[NOTE: Apologies for the tardy recap. FX does not provide American Horror Story screeners so due to my travel schedule, I was not able to watch the episode live.]
One might expect American Horror Story to go especially big in the sex and violence departments for the season finale, but the last episode of American Horror Story: Hotel is surprisingly heartwarming, satisfying and somewhat feels like a thank you to the viewership for sticking with it.
“Be Our Guest” opens roughly a year after the events of the previous episode, with Liz Taylor fantasizing about what a wonderful place the Hotel Cortez could be now that the domineering and sadistic owners are gone – but then her throat is slashed. Flash back to when a super smiley Liz and Iris are checking in some new guests, a pair of critics from a site called Trip Adventurers. Turns out, Liz and Iris were able to fix up the Cortez by liquidating all of The Countess’ art. Trouble is, all the money and sage in the world isn’t going to cleanse the Cortez of the malicious ghosts lurking around, eager to kill, like Sally and Will Drake.
In order to get the ghosts to stop killing the guests, Liz and Iris hold a group meeting. Turns out, the only real problems are Will and Sally. You’d think Mr. March would be the one to insist that the Cortez remain A-okay with killing, but now he’s more concerned about the place going out of business and being torn down. In 2026, the Hotel Cortez will become a landmark, which would ensure that never happens. The thing is, they have to keep the place up and running until then.
Everyone is on board with the plan minus Sally, but then Iris attempts to reason with her in a scene that’s easily one of Sally’s strongest of the season. At first, I suspected we’d get the same old Sally – moping about being lonely and not having a soulmate – but then Paulson finally offers some new insight into the character. Sally isn’t just lashing out when she kills. Her kills are the only thing that bring her any salvation. However, Iris might have a solution to this problem – social media! It sounds silly, but actually makes sense and is kind of endearing. Iris proposes that in order to get out into the world – without actually going out into the world – Sally start tweeting. It works and not only do we finally see Sally smile for the first time, but she ditches her syringe as well.
Meanwhile, Liz attempts to make Will Drake feel better about his situation. His fashion empire might be falling apart a bit, but she assures him that as long as the company stays afloat and Lachlan thrives, Will will matter. Liz suggests it might be good to have Lachlan come for a visit and also urges him to continue running his fashion house from the Cortez. When Will tries to explain that no fashion line can thrive without a face, Liz insists she’d be perfect for the gig. He agrees and together, they kill it, reinvigorating the line and even using some of the resident Cortez ghosts as runway models.
Liz is living the dream. The only thing missing is Tristan and, oddly enough, even though he died in the Cortez, no one’s seen him. That’s where our next American Horror Story season to season crossover comes in. Iris introduces Liz to Sarah Paulson as Billie Dean Howard, the psychic medium who appeared in Murder House. She manages to make contact with Tristan, but he doesn’t want to communicate with Liz. It breaks her heart, but that doesn’t stop her from being happy for Iris when Donovan takes the initiative to speak to her through Billie and tell his mother that he loves her. Plus, soon after, Liz becomes a proud grandmother. But, in yet another fairly abrupt shift, then we find out that Liz has cancer and it’s beyond the point of treatment. In a bizarrely heartwarming scene, The Countess slits Liz’s throat while the rest of the ghosts watch so that Liz can be with “her family” forever. But wait! The big Liz sequence doesn’t end there. As soon as she comes back as a ghost, that’s when Tristan appears.
Fast forward to Devil’s Night 2022. Apparently Billie Dean Howard shot three primetime specials at the Cortez and they drew a crowd of folks looking for their own supernatural encounters. Billie’s also been busy trying to make contact with the Ten Commandments Killer, John. He’s never bothered to chat, but this year is different and the show uses the interview to dish out some exposition. Apparently he tried to make it work with his family without killing innocent people for Alex and Holden, but ultimately they had no choice but to return to the Cortez. However, the hotel was no place for Scarlett, so she went to boarding school with Lachlan. One night, the police finally catch up to John, shooting him right in front of the Cortez. After wrapping up his story, John offers Billie the opportunity of a lifetime, to meet some of the most notorious killers ever. All she has to do is leave her camera crew behind and follow John to Mr. March’s suite. Soon after meeting the whole gang, she knows she’s in trouble. They threaten to kill her if she doesn’t stop yapping about the hotel and even though she considers protesting, when you’ve got a power drill in your face, there’s really only one option.
From there, back to room 64 John goes where Alex and Holden sleep soundly and an older Scarlett watches over them. Like Aileen Wuornos, John Gacy and the rest of the Devil’s Night serial killers, John only gets one night a year at the Cortez. (Guess he never made it back inside the Cortez after getting shot that evening.) Before closing out the season, we get one last brief scene with The Countess. She spots a cute guy at the bar, moves in and tells him that he has a jawline for days. Cut to the credits.
After the way ASH: Freak Show went out, this is not what I was expecting at all. Some episodes of American Horror Story: Hotel were pretty disappointing and there’s clearly no changing that, but wrapping things up the way they did in “Be Our Guest” will undoubtedly make me look back at the season overall in a positive manner. In most cases, I’d like to bet I might have scoffed at a finale episode that pulled everything together in such a nice, neat and positive package, but in this case, the characters deserved and needed it.
Other than Lady Gaga, the MVPs of AHS: Hotel are definitely Kathy Bates and Denis O’Hare so it’s nice to see them take control and enjoy some happier times before closing out the season. I would have liked to have seen a little bit more about what life was like for Iris and Donovan pre-ASH: Hotel, especially because there was that point when it was unclear whether Iris was an overbearing mother or if Donovan was just a total brat, but Bates kept delivering such strong work that the present became so much more important than the past. It also would have been nice to see Mare Winningham‘s Miss Evers find her place after Mr. March gave her the boot last week, but I guess we can’t have everything.
Overall, “Be Our Guest” really lives up to the title. The way the finale episode wraps up the season makes me want to take them up on that offer. Much to my surprise, the AHS: Hotel roster winds up becoming one big happy and insanely unusual family that I want to be part of. As much as I enjoy twisted storylines and over-the-top nightmarish scenarios, I’m hoping the writers embrace more hope, warmth and positivity next season. It certainly served this episode well.
Episode Rating: ★★★★