Warning: This recap for the “Battle Royale” episode of American Horror Story: Hotel contains spoilers.
To prevent ourselves from going insane, we take 99% of everything around us for granted. Surroundings, family members, fundamental beliefs… We just accept that they’re there and turn our attention to more important matters, like Tinder or alcohol. But the bold truth is that glorious wonders would constantly reveal themselves to us if we’d only pay attention. That is why, in American Horror Story’s lowest-rated, least talked about season yet, a scene in which Lady Gaga makes out with Angela Bassett to The Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored” can happen and it’s like nobody even cares? Has the American public so inured itself to utter perfection that it can’t even enjoy what is arguably the most amazing thing to have happened on television in years? Truly what more could anyone ask from a TV show? How about…
- Denis O’Hare (in drag) and Kathy Bates (in drag) bursting into a room firing FOUR guns?
- Gabourey Sidibe slapping herself in the face in order to beat up Angela Bassett?
- Kathy Bates rolling around in the ashes of her dead son?
- Lady Gaga getting shot, killed and/or dismembered THRICE?
- A ghost and a vampire teaming up to murder a witch?
Guys, ALL of these things happened just this week on American Horror Story: Hotel, and we haven’t even touched upon the fact that Sarah Paulson’s character injected heroin into a man’s D!
The broken record of testimonials from AHS haters usually has something to do with “but the storytelling is messy!” and the show is therefore “bad.” Well, well, well, lookit all these armchair Robert McKees… Are people legitimately pining for something that they could better predict? Fewer stars? More static camerawork? AHS don’t care! It WILL skitter from storyline to storyline and it WILL feature a scene of Lady Gaga making out with Angela Bassett to The Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored” and it’s up to us to notice how weird and glorious it all is. Friends, I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but “Battle Royale” was utterly wonderful. Let’s talk about it.
We began with a flashback to the moments before Liz and Iris burst into The Countess’s penthouse and tried to murder everything moving.
As it turned out it wasn’t TOO difficult to get Iris to switch from suicidal to homicidal, and 12 seconds later one of the world’s biggest pop stars was covered in exploding blood squibs!
Unfortunately for Iris, she didn’t realize that her son, Donovan, would also be hanging out in there at that very moment, and Iris was even more surprised when he jumped up and became a human shield for The Countess. Iris didn’t feel great about spraying her only son with bullets. In fact, spraying one’s own child with gunfire is probably in the Top 10 of things that mothers would rather not experience. But then Donovan had a dying wish: To get the F out of that hotel before his ghost could become trapped there for eternity.
Next thing we knew, Iris and Liz were helping him out onto the pavement in the street where he calmly passed away. But in a touching final gesture, Donovan looked at Iris with a heartfelt glance and called her “Mom.” Aw, they finally made up! Then he died.
As it turned out, The Countess had not actually died in the shooting! She had scrambled outta there and woke up on a disgusting mattress in the basement surrounded by rotting corpses. Yep, she was chilling in Hypodermic Sally’s lair now, and Sally was clumsily yanking bullets out of The Countess’s body and sewing her back up again. It wasn’t so much because she liked The Countess, it was more that she just needed a favor… To somehow get Detective John Lowe to return to the hotel. Also Hypodermic Sally REALLY wanted to explain her backstory to somebody finally.
It turned out she’d been in a band in the ‘90s and had fallen in love with the male and female lead singers, so one time they checked into the hotel and did tons of sex and Sally injected heroin into the dude’s D, and when they woke up Sally had SEWN THEM TO HER. That’s right, you read that correctly. Sally and her two bandmates were SEWN TOGETHER. Even before she turned into an actual monster, Sally wasn’t right in the head. Things were made worse when both of her lovers proceeded to O.D. and she found herself sewn to a pair of corpses for five days! But then things got even WORSE when a drilldo-wielding demon showed up and tortured her until she finally had to tear all the sutures out and run away. If you’re keeping track, this whole sequence was easily the most disgusting and f–ked-up thing this franchise has ever, ever shown to us and that is saying something. Bravo? I need to lie down.
Meanwhile The Countess needed blood to recover from her wounds, but not just any old regular human blood (which is garbage). She needed the blood of other vampires! (Okay?) But she was reluctant to drink from the local children because it would kill them for some reason. But Hypodermic Sally talked her into it, so yeah. Bye, kids. Village of the Damned TASTY more like.
Speaking of the damned, John and Alex brought Scarlet and Holden home and immediately began to pretend that everything was normal again.
But Scarlet pointed out that Alex was now a vampire, and to make things weirder, John seemed cool with the idea of going out and finding human blood for her to drink, no big deal. Man, Scarlet is gonna end up going to art school FOR SURE now.
In a scene that was just so perfect for this show, Liz handed Iris a coffee can full of Donovan’s ashes, and Iris proceeded to dump them out on the bed and monologue about how she’d been a bad mother. Then in the next scene we saw that she was covered head to toe in ashes! Had she been rolling around in them? Why did we not get to see that?!
And then we got this poetic shot of Iris walking up onto the roof and letting the ashes blow off of her. It was just a nice, wordless bit of brilliant acting from Kathy Bates but also so, so ludicrous. God, I love this show.
THEN Iris and Liz decided that in order to fully kill The Countess they’d need to enlist the only person who wanted her deader than they did: Ramona Royale! So they crept into the vault where they found a dozen dead vampire children (Ramona was quite a snacker!) and one very angry actress. After she agreed to not murder Iris right away, she had a request: Moar bloooooood.
But just when Iris and Liz were ready to run out onto the sidewalk and bludgeon a passerby with a baseball bat, guess who checked into the hotel! Gabourey Sidibe! But, and this made me scream, it wasn’t JUST Gabourey Sidibe. She was QUEENIE from Coven!
Not since Pepper has a character so prominent returned in a later season, but this time we were about to get a firm answer about what exactly happens when characters notice that the people they encounter may share the same face… NOTHING. Queenie did not seem to notice that Ramona Royale was the spitting image of Marie Laveau, so maybe that’s the new rule this franchise now wants us to follow? Like, okay, these are all indeed interconnected seasons, but the characters don’t seem to recognize familiar faces or get deja vu or anything. I guess that’s why earlier this season Finn Wittrock played two different dudes and nobody made a big deal of it? American Horror Story: Face Blindness.
The main exciting thing about Queenie’s return (aside from the fact that I’ve always loved her because she’s awesome) was the reveal that she and the rest of her coven (the ones who survived, anyway) were kinda famous now and Queenie herself had appeared on CNN. Which meant that in this reality witchcraft was now an accepted, real thing? This was just a tiny little reveal but it blew my mind. Alas, despite her importance to the world and also this show, Queenie wasn’t long for this world.
Unfortunately vampires LOVE witch blood. But let it be known that Queenie put up quite a fight! Again, I never in my life imagined I’d see a knock-down drag-out fight between Angela Bassett and Gabourey Sidibe, yet there I was, howling with delight as Queenie used her own voodoo doll abilities against Ramona. This meant she’d repeatedly slap herself in the face and send Ramona tumbling around on the floor!
But at the last minute, none other than a damn GHOST jumped into the fray and stabbed Queenie! Which, yeah: A ghost, a vampire, and a witch just wrecked a hotel room. Apparently James March ALSO wanted Ramona to help murder The Countess, so he was just doing her a solid. But in doing so he kinda broke my heart a lil because I loved Queenie and she did not deserve that. Oh well.
So then Ramona got a full makeover complete with giant wig, and she finally confronted The Countess in her penthouse, ready and willing to murder the heck out of her. But then “I Wanna Be Adored” came on and the two got to talking about how hard life was, and The Countess even apologized for all her crimes. Between the snappy dialogue and the cracklin’ sexual chemistry (and the song, duh) this scene was dizzyingly magical and beautiful and ridiculous. Lady Gaga has never been better, and it goes without saying that Angela Bassett remains perfect. I was riveted basically. This scene thrilled me and broke my heart. In the end, The Countess attempted to give the entire hotel to Ramona and then leave the premises to start a new life. But not before one last sexin’!
Unfortunately The Countess’s journey to the elevator was interrupted by a madman with one last trophy to collect… The one for Thou Shalt Not Murder. And guess which murderer he’d chosen to punish?
So for the second time this episode, The Countess was gunned down. But this time she didn’t have a twisted junkie ghost to sew her back together!
I was very sad that The Countess had been killed, but then I saw the completed trophy collection and I was like, “I get it.” Because come on, that’s amazing.
But because death means very little on this show, The Countess’s murder really only just meant that she was now a ghost in the hotel just like the others. So within hours she showed up to James March’s hotel room completely decked out in her fineries and resigned to an eternity of boredom. He, however, was stoked… This was the very reason he’d arranged for The Countess’s murder in the first place. But the next twist in their affair was the reveal that she had not in fact been the one to inform on him to the police all those years ago… It had been Miss Evers! She’d been in love with him and wanted to commit suicide with him. He did not take this well, and he banished her from his sight forever! Ugh, ghost drama.
Fortunately it wasn’t enough to ruin his mood!
The Countess, on the other hand, was slightly less stoked. And they lived tragically ever after.
“Battle Royale” was a sad, disgusting, insane, and beautiful hour of television. Again, I’m astonished at just how successful this show’s non-formula formula has been, as it’s kept me on my toes week in and week out. I never really know which character will come to the fore, or which will get a flashback, and simple arcs are even out the window as characters appear and disappear on a whim. Rule-breaking writing is not BAD writing. If we are unsettled, that’s the point. There’s a certain swirling chaos to Hotel, and even if this show may not want to be adored, I surely do adore it anyway.
What did YOU think of “Battle Royale”?
American Horror Story: Hotel airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.