American Horror Story: Hotel Review – “The Ten Commandments Killer”
The identity of The Ten Commandments Killer is finally "revealed."
December 2, 2015
Lady Gaga as The Countess
Kathy Bates as Iris
Sarah Paulson as Sally
Evan Peters as James Patrick March
Wes Bently as John Lowe
Matt Bomer as Donovan
Chloe Sevigny as Alex Lowe
Denis O'Hare as Liz Taylor
Cheyenne Jackson as Will Drake
Angela Bassett as Ramona Royale
Special Guest Stars:
Mare Winningham as Hazel Evers
Richard T. Jones ad Detective Andy Hahn
The disemboweled cat is out of the bag. The big “twist” we have been lumbering toward with the subtlety of an Oscar statuette to the head: John is indeed The Ten Commandments Killer. At first I was thankful we didn’t have to go through another 45 minutes of “clever” moments that were meant to make us go, “OH HOW DID I MISS THAT?” when Sally finally brought John up to speed on his extracurricular activities. They did all of that in the first five minutes. What I didn’t expect was the next 40 minutes would focus only on John’s lame motives for taking the Ten Commandments reins from James Patrick March.
This seems to be a constant problem with American Horror Story, the last few seasons the same thing happens. We are told little bits of information throughout the first few episodes, then we are given full-on infodump flashbacks for the people in the cheap seats or who maybe haven’t been paying attention.
It was most egregiously done in the penultimate episode of Coven. “Go to Hell.” As the episode begins Jessica Lange shows Gabourey Sidibe a silent movie of the Seven Wonders a witch has to perform in order to be the next Supreme. This is something that has been repeated many, many, many times in the eleven episodes that preceded it, yet they felt the need to have a five minute introduction explain it all again.
In Freak Show it was the entire tenth episode, “Orphans,” in which we are shown Pepper’s backstory. While Naomi Grossman’s performance was spot on as it was in Asylum, Pepper didn’t warrant an entire flashback episode. We already knew the facts. Pepper was sent to Briarcliff after being framed for killing and mutilating her niece. The episode only acted as fan service and to allow Lily Rabe to continue her streak of being in each season thus far.
In Asylum and Murder House the scenes were used more to tie up loose ends or explore something new. Now it seems they are just using it as a crutch to drag out a story that has already grown stale. It’s even more glaring in “The Ten Commandments Killer.” Not only are we told John is the killer in the first five minutes, but he then goes on to reminisce with his partner, Hahn. He spends the next 40 minutes of the episode explaining how the Hotel Cortez wiped his memory every time he left it, but he’s been going there for five years.
JPM managed to manipulate him into killing the Oscar Blogger by showing him Polaroid’s of a young boy (which John seemed to stare at for a little too long) left in the hotel by the Blogger. If the hotel has the ability to erase people’s minds when it wants to, perhaps it has the ability to create faux kiddie porn Polaroids to manipulate a grieving father who just lost his son (stolen and vamped by Gaga at JPM’s behest). John decides the most logical step is to take over JPM’s murder spree in order to avenge his son.
Alright, I buy it, John. You saw the Polaroid’s, decided this kiddie diddler needed to be murdered, so you bashed his brains with a stolen Oscar. Now explain the other FIVE killings. Oh, wait, he’s doing that already like he’s Tim Curry at the end of Clue. Turns out it’s John and Detective Hahn, in the morgue, with melodramatic flair. All the while Hahn, ever the optimist, keeps saying “No, you aren’t! No you didn’t! That’s not true.” Apparently EVERYONE knew John was the killer except for the police? At this point I’m wondering if the LAPD detectives are going to have a cross-over episode with the police department from Murphy’s other serial killer show, Scream Queens (Please let it be Niecy Nash, please let it be Niecy Nash).
His motive? He doesn’t really have one. Well, not a logical one at least. It’s all this convoluted revenge plot where he is above the law because he is smarter than everyone. So smart in fact, that he didn’t even know he was the killer. In the words of the glorious Denise Hemphill: That’s some good sluthin’.
Apparently these victims all deserve to eat it because of loopholes in the LA County court system. Yet John wasn’t actively pursuing a case against any of them. Oh, except for that one flashback where Hahn tells John (hah, I just noticed that. Maybe Hahn IS John TOO!?) that he had coffee with Alex. “You had coffee with my wife?” Hahn goes on about Alex’s concerns and John just says: “YOU HAD COFFEE WITH MY WIFE?”
Thou shalt not covet, bro!
John obvi kills his partner and takes his genitals for a trophy. He goes back to the Cortez and is having a total Zen moment with Iris in the lobby. Turns out Iris was getting some serious agita from John’s multiple personality issues. YEAH, IRIS. LET’S MAKE THIS ALL ABOUT YOU.
I’m curious to know what happened in the writer’s room when they broke this script. Ryan Murphy’s writing in this episode is the laziest I’ve seen all season. Some of the narration provided by John was a bizarre over-the-top noir-style commentary that was completely ridiculous. It’s all really unfortunate, especially after coming off of a couple of the strongest episodes this season. Say what you want about Murphy and his uncanny ability to Jump the Shark, but he’s a better writer than this.
Let’s talk about Evan Peters for a bit because I feel like we haven’t given him much notice this year. He’s really the unsung hero this season. At this point there are only three actors who have been in every season so far: Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, and Evan Peters. Paulson and Rabe had their moments in Asylum where they proved they could hold their own storylines for most of the season. Peters has never really had that moment. Throughout each season he’s just been shades of Tate Langdon, never able to crawl out of that horrifying character he created during his first go-round; maybe because for the past three years he’s been cast as the hero. Now he’s done a fantastic job as James Patrick March, his bizarre 1900’s style of speaking, his Vincent Price look, his wide crazy eyes. His storyline is meh, but he seems like he is having more fun than anyone else this season.
Oh, we also did learn the story behind the addiction demon with the strap-on “drilldo.” Turns out all the junkies shooting up in the Cortez have summoned this demon. JPM is protecting Sally from it and in turn she helps him by keeping John coming back for more. Sally also uses the addictions of those coming to the hotel to satiate this demon. One plot-hole with this: it apparently doesn’t go after The Countess or the other vamps despite their obvious addiction to blood. I’m sure that will be explained in a lengthy flashback as well.
The Ten Commandments thing is pretty much just a rip-off of Seven, only this time everyone knew what was in the damn box. What was a pretty interesting premise at the beginning of the season quickly spiraled into a split-personality mess. If I never have to see another “I’VE BEEN THE KILLER ALL ALONG” twist again I think my life will be all the better for it. At this point we just need John to take “Thou Shalt Not Kill” to heart, cut out his own, and end the whole storyline. Sooner rather than later.
No, you know what all of this is!?
John is actually a mental patient at Briarcliff and he is hallucinating all of this Hotel Cortez stuff after Dr. Arden gives him a lobotomy. ALL THE SEASONS ARE CONNECTED! (please no)
Hotel's "best kept secret" is finally out.
Evan Peters continues to ham it up in the best possible way.
40 minutes of rehashed plot.
Not enough Liz Taylor.