The Ten Commandments Killer has been the weakest component of American Horror Story: Hotel so it’s no surprise that the episode titled “The Ten Commandments Killer” is one of the dullest of them all.
Episode 8 gets right into it by bringing John back to the Hotel Cortez where Sally escorts him to room 64, reveals the hidden door behind the armoire and then very verbosely confirms what we’ve known for a number of episodes – John is the Ten Commandments Killer. Mr. March kicked things off back in 1926 but then he died and didn’t find a successor until John came along 90 years later.
While Andy’s (Richard T. Jones) at the morgue examining Wren’s dead body, John catches him off guard. He begins with statements that are just shy of him blurting out, “I am the Ten Commandments Killer,” and then the flashback kicks in, spelling out every single teeny tiny detail for us. Back in 2010, John paid his first visit to the Hotel Cortez. While drowning his murder scene sorrows in a martini at the bar, he’s approached by Donovan who convinces him to come upstairs for an afterparty. Turns out, that party is Mr. March and The Countess’ monthly dinner. Mr. March isn’t thrilled about having his precious time with The Countess interrupted, but John’s jet black aura intrigues him.
After telling Mr. March his deepest, darkest thoughts and putting back a good deal of absinth we cut to John laying on a bed, completely out of it while Mr. March and The Countess concoct a life-changing plan for him. John Gacy, Richard Ramirez and Jeffrey Dahmer all failed to complete Mr. March’s work, but he thinks John could be the one to do it. However, he can’t make that happen alone. He needs The Countess’ help. At first, she doesn’t go for it, insisting that it won’t work because John still has hope, but when Mr. March tells her that he has children and specifically points out Holden, she’s in.
Back in the present, John and Andy continue their conversation with John explaining that he continued to visit Mr. March and detailing how he changed over the years. He still worked as a detective, but his faith in the law faded fast because real criminals never pay. Then, Mr. March really digs his claws in by taking advantage of John on Holden’s birthday by showing him photos of what Martin Gamboa did to a 10-year-old boy right there at the Cortez. Furious, John takes it upon himself to show up at Gamboa’s house and beat him to death with an Oscar statue.
After that, John attempts to hang himself, but Mr. March cuts him down because Sally failed to do so herself. That’s when it’s revealed that Sally and Mr. March have an arrangement of their own. The details are a little fuzzy courtesy of the quick talking Mr. March and the fact that this topic gets mere seconds of screen time, but it seems as though Sally and “her kind” conjured a demon that needs to feed and Mr. March is the one who keeps it from feeding on Sally. On top of that, it also appears that Mr. March might let Sally have John for herself after he completes the killings. The episode continues with John admitting that he loved killing Martin Gamboa and that’s when Mr. March decides to pitch John his Ten Commandments project.
Back in the present, John and Andy continue their chat with the focus shifting to when they were working on the Gamboa case together and Andy admitted to having coffee with Alex because she was worried about John. However, John doesn’t buy it, assumes they’re having an affair and then runs back to the Cortez to tell Sally that he’d like to start his work for Mr. March by killing Alex. Cut back to the present and Andy still isn’t buying John’s confession. He assures John that he isn’t capable of these atrocities and that’s when John puts a knife right in Andy’s stomach, dubbing him his “thou shalt not commit adultery” kill. John returns to the Cortez to add a piece of Andy to the Ten Commandments collection and proudly stands beside his predecessor with a new sense of clarity and commitment.
I much prefer when American Horror Story keeps things simple and focuses on one story, but mere minutes into this episode I would have done anything to get some screen time with any other character. Evan Peters’ theatricality and priceless facial expressions couldn’t even save this episode.
“The Ten Commandments Killer” is the worst kind of exposition overload. The episode is excruciatingly slow, it centers on a big reveal we saw coming and drowns it in so many details so quickly that it winds up reducing the value of everything single one of them. “The Ten Commandments Killer” may mark a major step forward for John, but as a viewer, it felt more like I was wading in his conflicted melodrama and misery for an hour.
Episode Rating: ★★
Odds and Ends:
- “Nobody let him in. He had a key.” – Sally
- “You look radiant tonight, Madame. Though I have no idea how one would launder something like that, all those sparkly bits.” – Miss Evers
- “There was only one place I could feel any measure of peace, a place where I could lose myself and never be found.” – John
- “It’s surprising how delicious a little cruelty can taste.” – Miss Evers
- “The Cortez is a selfish mistress, John. Jealous. Possessive. She will never let you take anything with you.” – Sally
- “Are we ever ready to see ourselves for what we are?” – Iris