It's time for "American Horror Story's" annual Halloween installment, which is usually one of the stranger nights of the season (and for this show that's saying a lot). This year's "Hotel" edition is no different, featuring a gathering of special guest stars playing famous serial killers who all like to get together for dinner once a year. But "AHS" has such a long history of crazy I'm not sure this is even really that bizarre, all things considered.
Halloween is a strange time. Stranger things than usual happen in the Hotel Cortez when it gets near Halloween. Suddenly, new guests are arriving, in the form of famous serial killers from years gone by, as if the building is a more gruesome version of Walt Disney's Hall of Presidents. The episode opens with the arrival of Richard Ramirez, who killed 13 people in the 1980s. He'll be joined later by a variety of other famous murderers, including John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and the Zodiac Killer.
The rules for the Gathering of the Murderous Dead seem rather vague, other than the fact that the guest in question has to be dead in real life. (Ramirez is pretty sad that Charles Manson is still alive, and therefore can't join in their festivities.) But, really how does this work? Do they just get a free GPS map of the afterlife to guide them all to the Cortez? How long has this been going on? Will every serial killer ever eventually end up here? It doesn't matter, because this is as much an excuse to have fun guest stars as anything else, but still.
Detective Lowe makes a new friend. John notices that there's blood randomly running down the wall in his room. (Seriously, how weird does stuff have to get in this building before folks' first reaction is to just leave and not investigate?) When he heads upstairs to inform whoever is in the room above him that their walls are bleeding, he discovers Miss Evers (apparently her first name is Hazel) scrubbing sheets in the bathroom. She's frustrated because the blood just keeps reappearing, and she's worried she won't get everything clean in time for her boss' big dinner party.
John doesn't ask about the blood-soaked wall issue, because he's the worst detective in the world. Instead, he and Hazel do share a bonding moment about the fact that they both had kids who were kidnapped. We learn via flashback that when Hazel took her son Albert to a costume party in 1925, he was abducted off the street by a stranger. That man turned out to be Gordon Northcott, and Albert was ultimately a victim in the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, a series of grisly abductions in which young boys were killed on a poultry farm. Hazel never found out what happened to her son's body, and she and John commiserate about how the pain of losing a child like that never goes away.
Later, John finally remembers that he has Google and looks up the particulars of Hazel's case. He finds out that it happened 90 years ago and is very confused. (Surprise.)
Alex kidnaps a vampire baby. After running into her presumed dead son in the hallway of the Cortez last week, Alex Lowe does the logical thing and kidnaps him. She takes Holden home and proceeds to completely ignore that he: a) has not aged in five years and b) has a body temperature of 75 degrees. No wonder she can't get her patients to vaccinate their children; she is a terrible doctor. Even when Holden kills the family dog and drinks its blood right in front of Alex, she seems more upset that he's asking for his "other" mother. Parent of the year, y'all.
The two of them head back to the Cortez, where Holden shows off his glass coffin in the basement and Alex tries to do some calming breathing exercises. This is about when the Countess shows up and does her standard spiel about the "ancient blood virus" that is totally not vampirism and explains that it's made Holden immortal and perfect forever. Alex's response is not to freak out about the existence of vampires (I'm assuming someday SOMEONE will freak out??) but rather to pull a gun out of her purse and threaten to shoot the Countess in the face unless she changes Holden back.
The Countess explains that that's not exactly how this works, but she's cool with making Alex into a vampire herself, so that she can stay with Holden forever. All Alex has to do is be totally loyal to the Countess for all eternity, nothing major at all. Alex says no and runs off, but Countess seems confident that she'll be back. (Spoiler: She's right.)
John has the worst taste in women. John, having decided that the concept of control is an illusion, declares that he doesn't need to worry about dumb things like his sobriety anymore.
He has Liz Taylor make him a double martini and several drinks later he's joined by Aileen Wuornos (played by "AHS" alum Lily Rabe), a prostitute who killed seven men in Florida in 1989. John just assumes this is a random in a Halloween costume, so when she comes on to him, he says sure. Instead of hooking up though, Aileen knocks him out and ties him to a chair, determined to convince him that she is who she says she is. (Also: She's crazy.) They fight until John finally handcuffs her to the bathroom sink.
John stomps back downstairs to confront Liz – possibly about letting him go off to sleep with a psycho – and passes the Zodiac Killer in the hallway. Isn't Devil's Night fun? Speaking of, it's time for Liz to drop some knowledge about that. She explains that Devil's Night is a real thing and it's 10,000x worse than Halloween. It's James March's annual soiree of evil, where the worst criminals in history show up for a dinner party. The invite list is super exclusive, but amazingly enough, John's name is on it this year. John is blackout drunk enough to not think this is weird, apparently, and he just gets dressed when he finds a tux on his bed. I am beginning to think John deserves to die.
Welcome to Satan's dinner party. Up in Room 78, John finds a bunch of famous murderers hanging out, including Aileen and Ramirez, along with Gacy, Dahmer and the Zodiac Killer, who appears to be wearing some sort of full body Snuggie. March provides everyone with seating placecards and absinthe, which seems like a super great idea for John.
Speaking of John, he's immediately demanding to know who all these people are, how any of this is possible and whether this is some kind of elaborate Halloween prank, which is a line of questioning I think we can all get behind. Instead of answers, he gets a lecture from March about evidence and the illusory nature of reality, which is the sort of crap that this show loves to spout when Ryan Murphy wants to do something that's cool but also doesn't want to explain or figure out how it's possible according to the rules of the universe. Whatever.
The murderers go around the table and introduce themselves and talk about what a genius March is and how they each at some point spent a night in the Cortez. It's an interesting scene, in that these are all great actors and this is a pretty intriguing concept, considering what would happen if you got this many horrible people around a table together to compare notes. Most of the time as a viewer though, you sort of feel like you could maybe use some absinthe, because other than beating it into John's head that he's living in a terrifying hellscape full of ghosts, there's no real clear tie-in to the season as a whole.
Eventually John gets drunk enough to really start freaking out that he's in a room full of serial killers who should be dead. This breakdown causes Murderers' Row to finally just give up on him entirely, declaring that he just wasn't ready for their kind of evil and handcuffing him to a chair so they can have "dessert" – a real, live guy doped up on drugs that Hypodermic Sally brings in for them to kill. (Apparently she has some sort of arrangement with March: He'll leave her alone if she brings them a victim every year.) They all gleefully stab him to death while John watches and screams and questions what's real and what isn't. Us too, dude. Us too.
Odds and Ends:
After everything that happened between Iris and Donovan last week, it feels really weird that this episode didn’t include either of them or mention what’s going on.
Now that John’s officially off the sobriety wagon, does that mean he is now at risk for being raped to death by the Addiction Demon? Because I don’t need to see that.
Since Alex has been turned by the Countess, are John and Will Drake the only actual humans left on this show? I guess we don’t officially know Liz Taylor’s status, but she sure does seem to have been at that hotel a long time.
Thoughts, comments, or elaborate theories to share? Hit me up on Twitter: @LacyMB