Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Beware, this article will contain spoilers. I will, however, refrain from swearing the way I’d like to.
You know there’s something wrong with a season’s finale when the credits start to roll and the first thing you want to do is ask Google, “Are you sure there were twelve episodes in that season? Are you certain there wasn’t a thirteenth one in there somewhere? How sure?”
Yeah, that’s what happened at the end of American Horror Story: Hotel.
And I’m not talking that “I want more” feeling you get when you watch a show with an unorthodox, cliffhanger ending, of which I am a huge proponent. Instead, writers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk left me with that empty feeling that you get even though all your loose ends have been tied up—like a hasty and confusing breakup. Thanks, Ryan and Brad.
With a cast of AHS veterans (including Dennis O’Hare, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, and Evan Peters) and celebrities new to the show (Lady Gaga, Matt Bomer, Wes Bentley), the audience went in with high expectations for Hotel — especially after Deadline’s interview with Murphy, where he claimed, “It’s going to be difficult to top this one because of the star power, and also the story is so riveting,” back in June, before the season ever aired.
I can’t say for sure from where the show’s horrible ending stemmed: maybe the writers got ahead of themselves in their excitement over the “star power” of the show. Or maybe they got too carried away with the “riveting story,” filling up too much space in the AHS vacuum and then wrapping it up too quickly in order to keep the plot from seeping through the cracks. Who knows — we could sit here scratching our heads until the day Murphy and Falchuk explain that one. I can, however, say why the finale was such a wreck.
With as many characters as Hotel has, one can imagine an incredible opportunity for plots, subplots, sub-subplots, and backstories, but with greater content comes greater responsibility. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Murphy and Falchuk realized this. In the finale, Hypodermic Sally’s (Sarah Paulson) addiction demon was written off of the show through a cop-out solution. Sally suddenly develops a new, benign addiction to social media, ridding her of her demon. This solution, which panders to millennials, undermines the mystery and terror that the demon had consistently brought to the show this season. John’s (Wes Bentley) story is definitely the worst offender. The guy becomes a serial killer in the middle of the season, only to get shot unceremoniously in front of the hotel and condemned to see his family just once a year in the finale. Come on! Considering the earlier focus on John’s domestic situation and his individual struggle with alcoholism, this ending takes a huge step back in terms of why we even cared about his character in the first place. Not to mention the grossly lovey-dovey nature of everyone else’s ending: Donovan (Matt Bomer) finally tells his mom he loves her (after fighting it for who-knows-how-long?) and Liz’s (Dennis O’Hare) assisted suicide is extravagant and almost as unnecessary as her excessive presence in the final episode, considering her role as a secondary character for 92% of the season.
Within the 50-minute frame of the final episode, not enough time or effort was devoted to each individual character, and their developments through the course of the season were not done justice. Not only this, but the writers were hasty in their need to connect and resolve plot lines that had not yet been explored, leading them to absurd solutions to these problems. Despite the writers’ efforts to give the audience a satisfying conclusion to an otherwise great season, the episode had us feeling like we were left sitting with our dicks in our hands at the end of it all.
Featured image courtesy of variety.com.