'American Horror Story: Hotel': You Can Check Out, But You Can't Leave

'It was supposed to be a perfect ending.'

If you've enjoyed your stay at the Hotel Cortez and all its nefarious goings on, then you might be surprised at the "American Horror Story: Hotel" season finale which aired on Wednesday (Jan. 13).

Not because it exceeded its already blistering levels of shock value, but just the opposite. It was actually kind of sweet, like a little mint chocolate treat left on your freshly fluffed pillow ... if that chocolate was drenching dead insects and the mint leaf was tainted with rat poison maybe, but still. Far less scorching than usual.

See, there was still quite a death count to be tabulated for the finale, but overall the season ended on a high note with lots of reunions, coupley resolutions and lovey dovey declarations -- in between all the serial murderer brouhaha-ing and whatnot, of course.

  • Zero stars

    First of all, Iris (Kathy Bates) and Liz Taylor (Denis O'Hare) have now given the Hotel Cortez a much-needed face lift, but it might be all for naught because no matter how nice the place looks, their Yelp score is going to be freaking pitiful if none of the guests ever survive the night.

    See, the ladies liquidated the Countess' art collection to afford Japanese self-cleaning wonder toilets and 400 thread count Egyptian cotton linens and such, but the spirits weren't thrown out with the stains -- a lesson a pair of online hotel reviewers learned the hard way at the sharps-wielding hands of Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson) and Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson).

  • A safe harbor

    Even though there are a gaggle of spirits wandering the halls of the Cortez -- including the Lumberjack, the Swedish girls from the beginning and even Mr. Woo -- there are two main troublemakers in the afterlife-living bunch, Sally and Will.

    While Sal's had enough of her current plane of existence and couldn't care less of the Cortez is torn down and sends all of their souls to who knows where -- by James March's calculations, the 100 year mark will hit on August 23, 2026 and give them landmark status immunity from destruction -- Drake's completely loving his new no-rules force majeure persona.

    But Iris and Liz are smart cookies and hatch a slick plan. Iris introduces the lonely Sally to the world of social media and makes her a total star -- she even throws her fix out the window. "Suddenly the girl no one wanted became the belle of the ball ... Being numb to the world finally lost its appeal."

    Same for Will Drake, whom Liz convinces has a fashion house that isn't dead just yet. As far as everyone else knows, he's in rehab or having a nervous breakdown, so why can't he become a recluse genius who can only host camera- and phone-free shows at the Cortez. Weirder things have happened.

    "There’s inspiration all around us, all you gotta do is look."

  • Saturday pancakes

    Even with all of her dreams come true with the hotel's new-found success, Liz is still not complete, so Iris treats her to a psychic session with none other than "Murder House" medium Billie Dean Howard (Paulson, reprising her Season 1 persona), who's always had an interest in the Cortez.

    See, it's the lack of Tristan's presence that's making Liz feel blue because it feels intentional -- but the bad news is that Tristan doesn't want to talk.

    The voice which does come through for Billie Dean, however, is Donovan, who's got good news. He's not lingering at the Cortez, of course, but he's somewhere amazing where it's always Saturday with his mom's delicious pancakes. And "he says 'I love you'" which reduces Iris to a ball of deliriously happy tears, of course. Even Liz can't hate on her joy over the update.

  • Fondest creation

    That's when Liz gets even worse news. She's got prostate cancer, and there's no hope. But she's decided to go in the Cortez and make it her home for the restie, with the well-armed help of her hotel fam, of course.

    Everyone's ready to do the deathly bidding when The Countess (Lady Gaga) shows up to do the deed, the first time she's been spotted since her passing.

    "You were always my fondest creation," she muses. "I wanted to be here to help you transition one last time." And so murder gloves takes another.

    As Liz overlooks her own dead carcass in a bittersweet moment, that's when Tristan decides to saunter in and say that he wasn't trying to be cruel to his lady love. He was trying to let her live all this time. Aw.

  • Devil's Night

    Flash forward to October 30, 2022. Billie Dean has now done three prime-time specials at the Cortez -- including one wherein she learned the shocking details about what Mr. Woo doesn't pay for, ha -- and everyone's just about had enough of that.

    She's particularly interested in this night because she knows it's the one night when she can "feel" the presence of John Lowe (Wes Bentley), and this time he's ready to play her game. He shows up for her on-camera interview but agrees to explain why it is that he's a once-a-year presence in the basement.

    Of course, that's where our favorite serial killers -- Jeffrey, Dahmer, John Wayne Gacey, Aileen Wuornos, Richard Ramirez and the Zodiac -- prefer to dine and deal death on Devil's Night, and they're all too happy to deliver Billie Dean into the next realm if she doesn't buzz off already. (Oh, and just because they can't leave doesn't mean they don't have reinforcement -- Ramona Royale is happy to do their bidding here.)

    At the end of it, we're left with the Countess in her exquisitely lush body decor, setting her sights on a new beau with "a jawline for days" at the bar and making his acquaintance.

    Time to check out now.