TV Review: American Horror Story: Hotel – Episode 12: ‘‘Be Our Guest

completes her season long look at Hotel and in 12 episodes of shocked is particularly surprised that it ends on a happy note

Image: Prashant Gupta/FX

Image: Prashant Gupta/FX

This review contains spoilers

‘Be Our Guest’ opens with a shot of Liz Taylor lying back on a bed, before her throat is promptly cut. Not the most cheerful start to Hotel’s final episode. But fear not: all is not quite as bleak as it seems.

The episode opens with Liz and Iris having renovated the hotel. Their dreams of turning the Cortez into a respectable establishment are thwarted, however, by the hotel’s many ghosts, who have a nasty habit of killing every guest they come across. “Dammit!” huffs Liz, surveying one of the latest victims, “this has got to stop – he’s stained the new carpet!” The two women call a meeting, gathering the Cortez’s ghosts around the bar “We’d like you to stop killing people,” Liz politely tells them.

The group objects, but luckily for Iris and Liz, James March is there to help. Despite being a renowned serial killer and sadist, March agrees with the women that the killing has to end. The fact is that none of them knows what will happen to them if the hotel is knocked down, and, frankly, he isn’t keen on finding out. March informs the group that in 2026 the hotel will be one hundred years old, and therefore qualify as a national landmark, making it illegal to tear it down. Thus, all they must do to secure their future is wait.

In the meantime, feeling guilty about having pushed her out of that window twenty years ago, Iris tries to make nice with Sally. “In the modern age, no-one ever has to be alone”, Iris tells her, handing her a brand new phone. For someone as desperate for love as Sally, of course social media is the answer to her loneliness. Before long, she’s gained a huge Instagram and Twitter following, and is posting her own music on YouTube. As though symbolising the start of (another) new life, a newly peaceful Sally casts her stash out of the same window she fell from all those years ago.

Meanwhile, Liz is busy giving Will some much-needed advice. It’s been a year since the fashion designer died, and his business has all but crumbled. He longs to be creative again, but tells her he’s run out of ideas. Also, there’s the small matter of him being and unable to leave the Cortez. Fortunately for him, Liz has a cool head for business. Will’s inability to leave the Cortez is passed off to the public as creative eccentricity. His shows are incredibly exclusive, the fact that cameras and phones are not allowed making the interest in his work even greater. Liz organises things outside the hotel, while Will is left to work on his creations. Thanks to her help, he’s famous and in-demand once again.

As for Liz’s own life, things are somewhat dramatic, in ways both good and bad. On the one hand, business is booming, and her son, with whom she has grown close, is now a father. Liz is delighted to be a grandmother, and tells us that as she looks at baby Isabelle’s face, she can see a brighter future. Sadly, however, fate hasn’t dealt Liz an entirely happy hand. Iris employs Billie Dean Howard (the psychic from Murder House who, confusingly, is played by Sarah Paulson, who also portrays Sally) to contact the curiously absent Tristan, but Liz ends up heartbroken when her lover has no message for her. Even more tragically, though, Liz has received some terrible news: she’s dying of prostate cancer.

Having gathered the genuinely devastated ghosts together to tell them this, Liz presents the group with a rather shocking offer: they are invited to kill her. “Hack me. Bludgeon me. Surprise me,” she tells them. Miss Evers is reluctant. “We’ve all grown rather fond of you,” she says. Sally, however, understands: “she wants to be reborn.”

Before the group can get to work, however, they are interrupted by the Countess. She is not there out of vengeance, though. Rather, she has come out of love. “You were always my fondest creation,” she tells Liz, “I wanted to be here to help you transition one last time.” As the other ghosts watch on with tears in their eyes, the Countess gently lays Liz down and, in one swift movement, slits her throat.

Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any more emotional, the episode gives Liz one final scene. Whereas previously I’d been tearing up, at this point I actually started weeping. As Liz stands over her own corpse, calmly smoking a cigarette, she hears a familiar voice. As any fellow Liz fans had probably suspected, Tristan hadn’t really forgotten about her. “You had more living to do,” he tells her, the love in his eyes plain to see, “I couldn’t get in the way of that.” “Oh babe,” a tearful Liz replies, “you are to die for.”

As beautiful an ending as that would have been, before the season can draw to a close we, of course, have to find out what happened to John Lowe. The story picks up several years in the future, on Devil’s Night 2022, with Billie Dean attempting to contact the spirit of the now dead murderer. Death hasn’t made John any more interesting, but the scenes with him were slightly more bearable than usual, if only because I knew I only had to put up with the character for another fifteen minutes.

Billie interviews John, and we discover that he, Alex, and Holden moved back into the Cortez soon after having left. In perhaps the only bit of responsible parenting the pair have ever done, Alex and John send Scarlet away so that she can grow up somewhere normal. John is finally caught by police, and is shot dead before he can reach the hotel, meaning that he is only able to appear there on Devil’s Night. Curious to learn more, Billie follows him to the room where March et al are having their annual celebration, and almost ends up becoming their latest victim. Instead, though, the ghosts make a deal with her: if she stops recording her psychic shows at the Cortez and leaves them in peace, they’ll let her go. The fact that Billie proceeds to run away in terror seemed to be a “yes”. The last we see of John, he is curled up in bed with his family around him, a now grown-up Scarlet holding his hand.

All in all, I thought that ‘Be Our Guest’ was a wonderful end to the season. Liz has been Hotel’s emotional core, so I thought it was a fitting touch to have the final episode revolve around her. Without a doubt, she has been my favourite character this season, if not my favourite AHS character full stop, and it genuinely made me cry that she got the happy ending she so deserved. Although the fact remains that male actors shouldn’t be cast as trans women, Denis O’Hare nonetheless did a beautiful job as Liz, endowing her with a strength and heart that made it impossible not to love her. O’Hare is one of the best actors in AHS, and I’m so glad he has finally been given a chance to shine.

That said, Hotel has obviously not been without its faults. My opinion remains unchanged that this season has utterly wasted the brilliant Angela Bassett, her storyline completely unrewarding despite what a fantastic character Ramona is. I would have loved to have seen her friendship with Liz developed more, as well as some more clips from her films. Also, not that it needs repeating, but John Lowe is one of the most boring characters the show has ever had. Played by a dead-eyed Wes Bentley with all the charm of stunned woodlouse, he has been this season’s major flaw. If it were up to me, I’d have written him out and given all his screen time to Ramona Royale.

AHS has now been renewed for yet another season, leaving fans to ponder what’s in store next. Maybe a haunted Ikea?

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