In the American Horror Story: Hotel finale recap, Iris and Liz takeover the Hotel Cortez as everybody searches for a happy ending ….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
As bloody and murderous as every season of American Horror Story plays out, creator Ryan Murphy seems to have a way to tie a bow on the show at the end and seemingly give every beloved character a somewhat happy ending (by bloody and murderous standards anyways).
In season one, the Harmon family gave birth to a devil spawn and everyone died, but at least they went together and finally became one big cohesive unit in the afterlife. Season two saw a spunky reporter get closure on her horrific time spent at an insane asylum by killing the man who tormented and raped her before ridding the world of her own son, who followed in his father’s murderous footsteps. Season three saw a coven of witches come out to the world with a Supreme that was worthy of the name and finally in season four, the leader of a freak show finds success and fame but ultimately comes home to the family she made under the bright lights of the circus tent.
So what did Murphy and company have in store for the characters in American Horror Story: Hotel?
Considering the opening scene saw Liz Taylor getting her throat slashed, optimism seemed to be low, but ultimately the payoff succeeded in the end.
With that said, let’s recap the American Horror Story: Hotel finale titled ‘Be Our Guest’ …
Murder is Fun
Following the death of the Countess in the previous episode, Liz and Iris are committed to making the Hotel Cortez a much classier stay for the guests than any of the previous owners. They’ve sold off art and other possessions to revamp the hotel with completely redone rooms, Wifi and even self-flushing, self-cleaning toilets. It all sound grand, right?
Except there’s one problem.
The ghosts — specifically Sally and Will Drake — keep killing all the guests and if they keep this up not only will their rating online go down the drain, but the bills won’t get paid and eventually the hotel will be torn down.
“Yeah we got a serious problem. The ghosts keep killing the guests. We’re going to end up with zero stars”
Liz and Iris decide to hold a meeting with their ghosts to lay down the law and stop the murder before the doors get shuttered and everyone who is dead gets shipped off to hell. Of course, Sally and Will don’t want to play ball because really they are the only two who are still really into murder for fun, but when James Patrick March arrives and declares that the killing must stop, everyone is finally forced to listen.
Sally: “You telling people to stop killing is like Colonel Sanders telling us to stop eating chicken”
Mr. March: “I’m not familiar with your military friend and his fondness for poultry, but my killing days are over. I thought the Ten Commandment killings were the beginning of my work but it turns out they are the epilogue. The torch has been passed and I feel complete.”
Mr. March informs them that in the year 2026, the Hotel Cortez will meet all the standards to be declared a landmark and that makes them untouchable to anyone from the outside world. But until that time, the ghosts need to tow the line or the hotel will get shut down. Even Will Drake’s vast fortune has been drained thanks to his disappearance and no one at the company has his ability to design so the funds are being frittered away just to keep the business afloat.
So Mr. March tells everyone to lay off the murder or else …
It wasn’t easy to get everyone on board, but Iris had a plan to get Sally to play along after realizing that her murder fetish was predicated on two things — missing John and needing someone else, even in a fleeting second of death, to feel the constant pain that she felt. Sally needed that connection but as Iris explained, it doesn’t necessarily have to come through death.
And it doesn’t have to live outside the walls of the Hotel Cortez.
“In the modern age, no one ever has to be alone — even for a second. There’s a whole world out there waiting to embrace you, Sally. All you have to do is dive in.”
So Iris introduced Sally to the smartphone and the world of the internet. Within a few weeks, Sally was Tweeting, Facebooking and Instagramming her heart away and she had a lot of people who cared about what she said, cared about her emotions and loved to see the pictures she was taking. Before long Sally was writing songs and people were copying them on YouTube.
She would put up a post saying that she hated everyone and within minutes, dozens of people were asking what was wrong. Sally was finally getting the attention she’s needed for the past 20 years.
Sally’s internet fame satisfied the craving that she so desperately wanted and eventually she even threw away her heroin. It turns out the internet is someone’s saving grace after all.
The Rise of the Fashionista
The next mission was to satiate Will Drake’s murderous spirit so Liz took him on as her special pet project. As much as Will started to like killing people for sport, he still had part of his old life hiding inside of him. He was smart enough to send his son Lachlan away to a plush private school so that he wouldn’t grow up without a father and while being tormented by the spirits in a spooky hotel.
Liz decides to turn Will’s attention back to what he always used to love while he was alive — designing and creating fashion. Liz would even be his ambassador to the outside world because if you cut her, she bleeds Dior.
So Liz took over the company and Will started creating again and the inspiration flowed like expensive champagne. Before long, Will was hosting unique fashion shows at the hotel where the ghosts would serve as models and the designs were literally to die for.
Will Drake was back and Liz found purpose both inside and outside the hotel walls but there was still something missing and that was the piece of her heart that died when she lost Tristan all those months ago.
Don’t forget Tristan died inside the hotel, but he never returned from the dead. Why not? So Iris enlists a familiar face (the same face of Sally as a matter of fact) as Billie Dean Howard — the psychic who we first met during American Horror Story: Murder House in season one!
Billie reaches out to speak to Tristan on behalf of Liz, but he declines her invitation and refuses to say anything to her. Liz is truly saddened by the wall of silence, but her pain turns to joy for Iris when Billie hears from another soul on the other side.
His name is Donovan and he wanted to say hello to his mother and tell her that he spends everyday like it was Saturday morning when he was a kid, filled the brim with her delicious blueberry pancakes and watching cartoons until his eyes drifted off to sleep again. Iris is overcome and feels a whole new sense of happiness knowing that her son is content and cared for in his new life in eternity.
Dying to Live
It certainly appears everyone is headed for a happy ending but just after watching the birth of her first grandchild, Liz finds out that she’s been stricken by terminal cancer and her life will soon come to an end. She gathers all the ghosts to tell them what’s happened and even Will Drake’s money can’t buy Liz a cure.
She’s going to die and there’s only one thing she can do about it.
Liz needed her ghostly friends to kill her dead inside the Hotel Cortez so she can join them in living there forever. After murdering for fun for all those years, Sally and the others have grown to love Liz and they all struggle with the idea of killing her even if it means she’ll return to them as a spirit.
Before anyone can plunge a syringe into her heart or shoot her in the head, the Countess appears — for the first time since the night she was murdered — and offers to help Liz pass over to the other side because it’s the least she could do for her.
“You were always my fondest creation”
~ The Countess
The Countess swiped her razor-tipped finger over Liz’s neck and the blood flowed like a river but a few minutes later, she was standing over her corpse looking down on the life she used to have and she was ready to embark on the new one that had just begun.
At that moment, Liz heard a familiar voice — it was Tristan.
Tristan returned to be with Liz and explains that when she tried to contact him before, he couldn’t invade her life because she still had so much living to do. Now that she’s dead, Tristan can be with Liz for eternity.
Return to Devil’s Night
Fast forward to October 30, 2022 — Devil’s Night — and the Hotel Cortez is still going strong but not with the kind of customers that Liz and Iris once envisioned. It seems after her first visit there, Billie Dean Howard returned again and again and again and eventually started doing television specials from the Cortez where she connected with the hundreds of spirits who still inhabited the haunted hotel.
Her presence was bad for business but there wasn’t much they could do about it.
Enter John Lowe.
John returns to the hotel and we find out that after he left the Cortez all those year ago, he attempted to start a new life with his family but they could never adjust to live in the outside world. Eventually, John, Alex, and Holden relocated back to the hotel while sending Scarlet to the same private school where Will Drake’s son was attending.
The three of them lived there happily until one day the cops finally caught up with John, who had been outed as the Ten Commandments Killer. On the day the cops found him, John tried to make a mad dash to the hotel so he could die inside and live with his family forever but he was cut down in a hail of gunfire and his life was snuffed out just a few feet from the front door.
So now John can only return on Devil’s Night — the one night of the year where all the unsettled spirits can freely walk the Earth again (remember from season one when that was all explained?). And during his visit tonight before he celebrates a reunion with his family, John vows to take care of the Billie Dean Howard problem.
It seems she returns to the hotel every year on this date trying to contact him, but she’s never been able to reach the famous serial killer. On this night, however, John reaches out to her and offers her an exclusive invitation to the party of a lifetime.
John takes Billie to the famous Devil’s Night dinner held by James Patrick March and there she meets John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and a host of murder’s most famous faces but after one big gulp of Absinthe, she realizes that she’s not there for dinner — she is the dessert.
John and the others grab their ‘party favors’ but they don’t kill Billie — they give her a very stern warning. Leave the Hotel Cortez alone or they will cut her into a million pieces and they can all attest to the fact that murder really hurts. Billie still insists on pushing back because she knows she’ll be safe outside the hotel.
But then Ramona Royale shows up — don’t forget Ramona is the actual owner of the hotel after she was gifted it by the Countess a week ago — and she tells Billie to either back off or she will hunt her down and drain every drop of blood right out of her skinny ass.
Billie flees from the Hotel Cortez and promises to never return again.
Finally, John retires to his room where he falls asleep next to Alex and Holden after embracing his much older daughter Scarlet, who is the only member of the family who ages these days. He kisses her goodbye before laying down with his wife and son for the last time until a year later when he can return.
The Good Old Days
Finally in the end with the hotel back in order and the guests checking in and out, everything is finally running smoothly at the Hotel Cortez.
The final shot sees the Countess finishing a cigarette just as a boy walks in that’s just her fancy. She saunters up to the bar and sits down next to him and when he smiles back, she can only think one thing.
“You have a jawline for days”
~ The Countess
And thus the story of the Hotel Cortez comes to a close.
“Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star
“The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” by Marianne Faithfull
“Knights in White Satin Pt 2” by Giorgio Moroder
“Cuts You Up” by Peter Murphy
American Horror Story has already been renewed for season six so expect updates on that as Ryan Murphy begins casting the show this summer and look for an October debut on FX!