This review contains spoilers
After the pure brilliance that was the final moments of ‘She Gets Revenge’, I was concerned that this week’s episode might not measure up. As it turns out, I had no reason to worry. Not only is ‘Battle Royale’ an excellent episode, but it’s also perhaps the season’s most dramatic.
The episode picks up a few minutes before the previous one left off, with Liz and Iris armed and ready to kill the Countess. Poor Donovan, however, ends up taking the brunt of the bullets. Loyal to the bitter end, his last act is to wrap himself around his lover to protect her. A distraught Iris runs to tend to her dying son, giving the Countess just enough time to crawl away to safety. As we know well by now, anyone who dies in the Cortez ends up staying there forever, so Iris and Liz hurry Donovan outside, where he dies in his mother’s arms.
Next, we’re first treated to the sight of Sally gleefully reaching into the Countess’s wounds to pull the bullets out. She isn’t tending to her out of love, but rather due to the fact that she can’t bear to have anybody leave her. This is demonstrated in the most literal, and gruesome, way possible in the snippet of Sally’s backstory that we are given.
Back in 1993, drug dealer and music fan Sally fell in with a couple of grunge rockers. The three end up in a hotel room at the Cortez and engage in drug-addled sex, which, in what is probably this season’s most gory moment, includes Sally sewing her two pals to her with a needle and thread. Yup, that’s right. She literally sews them together, arm to arm, side to side. I’m not particularly squeamish, but watching that made me wince. Things get even nastier, however, as the pair don’t have Sally’s tolerance for hard drugs, and end up overdosing while still attached to her, leaving Sally sandwiched between two rotting corpses for five days.
What Sally wants now is for the Countess to kill John so that the two can be together forever. First, however, the Countess needs to heal, and she needs the blood of a fellow vampire in order to do so. With Donovan no longer on hand, she is forced to resort to feeding off two of her children.
Returning to Liz and Iris, the pair realise that they’re going to need all the help they can get to kill the Countess, and so seek the aid of Ramona Royale. Ramona, unsurprisingly, isn’t exactly thrilled that Iris is one of the people who imprisoned her, and seems more interested in eating her than helping her. To appease Ramona, the two women go off to find a victim, and who should they meet in the hotel lobby but none other than Queenie from Coven!
Liz and Iris usher their guest up to her room, where a hungry Ramona is hiding in her shower, armed with a knife. Thus ensues one of the best fight sequences I’ve ever witnessed, owing to the fact that, in case anyone is unfamiliar with this, Queenie is a “human voodoo doll”: in other words, any harm done to her will be done right back to the perpetrator. Things aren’t looking good for Ramona, until James March appears and saves her. In the Hotel universe, ghost trumps witch, apparently. Of course, March didn’t save Ramona out of the goodness of his heart, but rather so that she could do him a favour, namely killing the Countess so that the two of them can be trapped together forever.
Before Ramona can do this, we have to endure an obligatory update on John Lowe. He and Alex seem to think that they can play happy families, despite the fact that he’s a serial killer and she’s a vampire. Things begin to go wrong immediately when John’s family are kidnapped. Sally informs John that he must complete the Ten Commandments Killings for March to return them, the final murder being, of course, for “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. In a hotel full of murderers, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Meanwhile, Ramona pays the Countess a visit. Despite having been so keen to kill her only moments ago, actually seeing her former lover dampens her bloodlust. Countess Elizabeth, it seems, just wants to get away with her son, and offers Ramona the hotel, as well as herself. “Kill me,” she tells her, “but screw me first.”
Just when it seems like the Countess might be about to escape this season alive, in comes John Lowe to ruin her happy ending. Bags packed, she’s just about to leave forever when he shoots her dead, before cutting off her head to complete his collection.
Vampires, it seems, can become ghosts in this universe (which begs the question, where is Tristan?), meaning that the Countess is doomed to dinner parties with James March forever. So delighted is he to have his wife back that he tells her he forgives her for turning him in to the police all those years ago. That is, until she insists that she didn’t. The Countess has no reason to lie, so if she didn’t do it, then who did? Miss Evers, of course. She had hoped that if they died together March would see “the depth of [her] devotion”. Angry, he sends her away, leaving him alone with a clearly miserable Countess.
‘Battle Royale’ wrapped up a lot of the season’s loose ends very nicely, but there are still a couple of plot holes that have been bugging me. Namely, the fact that Queenie doesn’t seem to notice that Ramona looks exactly like Marie Laveau and Iris like Madame LaLaurie. Bringing her back was fun, but I think it complicates things way too much. Also, Sally, like Donovan, died just outside the Cortez, but she came back as a ghost whereas, supposedly, he is safe. Hmm. Are we going to see more of Donovan next week, or has Ryan Murphy just not thought this through properly?