Season 5, Episode 8
Airdate: Wednesday, December 3, 2015, 10:00 PM ET/PT on FX
American Horror Story: Hotel (AHS: Hotel) doesn’t skip a beat when getting to the heart of “The Ten Commandments Killer.” After a brief hiatus, series creator and episode writer, Ryan Murphy finally pieces together the context of Detective John Lowe’s (Wes Bentley) connection to the Hotel Cortez, as well as revealing the identity of The Ten Commandments Killer. Make no mistake about it, events in “The Ten Commandments Killer” will have major repercussions for all the core characters.
Same Time, Same Place
All roads lead back to the Hotel Cortez, and after weeks of speculation about The Ten Commandments Killer, it’s not too much of a surprise to learn John is behind all the murders. It makes sense, and I have theorized the connection between The Ten Commandments Killer and John for a while. First of all, John is obsessed with solving the case, secondly the origins of many of his recent problems start at the hotel, and finally after “Devil’s Night” where the notorious James Patrick March (Evan Peters) invites John to dine with a ‘Who’s Who’ of serial killers, it didn’t look good for him. I like the way the episode picks up from the last sequence of events from “Flicker.” We find John reacting to Wren’s (Jessica Belkin) suicide, standing on the side of the road outside of the mental hospital. From that point on, “The Ten Commandments Killer” wastes no time filling in all the blanks that tie John to the crimes. This leads to an eventful confrontation with poor Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare), who is still recovering from Tristan’s (Finn Wittrock) departure. John roughs her up a bit, but not long before Sally (Sarah Paulson) decides to end the farce and start the ball rolling down memory lane for John.
From the moment John enters March’s private quarters where he died, the drama and horror of his actions unravel before him. Observing John struggle with the truth, and seeing how desperate Sally is to keep him by her side, is somewhat unnerving. More so than the revelation about The Ten Commandments Killer, the importance of this point in the season is realizing the significant roles March and The Countess play turning John into a monster to fulfill their needs. At some point, as the season winds down, John appears to be the dark horse to foil the plans The Countess and March have for him. I am also eagerly anticipating the fallout that will certainly happen when John finds out his pathetic excuse of a wife, Alex (Chloë Sevigny), has been lying to him about his son.
Details, Details, Details
The suspenseful element of AHS: Hotel with the serial killer story line is a big part of what maintains my interest. I love the cinema noir elements involving John’s story line; the technical style, from lighting to directing, have shades of Rudolph Maté’s classic film D.O.A. However, many of the problems for AHS: Hotel this season center on its lack of focus. There are too many dangling subplots that lead nowhere and compromise the overall character arcs. The Countess and John have complex histories but they inhabit separate genres, which is a part of the reason why most of the episodes this season feel a bit off center. The Countess’ story plays out like a gothic horror movie full of gore—exploring love and sex in sensationalized ways—whereas the core of John’s development is more reminiscent of a psychological drama or mystery. If AHS: Hotel was two seasons long then perhaps many of the problems with its pacing and continuity errors could be avoided all together. Even though “The Ten Commandments Killer” is a John-centric episode, it doesn’t feel as impactful to watch. A lot of the momentum with The Ten Commandments Killer story line has suffered from inconsistencies in John’s character development. In “Flicker,” despite the presence of John’s story, it paled in comparison to uncovering the history of The Countess and her relationship with Valentino (Finn Wittrock). Moreover, the shift in March and The Countess’ relationship is critical, and with a break between episodes, “The Ten Commandments Killer” backtracks. I’m guessing the next episode will return to the present day and continue where The Countess’ story line left off with “Flicker.” By then, I don’t know if my interest will be as high as it was about a week and a half ago. There is also the problem with selective and awkward moments like March finally admitting there is some kind of supernatural demon existing in the Hotel Cortez because of all the past murders. Amongst the plethora of supernatural entities in AHS: Hotel mythology such as demon babies, ghosts roaming around terrorizing and murdering people, and vampireseque creatures sleeping in glass coffins at the Hotel Cortez, now we can add a demonic sex monster to the list. I don’t understand the concept entirely, but if AHS: Hotel has taught me anything it’s that all will be revealed—at the worst possible time.
I’ve often commented that the suspenseful element of The Ten Commandments Killer story line holds my attention the most. I really appreciate how much Wesley shines in playing a character with a lot of range. Meanwhile, let’s not forget, there’s still room for a serial killer, as if all the subplots are not convoluted enough. Whatever happened to the bloodthirsty children running amok and killing their parents? And where did Valentino go? Will he reconnect with The Countess? The story arcs leave a lot to be desired, yet when the story line does get interesting, the subject matter takes a sharp turn in a different direction. The season finale of AHS: Hotel is coming soon, and I wish the season embraced more of its noir elements. Although, I am happy The Ten Commandments Killer story has taken major strides, I appreciate more consistency in storytelling. That said the performances from the actors are the best part of this season/of my viewing experience. Wesley is commendable, Paulson is memorable as ever, and once again, Peters is charismatic portraying March’s devious nature.
What did you think of “The Ten Commandments Killer?” Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @conallen.
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Photos: ©2015 FX Network. All Rights Reserved.
© 2015, Connie Allen. All rights reserved.
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