'American Horror Story: Hotel' S5E11: Battle Royale

★ ★ ★ ½

We're well aware that American Horror Story: Hotel's ghosts are trapped in unending loops. Ms. Evers will ever (ha) be obsessed with cleaning up after someone; Mr. March can't stop killing; and, I'm sure, Claudia Bankson is still roaming the halls telling people how trashy their outfits are. But compared to them, Sally is a broken record played too little and then played way too much.

Hypodermic Sally was finally given her backstory after 11 episodes, and it was flung into the episode with about as much finesse as Sally being shoved out of a window. All together unnecessary and, worse, a flashback that did little to explain a concrete origin to her pain, the look at Sally's past only yielded a gory distraction from the main storylines. You'd think that Sally sewing herself to a couple out of fear of abandonment would have had more emotional power than it did, but there's no foundation for this level desperation to land on and the action falls flat.

Likewise, Queenie's death (poor Queenie) was squeezed into the episode just so Ramona could have a walking, talking blood bag. It's an interesting concept to pit a vampire against a witch to see who'll win and, for most of it, the fight is entertaining to see carried out, but then it's all cut short by March who found a perfect loophole to Queenie's voodoo power. (Coven was all about the loopholes.) It's a pity to see that the only Coven connection to the series to date was used up in a matter of minutes just so that Ramona and Elizabeth could have sex.


Hotel has had the nasty habit of bringing in new characters to look at before they get sucked dry by a vampire whose lifespan is, ironically, as short as the person they just killed. The children, for example, had absolutely no impact on the show whatsoever. Will Drake's kid is nowhere to be seen (is he enjoying the Hotel Cortez' lack of wifi and blood-stained carpets?), Scarlett was at her grandmother's for half the show, the brat pack were killed off-screen by Ramona after only being an annoyance to viewers and Alex, and Elizabeth's children only arrive with the happenstance of Beetlejuice. Hotel made a big spectacle of their spooky kids in the trailers, but the lack of their perspective in the season is shocking.

With Elizabeth's children only showing up in the game room or in their coffins, it's hard to grasp how awful it is for Elizabeth to have to kill her own children in order to ensure her survival. Delving into this would have given the Countess some juicy material to work with, but it's brushed aside along with the Sally flashback. Hotel throws several lines to suggest that Elizabeth is a good mother, but there isn't any evidence to back it up.

"Battle Royale" isn't all broken promises and dodgy subtext, though, Iris and Ms. Evers were given material that made use of their characters in powerful ways. After Donovan shields Elizabeth, Iris is horrified to see that the son she had saved so many years ago was now dying in her arms because of her actions. In one last ditch effort, Iris manages to get Donovan off the hotel property before he passes. Finally free from the Countess, the irony dawns that the only way to save her son was by finally letting him die.

Letting go seemed to be the moral behind "Battle Royale"'s best storylines and Ms. Evers was forced to face that when the secret that it was she who gave the police the handkerchief and not Elizabeth, who March believed had done it for decades. Banished from his sight, Ms. Evers joins Donovan and Iris as the only characters who managed to escape the vicious cycle their lives had become. Evers takes March's response with a quiet dignity of a woman who realized she's better off without him.

Once boasting a feast of storylines and characters to pick and choose from, Hotel's scare availability for the next two episodes leaves a high level of uncertainty about how things will be now that Elizabeth is finally out of the picture. "Battle Royale" demonstrates just how awkwardly the storylines are wrapped up in Hotel along with Hotel's habit of forgetting about lesser characters until it's too late to invest in them.


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