“American Horror Story: Hotel” aired its highly-anticipated season finale on Jan. 13 on FX. Airing quickly on the heels of Lady Gaga’s glorious Golden Globe win for her mesmerizing portrayal of The Countess, the extended episode delivered plenty of satisfying story tie ups. However, there are also aggravating unanswered questions blowing in the wind. Overall, the season is perfectly balanced by two colorful character bookends: Lady Gaga as The Countess and her “fondest” creation, Liz Taylor (played to Emmy-worthy perfection by Denis O’Hare).
One could easily dub Liz and The Countess as Beauty and the Beast, or should we say the monster and Dr. Frankenstein, respectively? In the riveting finale episode “Be Our Guest,” Liz truly comes into her own, first in the shared duty of Hotel Cortez management with fellow resident underdog, Iris (Kathy Bates). Second, as the new corporate mouthpiece for Will Drake’s (Cheyenne Jackson) nearly defunct fashion empire. Finally, as a proud new grandmother to her first grandchild.
All in all, life seems great for Liz who can also be deemed the most courageous character for embracing her transgender self with timeless grace and fabulous flair. Because The Countess is so self-absorbed, she takes credit for creating Liz in their shared final scene. Liz willingly submits her throat to The Countess’ chainmail claw in an effort to stave off succumbing to a battle with terminal cancer. Sniff, sniff. Let’s sort that out, shall we?
The Countess may have helped Liz Taylor embrace her inner femininity and may have even helped her live it out loud. But, it’s Liz who ultimately struts her stuff boldly and beautifully from there. She grows and evolves and even makes peace with her estranged son. Yahoo! In essence, Liz has a very calm and tolerant soul. It was heartbreaking to watch her suffer in a prior episode when The Countess murdered her one true love, Tristan (Finn Wittrock). It’s even worse to bear when Tristan doesn’t seem to want to communicate with Liz in the finale. No, please say it isn’t so!
Once Liz physically dies though, Tristan finds her ghost and declares his eternal love. (Thank God!) What else do they have in their limited infinity besides an eclectic group of paranormal misfits to haunt the hotel halls with? Now, they finally have each other. It should be noted here that Denis O’Hare’s Liz Taylor is the beating heart of the entire season. His vulnerable, bright, passionate dedication to bringing Liz Taylor so boldly to life is Primetime Emmy-worthy work. Does anyone else feel compelled to sign up for his campaign?
On the flip side, Lady Gaga deserves every ounce of that gorgeous Golden Globe statue she so graciously accepted for her raise-the-bar debut acting performance as The Countess. She had to feel a certain amount of pressure going in to helm the groundbreaking series after franchise star Jessica Lange bowed out at the end of “Freak Show.” She clearly gave everything she had to the role and she was justly rewarded.
The Countess is evil and ultimately self-serving and Lady Gaga deftly reveals every dark and dirty nuance. We loathe her but we’re helplessly drawn into her like the rest of her huge brood of doting admirers. In the end, justice seems served that she will be tethered to her former spouse, James Patrick March (Evan Peters) for eternity. Although, from her final shot at the bar, it appears The Countess will never give up her penchant for sparking and engaging in romantic dalliances.
In the end, Liz’s creator deals the deadly blow that propels her into limbo in the mundane afterlife that the Hotel Cortez offers. On the up side, Liz is reunited with her lover as it appears The Countess is latching onto her next romantic conquest. The Countess and Liz Taylor represent two polar opposite souls who share an important bond. They are balanced yet battling story book ends. Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Dark, and Heroine vs. Villain. Together, Gaga and O’Hare firmly anchor the suspense and the erratic emotional core of the entire “Hotel” installment.
Sally (Sarah Paulson) trades shooting up for social media addiction. John (Wes Bentley) pays the ultimate price for his heinous crimes, by getting shot by police outside of the Hotel Cortez grounds. This means he can only visit Alex (Chloe Sevigny) and their son one night a year on Devil’s Night. Therefore, his soul remains restless. How much peace should a serial killer enjoy, anyway?
It’s also great to see Sarah Paulson pull double duty as AHS season one’s psychic Billie Dean returns. Watching Iris connect with Donovan’s (Matt Bomer) spirit is one of the rare warm and fuzzy moments “Hotel” offers. In “Hotel” Bates displays a raw vulnerability her “Coven” and “Freak Show” characters just didn’t possess. It’s a really refreshing change for the Oscar-winning Horror Queen.
Speaking of Matt Bomer, he should also be commended for leaping way outside his creative box with his stunning portrayal of beloved and betrayed Donovan. Billie Dean tells Iris Donovan wants her to know he’s in a place that smells like his mom’s blueberry pancakes. What more can any ghost ask for?
Some questions remain at the end of the story, though. How did March and Sally form such a tight, subservient bond? Why did March unleash the Addiction Demon to torture her? Will their story ever get fleshed out in a future season, if all of the seasons are interconnected? What, if any, larger message is “Hotel” trying to send? And, what is to become of Bartholomew? Does he play any kind of part in a future installment?
Spiritual rebirth for the paranormal residents at the Hotel Cortez feels akin to a group of hamsters grinding away on a wheel. They will never get ahead. They are trapped in one physical space for all of eternity. It would seem reasonable this marks some kind of karmic punishment, even though many of the core players seem happy at the end of the finale. This once again raises the question if all of the seasons somehow represent spirits caught in varying levels of personal hell.
Who knows what “American Horror Story” season six has in store? We’re stoked that Lady Gaga is already confirmed to return. Per an Eonline report, series co-creator Ryan Murphy started dropping season six details to his cast after having “too much to drink” at the Golden Globes. Oh, to have been a fly (or a ghost) in that room …
Overall, “American Horror Story: Hotel” triumphantly pushes a lot of edgy envelopes. Evan Peters does some of his most grisly work to date and Finn Wittrock is a revelation in his dual roles of Tristan and iconic film star Rudolph Valentino. Lady Gaga, by far, captures and holds our attention as the resident cold-hearted villainess. However, she and Denis O’Hare should take a deep, clasped-hand simultaneous bow. They own “American Horror Story” season five and we humbly submit our round of thunderous applause.