Friday, January 15, 2016

American Horror Story, Season 5 (Hotel), Episode 12: Be Our Guest

It is time for the season finale – with Iris and Liz now in control of the Hotel Cortez, they have high hopes and dreams for making it rich and successful and awesome.

Except for those pesky murdering ghosts which make it hard to keep guests. And keep the carpets clean.

Time for a hotel meeting guys! Naughty ghosts! No murdering! Surprisingly the ghost who supports and enforces this is James March – sure he’s the biggest serial killer of them all but he is also duly worried about what will happen if the hotel closes down and is bulldozed – they may have to go to an afterlife. An afterlife that incudes judgement. None of the ghosts there are particular fan of judgement (but I did like the ghost collection). They need to hold back until at least 2026 when the hotel can be declared a historic sight and not to be bulldozed. He’s also suitably menacing and manages to control the unexplained drill-rape-monster that scares Sally

Sally and Will Drake are the most pro-murder ghosts so they need more distracting

Iris gets Sally on-side by introducing her to social media. Suddenly have a vast platform to connect to the whole world. The ultimate, isolated outsider can now connect, find friends, find people to reach out to. She becomes massively popular with lots of followers and adoration. No longer isolated and alone she gives up the drugs and is super happy and fulfilled.

Ok, I’m actually really happy to see social media presented this way. So often we see so many judgy articles about social media – it seems so very popular to say how terrible it is, how much it disconnects people and destroys conversation etc etc etc. So I like the idea that social media is a tool for connection even saving Sally. I really like that because social media can be such an amazing tool to connect people, especially the most isolated.

I really don’t like the idea that she could just cure heroin addiction that easily – especially after all the work that has gone into presenting addiction in the early episodes (and then conveniently forgotten). We needed more than “I discovered Twitter, no more heroin”.

As for Will – well Liz steps forward here, shoulder to cry on but also source of wisdom. His business is failing without him because he didn’t hire any other designers – but she is quick to step in and pretty much save everything. She presses him to design and find inspiration. She is his awesome and powerful representative who can leave the hotel. She turns his reclusive behaviour (having to stay in the hotel since he’s a ghost) into an eccentricity, adding the location and the models he uses (the ghosts) to be part of that. Liz is an absolute star, and quickly saves them all

On top of Liz’s success with Will Drake’s empire, she also reconnects with her family – keeping in touch with her son, being accepted by her daughter in law and becoming a grandmother. She quickly becomes the major figure of the hotel, the den-mother, beloved and respected by pretty much all the ghosts and definitely their leader.

Which makes it all the more tragic when she has incurable prostate cancer. I’m torn on this, I’m torn that they chose prostate cancer of all cancers to be the one she’s dying from, it seems to be overly emphasising her being trans all the time. At the same time I think it is important to look at health conditions trans women face which are so often under considered by society and certainly the medical profession

Liz’s solution to cancer is to be murdered by all the ghosts. And we have a truly weird and odd scene – because they do kill her but they love her. I can’t even begin to describe how they agree to murder her while declaring how much they love her and how much she means to them (since murder is, effectively, a transformation for her – even a gateway to immortality for her. It’s her way of living forever).  It’s so very odd to say a murder is loving and caring and an act of love and compassion and connection and family – but it was. It was oddly beautiful. It was everything American Horror Story should be – and so rarely is

Liz is now a ghost – and as a ghost she is also reunited with her true love Tristan, who was just waiting for her to die so he wouldn’t be a distraction from her living

Her happy ending is all encompassing and so… perfect for her. I really did not remotely expect that. Not from American Horror Story and not for a trans character – I never expected the ending of this show to be nearly all about her; that’s a wonderful and rare thing

Of course there are problems. It was certainly dubious the way they repeatedly kept talking about transition and rebirth and creation for Liz – there was a clear comparison between her actual death and her transition. There’s also such a heavy pounding of her being trans – just in case we miss it? It’s over mentioned to a silly degree. There’s also that endless problem of a trans woman being played by a cis man. Really, this shouldn’t still be happening – a trans actress could have played this role much more appropriately

In between this we have a continuation of John’s story – he went on the run with his family before returning to LA and the hotel Cortez – because being on the run and murdering enough people to feed his vampire wife and son was awfully tricky. He returns to the hotel where he belongs (his daughter and Will Drake’s son are shipped off to private school plot hole) – and ends up being killed by the police. Outside the hotel.

That means he can’t haunt the hotel, except once a year, on Devil’s Night, when James’ March has his disturbing and very wrong minority-serial-killer dinner party.

Despite the huge problems I have with the dinner party, this is another scene which is American Horror Story at its very rare best: the disturbing, horrifying yet oddly sweet idea of John having a yearly reunion with his family (including his aging daughter) while still horrific and terrible

Other bonuses involve a psychic contributing the to Hotel’s popularity but being scared off – which nicely adds to the whole thing.

That was a surprisingly good ending to a very dubious series. Of course, it doesn’t make up for the terrible depiction of minorities (grossly underused Black characters who are killed off and pushed to the background, bisexual characters who are all threesomes that end up cutting away one member to be opposite sex couples, a gay character being clumsily pushed into marrying a woman and the no-homo model with Tristan) all of which I’ve complained about repeatedly. Honestly, I can't praise the series. It has been a hot mess of awful from the beginning. I am utterly revolted at how poorly used Ramona was and throwing in Queenie was just rubbing salt in some very raw wounds. After the depiction of LGBT characters in Freakshow, the last thing this show needed was the broken bisexual love triangles (where two partners are tolerating each other for the sake of their true - opposite sex - love) and terrible depiction of Will Drake. And, as ever with American Horror Story there were far far far far far too many storylines. So many storylines. Ghosts and vampires and serial killers, oh my! No, cut about half of them

The one good thing I've always been able to say about this show is its acting is incredible (how do they manage such an amazing cast?) and the show itself is amazingly beautiful. The people, the settings, the themes - it's really stunning to look at

But, despite that, I really appreciated and was genuinely surprised at how it ended, especially for Liz.