‘American Horror Story: Hotel’: In which we learn what we already knew

American Horror Story: Hotel
“The Ten Commandments Killer”
December 2, 2015

Oh hey, everybody, American Horror Story has decided to devote an entire episode to revealing their One Big Secret: who is the Ten Commandments Killer? Because we need an entire hour to untangle this “mystery.”


So after Wren of the Damned ran into traffic and got her fool self splattered across the pavement, Just John was all, “DAMN,” and ran straight back to the Hotel Cortez.

There, he confronted a still grieving Liz Taylor about the hotel hiding the Ten Commandments Killer, and Liz Taylor is like, “OH BROTHER.”


That’s what Liz Taylor was like.

Ghost Courtney Love shows up, and is like, “FINE. I’ll show you where he is,” and Liz Taylor slides a hand gun across the reception desk towards John, in case he “find[s] what [he’s] looking for.”


Ghost Courtney Love leads John back up to his own room, and John is like, “WAIT! THIS IS MY ROOM! WHAT IS HAPPENING?”


Inside the room, Ghost Courtney Love instructs John to look behind the armoire, where he finds a secret door and he’s like …


Inside, John finds a grisly collection of organs under glass domes: a rotting hand with a label reading “Thou Shalt Not Steal” from 1926; a collection of teeth with “Remember the Sabbath Day,” also from 1926; then, from more recently, a brain with “Thou Shalt Not Worship False Idols”  taken from that movie blogger who was sodomized by an Oscar, because sure.

John points out that killers rarely take 90-year breaks between killings.


And Sally is all, “NO DOY, DUMMY. The more recent killings were done by the first killer’s successor.”

John investigates the rest of the displays: “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,” with the eyes and tongue of guy who was having an affair; “Honor Thy Father and Mother,” with the hearts of the brothers who killed their parents; “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness,” with the vocal cords of the gossip bloggers the killer somehow took out single-handedly; and “Thou Shalt Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain,” with the spleen of the televangelist.

John is like, “I mean, OK, but how’d the killer get into this trophy room without me realizing it?”


And Sally is like, “Come on, dummy, quit being so dumb, put it together.” And with that, FINALLY, John comes to the realization that we all had come to episodes ago: he’s the Ten Commandments Killer, UH DUH.

John freaks out about it a little.

Over at the medical examiner’s office, John’s Partner is hanging out with Wren of the Damned’s dead body. For some reason. John’s Partner asks someone on the phone if there’s been any sign of John — because apparently no one has thought to swing by the hotel John was staying at before he committed himself — before asking someone on the phone to keep an eye on Dr. Chloë and Scarlett. Just then, John walks in and thanks John’s Partner for looking after his family for him. “And oh, by the way, I’m the Ten Commandments Killer. Let’s stand here in this medical examiner’s office and I’ll confess everything as way of exposition,” John adds.

It seems the nightmare began back in 2010 after John investigated the death of that one family, the one who died of carbon monoxide poisoning before the father shot and killed himself. After investigating the scene, John goes on a bender at the Hotel Cortez bar where Donovan finds him and was like, “FREE DRINKS UPSTAIRS, DRUNKY!”

So Donovan leads John up to where Mr. March and Lady Gaga are having their monthly dinner, and is like, “Hey, Ghost Guy, this is John, a homicide detective and boy, does he have some grisly stories to tell you!” Mr. March is immediately taken with John’s calm detachment and his mumbo-jumbo about how “death is the only thing that has any meaning,” which, alright, okay, take it on down a notch there, Peter Murphy.

Lady Gaga and Donovan slip away so that Mr. March and John can get to know one another better and guzzle some absinthe. Mr. March starts yammering about auras and informs John that his is pitch black. This can be interpreted one of two ways: that John can focus at any task at hand or that John needs to dominate the world around him. Maybe both! They then talk about John’s rage issues and his irritations with the justice system in general, how if he could just apply his rage issues to the justice system, the world would be a better place, etc. and so forth.

After a couple of days of  these two bonding over discussions of man’s law versus God’s law and booze, Mr. March asks Lady Gaga for her help in pushing John over the edge. Maybe if, perhaps, his son were to, I don’t know, become a jelly-bean eating vampire, John here might just turn to the dark side.


The next thing John knows, he’s waking up in his car in front of his house, and apologizing to Dr. Chloë for going missing for three days. Whoops! How about he makes it up to everyone by taking the family to a carnival down on the boardwalk later that afternoon?

And so, three years later, and Holden still missing, John was splitting his time between his home with Dr. Chloë and hanging out with Mr. March over at the Hotel Cortez. Not that he remembered any part of the hanging out at Hotel Cortez. Time moves funny there, apparently, and did weird things to John’s memory. Anyway, one night, Mr. March took John on a tour of his trophy room where he showed him the mounted head of his former accountant, and John was like, “YOU’RE A MONSTER … but I like your style.”

Fast forward to 2015, where John is at one of his dinners with Mr. March, moping about it being Holden’s 10th birthday. Mr. March’s like, “Yeah, don’t know anything about your kid, but funny story: there was a guy who checked into the hotel recently with his ‘nephew’ and when Ghost Maid was cleaning his room, she found these naked pictures of the kid. He looks like he’s about 10-years-old…” And so John jumps to the conclusion that this guy had something to do with Holden’s disappearance because he’s deranged and easily suggestible.

So John heads over to the guy’s house and beats him to death with an Oscar.

However, this being John’s first murder, he’s feeling pretty bad about the whole thing, and tries to hang himself in his bathroom at the Cortez. And Ghost Courtney Love just sits on his bed watching, because she and John have been getting it on lately, and if he were to die in the hotel, he’d have to stay there with her forever. Unfortunately for Ghost Courtney Love’s plans, Mr. March cuts John down, as John hasn’t finished Mr. March’s work just yet.

After Mr. March snarls something incomprehensible at Ghost Courtney Love  about protecting her and her drildo demon (whom we have not seen much of, curiously enough), Mr. March tells John to pull it together, and then shows him the secret room with his Ten Commandments project. Mr. March encourages John to finish what he started in the 20s and to do it in Holden’s memory. Because what better way to honor your missing child than to murder in his name.

So John made himself lead detective of his own murders, and while investigating the Oscar sodomy death, John’s Partner is like, “Hey, I had coffee with Dr. Chloë the other day, and she’s worried about you.” This sets John off on a jealous rage when he discusses with Ghost Courtney Love whilst in bed with her BECAUSE HOW DARE DR. CHLOË DRINK COFFEE WHILE HE’S OFF HAVING GHOST SEX.


John decides that he will start his Ten Commandments project with the Dr. Chloë and John’s Partner, a dumb plan that Ghost Courtney Love wisely discourages, as it would lead investigators straight to him. Instead, she suggests this Ashley Madison couple who comes to the Cortez every week.

John sneaks into their room while they’re getting to business in the shower and sends them texts from each other’s phones with instructions to meet each other at a different hotel, so as to not drag the Cortez into his messy business. Nevermind the fact that this couple certainly would have checked their phones after getting out of the shower and been like, “Wait, what? How did you text me when you were in the other room with me just now?” BUT DON’T WORRY ABOUT THAT, THIS IS NOT THE LOGIC YOU WERE LOOKING FOR.


John’s Partner interrupts John’s (overly) long story to be like, “Yeah, but what about that guy in the bowler hat you saw at the murder scene of those two brothers? Explain THAT.” And John is like, “Pssht, I’m crazy, I was seeing myself dressed up as Mr. March. It’s called symbolism.”

John’s Partner is still not buying John’s story, and so for his trouble, John stabs him in the gut with an autopsy knife for daring to have coffee with Dr. Chloë. This seems like an overreaction.

John returns to the Hotel Cortez with his newest trophy, and Iris is like, “Well, hello, Mr. Police Officer.” Except this time, John tells her that he knows who he is, and he knows who she is. Iris is like, “FINALLY. For five years, I’ve been dancing around, trying to figure out which John I was talking to. Thank goodness that nonsense is over!” John notes that he finally has accepted who he is; his only regret is what happened to Wren. Iris informs him that was Ghost Courtney Love’s fault: she instructed Wren of the Damned to follow him around to make sure he didn’t die off property.

With that, John heads up to the secret room in Room 64 to install his newest trophy: John’s Partner’s most intimate parts, representing, “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife.” Mr. March applauds his work, and notes that his masterpiece will soon be complete: just two more commandments to go.

And those commandments, for those keeping track, are “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me.”  Who knows how the remaining five episodes will shake out; with this show, there’s no point in even trying to guess. BUT, IF I HAD TO, I would bet that in the end, John kills Lady Gaga for “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and then himself for “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me,” for having elevated himself to the status of a judgmental God.

As for the reveal that shocked no one, that John is the Ten Commandments Killer ….


If we’re going to be critical, yes, it was obvious from early on that John was the killer, and maybe they could have tried harder to make it a little less on-the-nose. But the truth of the matter is, in this era of television with reddit forums and rabid fan bases working together to unspool every mystery, it’s more and more difficult for show runners to pull off a big “surprise” that the audience won’t figure out ahead of time. Sure, they could have come up with some sort of TWIST! in which Liz Taylor or Donovan or Iris was the Ten Commandments Killer, but they hadn’t laid the foundation for those characters to be the killer, and it would have been a tremendous cheat just for the sake of a twist.

And so, sure, we all guessed that John was the killer by around the second episode (if not sooner), but considering how wildly off the rails this series has gone in the past, I am almost relieved they not only chose to make this “mystery” make sense, but that they fit the pieces of the story neatly together. We’re given an explanation for why John goes to stay at this dump of a hotel instead of staying with his family — or, more logically, sending them away for their safety! We now know why Lady Gaga took Holden! The weird John/Ghost Courtney Love dynamic out of left field finally makes sense! Did we need an entire hour to spell it all out? No, probably not. But listen, when it comes to this series, you have to take logic where you can get it.

As for where the rest of this season is headed? Who even knows. Aliens, probably. We’ll learn that drildo is actually an alien in the last episode.

American Horror Story: Hotel aired on FX.

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.

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