The fifth season of American Horror Story has officially concluded, and the episode -- like most AHS finales -- was mostly spent giving us an indication of the endgame for residents of the Cortez. With the Countess officially joining the ranks of the trapped spirits, Liz and Iris maintain the day-to-day operations of the hotel with attempted renovations to rebrand the Cortez. Unfortunately for the pair, the spirits remain restless and kill off any guests who are brave enough to check-in. Liz decides it's time to call a meeting of paranormal entities to end the murders once and for all, for the benefit of keeping the hotel open. The deceased group includes the Swedish tourists, Sally, Miss Evers, Woo, Marcy, Mr. March, and Tristan's Grindr hookup/victim all eventually coming to an agreement to cease killing guests to preserve their home. (Needing to reach 2026 to become a historical landmark)
Liz and Iris try their best to accommodate the residing spirits, treating them as "long term" residents with growing perks (like alcohol and wifi!) Iris shares some of this with Sally who once again feels empty and alone, but, when Iris provides her with an iPhone, things start to look a little brighter. What followed was possibly one of my favorite sequences of the season, showcasing Sally embrace the wonders of social media. With the opportunity to connect to people all over, she began to fill that void she had previously felt -- and accumulating a mass following of people who enjoyed Sally for who she is. (Including posts that documented her general hatred for people, and photos of her trademark lipstick or heroin needles.) Sally finds that she doesn't need to numb herself with drugs anymore, a major step-up for the struggling addict. Meanwhile, Liz comes up with the idea to be the face of Will's failing fashion house with the designer providing material from the Cortez.
Liz quickly becomes a ball buster in the boardroom and encourages the creative spark that Will needs to reinvigorate his fashion line and succeed. It was heavily influenced by Art Deco like the Cortez, and the hotel even held fashion shows with the spirits used for modeling. (Sally can Werk!) regardless of the success Liz managed to find late in life, she felt incomplete without having Tristan, her one true love. Iris begins to see that crucial piece missing from Liz, and enlists the help of Billie Dean, a now famous TV psychic (for those of you who need a refresher, this is Sarah Paulson's character from Season 1 who predicted Tate's son would end the world.) After a little spirit fishing, Tristan tells the psychic he doesn't want to speak with Liz - but Donovan chimes in to tell his mother that he has found peace and finally gives her his love. Liz goes on to rebuild a relationship with his son and a new family she hadn't ever felt, but over time develops prostate cancer that spreads to her spine. Liz asks the spirits (that she officially calls family) to end her life for another rebirth, and keep them together forever - so their love for Liz is perfectly shown in this particular moment. Before anyone can make a move, the Countess makes her appearance in the doorway, marking the first encounter between her and Liz since the Countesses death. Liz admits that she had missed her presence, and the Countess shares that Liz was always her fondest creation in a sweet scene between complex characters. The Countess is the one to end Liz's life and transition to the next phase where she finally finds the opportunity to reunite with Tristan. He tells her that he has always loved her and only kept a distance so Liz could finish living out all the things she still had to achieve, but now they can finally spend eternity together in happiness. (Oh, sweet love.)
On Devils Night in 2022, we see that people have flocked to the Cortez because of Billie Dean's televised specials (with one episode referencing "Mr. Woo doesn't pay for..." You know the rest.) Iris explains that she isn't fond of the new crowd, but John Lowe makes his return to the Cortez and states he likes the livelihood of the hotel. After years of Billie attempting to communicate with John (now the infamous 10 Commandments Killer) he finally makes his presence known to the psychic and provides a few answers to fill the time gap. His family is shown to live on the run for quite some time, until returning to the Cortez as their new home. Scarlet was sent away to school (and because she's the only actual human) but the other three stayed present in the hotel until John was shot and killed just outside of the premises -- making it impossible for his spirit to live on with the others. Billie asks what the importance of October 30th is, and he coyly says he will show her if she ditches the camera crew.
Of course being inquisitive and intrigued with the paranormal, Billie follows John to room 64 and realizes that a dinner parts of serial killers spirits is about to take place. (Devil's Night 2.0) Billie becomes overwhelmed by the malevolent spirits and ends up forced into a chair at the table nobody wants to join. They threaten her to stop publicizing the Cortez (it's ruins their fun surely) and the murders are reinforced by a very much alive Ramona, which is enough to leave the psychic in fear and agreement before fleeing the Cortez once and for all. John returns to his own room where we see a grown up Scarlet sitting next to her mother and brother (fast asleep) and he lays in the bed holding his daughters hand until he disappears for another year. (Scarlet is surprisingly sweet to her family after the hell they put her through, but at least they all get the occasional chance to be together.) the last scene shows a glamorous as ever Countess sitting at a table in the bar listening to a soft jazz song playing in the background. She spots a man she is drawn to, and follows him to the bar telling him his Halloween plans are about to change - and repeating her seductive murder ploy by informing the young man he has a jawline for days.
The finale had a lot of directions it could have headed, but they kept things emotional to happy in the closing chapter of AHS Hotel. It felt like a fulfilling way to leave some of my favorite characters with great performers by Lady Gaga, Sarah Paulson, Denis O'Hare, and Evan Peters. I definitely didn't expect a safer conclusion, but enjoyed it for the sake of the characters' happiness. AHS Hotel's final episode receives a 'B+' and left me wondering just what could come next in the interweaving horror story.
Aedan's Final Thoughts
-Liz Taylor was given enough time to shine and solidify herself as the character we root for the most. Seeing her reunite with Tristan was the happy ending she deserved.
-I'm glad their was resolution between the Countess and Liz, as well as happy to see her haunting the Cortez in her elaborate wardrobe. I'll miss my favorite century-old femme fatale, and I'm thankful that Lady Gaga granted us with her wonderful acting presence.
-I expected a larger connection to indicate a future season that tied things together after subtle hints, but nothing stood out as a prominent Season Six theme.
-It's been extremely fun covering AHS Hotel, a story I've been anticipating since Season Two -- and the payout was certainly a gratifying experience. See you next year for more in-depth coverage of AHS!