Written by Matt Taylor
You can call American Horror Story a lot of things. “Boring” is not one of those things. “Busy”, however, might suffice, and that word certainly applies to “She Gets Revenge”, the final episode of 2015. It feels like every subplot this season had some sort of major development and, with only three episodes left to air in January, the show certainly feels like it’s reaching its final act. And, while some subplots were far more interesting than others, this was a mostly entertaining hour that showcased what Ryan Murphy & co. have done best for these last five years.
Lady Gaga has been the unofficial main character of Hotel, and this week’s episode found her trying to get her ideal life back on track after trapping her husband in the hallways of the hotel last week. Of course, nothing goes quite as planned, with her jealous lover (Matt Bomer’s Donovan) taking matters into his own hands, as well as the unforeseen complication of having her husband’s ghost haunting the hallways of the hotel. Of course, it doesn’t make much sense that the Countess wouldn’t have planned for his ghost to be a bump on her road to happiness, but Gaga has the screen presence and comedic timing to make that plot hole believable. In many ways, she’s the MVP of this season’s ensemble, and is a perfect fit for American Horror Story’s unique tone. Not all of Ryan Murphy’s decisions make sense, but casting Gaga in a major part was an excellent choice.
Really, however, the cast is the reason to tune into American Horror Story, as everyone continues to bring their A-game to the season. Matt Bomer and Angela Bassett, both of who spent their screen time dropping one-liners, managed to sell some truly ridiculous dialogue. Meanwhile, Wes Bentley, who has been the season’s weakest link by far, is finally starting to settle into his role. This week’s episode found he and Chloë Sevigny addressing the (somewhat underdeveloped) subplot involving the army of vampire child wreaking terror on Los Angeles. Sevigny, once again, delivered an effective performance, as she slowly tapped into her own dark side in a number of suspenseful scenes. And, while she had far less to do, Sarah Paulson was, unsurprisingly, wonderful as the wildly unhinged Sally, whose relationship with John took a dark twist.
The highlight of “She Gets Revenge”, however, was not the dramatic plot twists or bloody violence, but a surprisingly sweet, subtle subplot involving Liz Taylor. While Hollywood really needs to take a page from Orange is the New Black’s rulebook by hiring trans actor to play trans characters, Denis O’Hare deserves some credit for trying his hardest to capture the hardships his character would be faced with. This week found Liz deciding to kill herself with Kathy Bates’ Iris, but not before reaching out to the son she hasn’t spoken to since leaving her family 31 years ago. Admittedly, the subplot was a bit out of place from a tonal standpoint, but it was also shockingly suspenseful in its own way. O’Hare perfectly captures the worry in Liz’s face as she reaches out to her son, and there is a genuine sense of tension as their scenes carry out. The end of this subplot is, of all things, heart warming, which is something I never thought I’d say about American Horror Story.
Of course, not all of “She Gets Revenge” works. With a cast this large, someone is bound to be wasted, and this week was Evan Peters’ turn to be given virtually nothing to work with. The show also has a gag about Drake’ “Hotline Bling” that completely falls flat, ruining the episode’s cliffhanger. But strong acting goes a long way on American Horror Story, and its nice to see the series slowly inching towards its ending. And, of course, the costumes, sets, score and cinematography remain top notch. In terms of sheer entertainment, you can do a lot worse than American Horror Story: Hotel. Let’s just hope they stick the landing when the series returns next month.