American Horror Story Hotel: 05×08, The 10 Commandments Killer (Review)


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After a week off, American Horror Story Hotel reveals the mystery behind the 10 commandments killer! We pick up with John returning to the Cortez after Wren had dove in front of a bus, and he demands the answers everyone has neglected to give him. Sally tells him she will provide the truth, and leads him to room 64 – where John is staying. Although she’s willing to provide these answers, she tries to avoid it until she finally reveals a secret room within his room. When they enter, we are shown a mantle that showcases different body parts in glass containers like a trophy of murder. Sally explains that the first few were kills in the early 20’s that picked off people who went against the 10 commandments. The murderers then only recently picked back up and John asks Sally who could have been letting him into this room. She tries to comfort him as best as she can… but admits to him that John is actually behind the murders. (I’ve known this since episode one, I’m glad a theory panned out like I had hoped!)

Wren’s body lies in the stark white morgue, with John appearing out of thin air to speak with his former colleague about the open case. John tells him that he now remembers stopping at the Hotel Cortez five years prior to the date he believed. From this point on we experience a lengthy flashback episode that details the workings of the commandments killer – Sally and Donavan both try to attach themselves to the gloomy detective, and Donovan winds up convincing him to come to an exclusive party upstairs. In the same timeframe (2010) the Countess and Mr. March share their rare private dinner until John and Donovan join them – despite Mr. March’s protest. After sensing some of his demons, he pardons the other two and we discover the beginning of James March’s influence over John. The hotel owner tells John that he picked up the ability to sense auras, and he tells John he instantly knew his was the darkest shade of black. John admits to his pent up aggression, but always geared towards wrongdoers which is just the doorway Mr. March needed to make an impact. The pair spent days talking law, death, and anything that could strengthen their relationship until March tells the Countess that John is the one – the only one – who could finish his job as the commandments killer. In order to persuade the Countess to help him “push” John into the desolate dark state of mind he is so close to – he mentions his children, a catalyst for coming events of John’s flourishing grief. 

When John wakes up with no recollection, his wife is emotionally distraught by his disappearance, but hopes to work things out because of their children. Of course this led to their trip where the kidnapping takes place – so everything from that point on was in preparation to bring out the potential evil inside of John. He continues to piece together his memories and these meetings with Mr. March that he was blocking out of his mind until Mr. March finally felt John was ready to make the next step – witnessing the trophy room. In this dim lit place, Mr. March tries to rationalize his “trophies” (body parts of victims) but John still needs more convincing. March uses a child being sexually abused (the same age of his son) as motivation to seek vengeance for kids like his own. John tracked down the man and confronted him before savagely beating the pedophile to death. The guilt soon after led to John choosing to end his own life, and proceeded to hang himself in the bathroom of a room at the Cortez. 

While continuing to explain his story to the fellow officer, he next shares that Sally was supposed to be the reason his life ended that night as she watched him hang, hoping they’d finally be completely together. Mr. March had other ideas in mind (so he saved his life) and reminded Sally of an arrangement between them to finish what was started. Throughout the transitions, John began sleeping with Sally and described her as a “bottomless pit of need” where the two braced each other’s darkness and began a love(less) affair on John’s part – explaining Sally’s instant desire for John from the first episode. After years of trying, James March finally convinces John to do his bidding – restarting the entire process that began the commandment murder spree many years ago. 

Even with all of Johns extremely detail specific explanations; his partner still doesn’t seem to believe that anything he’s saying could have played out that way. Back in the 2010-pre pilot episode flashback, John finds out his wife has spoken to his partner, which results in an anger filled sex-romp with Sally until she persuades him to make his first official kill as the commandments killer by hunting down adulterers who frequent the hotel. After detailing that evidence as well, his partner tells him that regardless it seems improbable for him to suddenly remember everything, which leads to the officer’s devastating downfall. In the present day conversation, John brings up the other officer’s relationship with his wife and says that he is in fact a murderer – and proceeds to stab him repeatedly until he eventually dies and fulfills another obligation. John returns to the hotel and tells Iris he now clearly remembers everything, confirming what had happened. In reality, Iris actually cares deeply for the killer version of John, and she tells him that Wren had really only hoped to save John from the reality of the world around him (that he also helped orchestrate.) John finds Mr. March and says he has finally achieved “clarity” and is now ready to commit to finishing the 10 commandments murders on his own – fully aware terms. Now that we have confirmed the killer, we can continue to gain insight on other remaining storylines and fully comprehend John’s role in the Cortez mayhem.

Overall Grade: This was honestly one of the best episodes in terms of narrative, finally providing us with answers in regards to John, Mr. March, and the 10 Commandments killer (well…still John.) This also gave me a better understanding of why I should be slightly more sympathetic with Alex (John’s wife.) This is the best kind of flashback episode, and a smart choice to get things out in the open – then narrow in on specified plot points in the last 5 episodes of AHS. AHS Hotel gets a solid ‘B+’ mostly for giving spectacular character development for John and Mr. March, two of the most moving characters of the season.

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

-This was something some viewers may have predicted, but it was executed so well that it was a plausible explanation to plot. Kudos writing team!

-Mr. March and John have such a close bond, it will be a different dynamic to watch develop in the remaining episodes.

-Regardless of what they hope to do, please leave the Countess out of it. The Cortez needs the deadly blonde to spice things up.

-Sally continues to become on o the more complex characters of the series, and I truly enjoy discovering more to the love riddled, struggling addict.

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