the Serial Killer table.
He welcomes Billie to that table, to sit with Dahmer and Gacy, Wuornos and Ramirez, the Zodiac and James Patrick March. Billie Dean thinks she is protected. Quickly enough, she realizes that she isn’t. It seems like the killers will do their worst. But instead, they make her promise not to ever return to the Cortez — with Ramona Royale as their watchman.
John Lowe finds his ageless wife and child. And his daughter, too: She’s aged a bit. We’re specifically told that she was educated at the Thacher School, along with Will Drake’s son and presumably all the other children orphaned by the Cortez. (I have no idea why the American Horror Story finale went out of its way to mention the Thacher School twice, but I have to imagine one of the AHS producers is trying really hard to either get their kids in or to make sure their kids never get in.) They’re all together now, the Lowe family, Liz Taylor and Tristan, the Scandinavian girls and their boyfriend, James Patrick March and his Devil’s Night pals. Everyone, all together…
And down in the bar, the Countess sips her drink, and finds a familiar-looking man, someone you might name Finn Bomerock or Matt Finnbome or Mattrock Bomerfinn. “You have a jawline for days,” says Lady Gaga. A jawline for centuries would be more appropriate.