“It’s always been you…”
Clearly. An entire episode dedicated to John finally realizing what so many viewers have concluded weeks ago does not only make for a painful and unnecessary hour of television, it also an affront to audience’s intelligence. The entire episode is overkill—a dragged out spectacle that sounds as boring as it is—so much so that the show’s editors had to work hard to polish this turd in flashy obfuscations in the way of visual and auditory embellishments. Much like the opening shot of Ren being plowed down by a truck, this episode runs the viewer down with exhausting exposition, trying hard to put the pieces together in a way that one could say is possibly coherent (it’s not—not really). This, coupled with numerous scenes of unintentional humor makes for quite a trying episode of American Horror Story: Hotel.
John Lowe is probably this season’s most insufferable character—a cardboard cut-out of a man. By design, he is supposed to be just that and nothing more, until it is discovered that he is the killer everyone has been searching for this whole time. Unfortunately, the emotional thrills that should have accompanied this reveal deflate like air from a balloon, flatulent and noisy—but ultimately just a lot of hot air. The nature of John as a man was never fully discovered before we got to see this dark part of him. When Sally helps John finally remember all of his murderous misdeeds, the undoing of the former detective begins its slow progression. There is not much to say, which is strange since the viewer is given so much information throughout the episode. Flashbacks, time jumps, and fuzzy memories that feel manipulated. There are several points in the episode where one might wonder if John’s partner is right: He’s confused and someone is manipulating him to think he is the killer. This is all an elaborate play.
This very well maybe. And if it is revealed to be so later on in the season, then this would all make much more sense and feel just a bit more satisfying because as I’ve stated before, John is too easy of a culprit—one that could have been found out from the very first episode. With his story, the writers showed their hand too early or barely tried to maintain their poker face while shuffling through the other stories and characters. John’s story has been an extended experience, one that did not deserve as much attention as it got. Wes Bentley tries his best with what is given to him, but he is trapped in this dramatic horror show full of clichés. If anything, the performances keep this episode from being downright insufferable. Evan Peters is at his best as James Patrick March and although Sally is used as a seductive plot device for most of this episode, Sarah Paulson has a magnetic energy. The same can’t be said for the episode’s story.
This episode tries its hand at raising shock factor, but it falls flat by committing the carnal sin of dragging out the inevitable and obvious for an entire episode. It feels perfunctory, it feels like boxes being checked off. In a way this is good, because now we can hopefully get on with the season’s most intriguing stories. John’s mysterious predilections are not one of them and it especially is not worthy of an entire episode’s dedication. It’s a shame, because it could have been, if the character was previously written in a way that made the audience care about him and his plight. But really, he is just a convenient catalyst for all of the other more interesting stories.
The episode tries to comment on the nature of good and evil, moral law and justice, and modernity’s insatiable indulgence. We get that and it provides some interesting observation but to no end that makes this installment feel thrilling at any point. Now that John has clarity, we can only hope for his eventual evolution of character, because he desperately needs it. “The Ten Commandments Killer” gets 2 out of 5 stars!
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