What a long, strange trip it’s been, Hotel. I started out dubious, became infatuated, then disenchanted, then infatuated again, then annoyed and now finally, at the finale, I can say that you broke my heart. In the best way possible. Goddamnit, you sons of bitches. You broke my heart. By the end of the episode, my eyes were streaming with more tears than I shed when Tate told Viola his big secret in season one. And you can ask anyone: I shed a LOT of tears over Tate.
It’s been one of my biggest pet peeves about the show that it tends toward the saccharine and a Kumbaya Gleek mentality over narrative consistency, character development or actual scares. Every season of AHS can be summed up with its inaugural tagline “All monsters are human,” which at first glance has a Monsters on Mulberry Street-esque implication, but as interpreted by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (and, to be fair, Lady Gaga fans,) is more about accepting and celebrating other-ness than it is about the depths of depravity mankind can sink to. (For that, please watch Making a Murderer!)
But somehow Hotel managed to be both: both a scary monster story and a reaffirming tale of outsiders making their own kind of home. Did it always make sense? No. (Why is Hypodermic Sally there when she died outside the building? What is with her dildo monster? Why did Iris and Elizabeth Taylor kill the Countess INSIDE the Cortez, knowing that she could come back to haunt them? Why did the Countess kill Will Drake in the Cortez? Why did James March suddenly decide that he was “over” murdering people, and now investing his energy into making his hotel a historical landmark? What was with that “sewing people into mattresses” thing? Is Queenie a ghost in the hotel? What about all the people James March killed? Where is Naomi Campbell? Did Max Greenfield die? Why? If not, where did he go? Why would Ramona Royale stick around? If you are trying to keep a low-profile because you are a ghost that doesn’t age, why hold fashion shows in your hotel? Is it weird that people who go to Cortez as regular guests notice that no one ever ages? What are they going to do about their YELP ratings, and how will the dildo monster effect their user reviews?)
But was the show as a cohesive whole a better class of horror story than every incarnation post-Murder House? Yes. Have I begun using Marcia Clark’s rhetorical arguments after the reappearance of Billie Dean Howard as a TV show host became a callback to Lana Winters’ interview segment on the finale of Asylum; short-circuiting my brain to the point where I now preemptively mimic the speech patterns of any upcoming Sarah Paulson roles?
This season wasn’t without its silliness; erroneous B-to-Z plots that went nowhere and egregious accents/hairstyles modeled by Finn Wittrock. But you know what else it had? Fucking heart. Tell me that you didn’t lose it when the Countess showed up to mercy-kill Elizabeth Taylor and called her “my finest creation” you didn’t just start bawling. It definitely diminished some of the titular “horror” of the series–which at this point, should just change its name to American Paranormal Stories, or Weird Stuff Happens In the Not-Flyover States, But Who Are You to Judge, Really?–to see that even (especially?) serial killers get happy endings.
Or, I guess it depends on how you define “happy.” For some people, the idea of getting to spend one night a year in the arms of your immortal love and your immortal child may sound bittersweet, but I can’t personally tell if that sounds better or worse than spending eternity in a hotel with your ex-wife, her other ex-husband, the teenager she fucked who kind of looks like this other boyfriend, her lesbian lover and your super-infatuated maid. Not to mention the lumberjack.