SPOILER ALERT: This feature contains major plot details for American Horror Story: Hotel
Wrapping up American Horror Story gets crazier every year. This year, we may have lost headliner Jessica Lange, but we were treated to the Golden Globe-winning television acting debut of Lady Gaga. The story changes every year, so let’s have a little retrospective before Wednesday’s finale of “Hotel”.
The not so glamorous but incredible Hotel Cortez
We had hints that the lush and aging Hotel Cortez would be as gorgeous as it was decrepit. We had no idea that its mysteries would make it just as important as any of the characters. The building that had ensnared the souls of so many guests was built by the “father of serial killers” as a deathtrap and body dump. Secret rooms, hidden passageways, dump chutes, and a sealed floor all were specially crafted for diabolical ends. Even knowing that, it’s hard to resist gazing at the “Great Gatsby” inspired grandeur and decor. And like the first season’s “Murder House,” it houses nearly a century of ghosts. Frozen in time, the resident ghosts all contribute towards the trapping of other guests. The hotel itself needs a renovation, and the new owner (fashion mogul Will Drake, played by Cheyenne Jackson) doesn’t have any idea what challenges await him.
The current owner is the seductive Elizabeth, who styles herself as The Countess. The first taste of Lady Gaga’s delicious role has her wordlessly bringing a young couple home to her penthouse, sharing an intimate romp with them and Magic Mike alumnus Matt Bomer. It’s a scene as naughty as it is wicked as the unsuspecting couple have their throats slashed. The resulting bloodbath rivals the sauciest moments of True Blood, as we see the lovers drink from their guests and bask in the red stuff. They’re afflicted with a vampiric blood virus (though they rarely use the v-word themselves) that suspends their aging and makes them very resilient (though not immortal). Elizabeth has been owner of the Hotel Cortez since the 1930s, and has kept a string of lovers (like Angela Bassett’s scorned blaxsploitation film actress Ramona Royale) and a crew of towheaded children around since then. Elizabeth doesn’t take kindly to sharing immortality among the unworthy. So, how did she get this dark “gift” and “curse?”
A touch of classic Hollywood
Her lover was film icon Rudolph Valentino (played by Finn Wittrock), who faked his own death to mask his transformation into a blood drinker. Elizabeth’s role in the film Lawrence of Arabia brought the nascent starlet to his attention. He and his wife Natacha (played by Alexandra Daddario) decided that they simply could not live (eternally) without the blonde bombshell. Too bad they had to deal with her husband…
Hosting a killer dinner party
American Horror Story once again calls upon its traditional Halloween two-parter to bring out the hungry dead. In this case, though, we were treated to a ghostly dinner party of the greatest hits of the 20th century serial killers. John Wayne Gacy, the Zodiac, Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, and Aileen Wuornos (mostly played by seasoned veterans of American Horror Stories past) all dropped by for a night of revelry. Their host was none other than James March (played by Evan Peters), the builder of the Hotel itself. He’s established a legacy of inspiring serial killers before, during, and after his death, as so many killers have passed through his influence. It’s no coincidence that we’ve seen his newest protege at work already.
The Ten Commandments Killer
How did we find ourselves involved with Hotel Cortez? It starts with a string of murders with bizarre mutilations, investigated by John Lowe (played by American Beauty and The Hunger Games alumnus Wes Bentley). The straight-laced, determined detective keeps tracking clues that lead back to the killer (who collects body part trophies from his victims, based on the Ten Commandments) residing in the Hotel. He can’t seem to escape the pull of the people there, and moves in himself. He seems to be losing his mind, as visions of his abducted son plague him and his wife Alex (played by Chloë Sevigny), and that son may not be as dead as he thought. Lowe becomes transformed by obsession into someone he refuses to recognize. Just when he’s piecing the mystery together, he is totally unprepared for the answer he’s had staring at him all along.
Same faces, new characters
A new element to this year’s story includes actors playing very different roles mid-story. The seeds for this began with American Horror Story: Freak Show’s Sarah Paulson as conjoined twins. Here too, she is set to play “Hypodermic” Sally McKenna, Lowe’s informant and guide into this mysterious world who is barely holding it all together. A ghost, she has seen more than her share of personal demons pass through the rooms of the Cortez. In contrast, she is set to reprise her “Murder House” role of spiritual medium Billie Dean Howard in Wednesday’s final episode. So too did Finn Wittrock come back from the dead mid-season as a different character: he started out the story playing the flashy and psychotic supermodel Tristan Duffy, emerging later as the debonair and reserved lover Valentino.
This theme of personal reinvention stitches its way through all the human characters, but none so poignantly as Denis O’Hare’s transgender bartender Liz Taylor. Liz and hotel manager Iris (played by the incomparable Kathy Bates) find themselves staying at the Hotel a transformative experience that changes their lives forever. Their character journey was as important to watch as those of the “main” plot as they stole the show in every scene they were in. Will they be the ones left standing at the end?
Perhaps they are the ones to summon Billie Dean Howard for the final episode, to exorcise the constantly rising ghost population in the Hotel. Billie Dean is not the first character to “cross over” from a previous story. She’s likely to have met Los Angeles “Murder House” resident Charles Montgomery (played by Matt Ross), who had interactions with two of our new characters this year. “Murder House” realtor Marcy (played by Christine Estabrook) popped in twice. American Horror Story: Coven witch Queenie (played by Gabourey Sidibe) checked in as a guest as well. Who will be checking out of Hotel alive is anyone’s guess this year. You’ll just have to check out Wednesday’s finale for yourself.