In life, death comes for everyone whether they like it or not. On American Horror Story, death passes you over so long as you’re able to give it something else to consume. We constantly see our characters cheating death. The Countess sacrifices anyone who comes between her and eternal youth. John uses his murderous inclinations to illuminate his legacy as the greatest serial killer of all time. Sally smothers her lovers to the point of no return just to feel the love that she never received in life. Cheating death by way of human sacrifice is certainly a theme this season, and I’d argue that it’s a commonality that strings all seasons of AHS together.
In this particular episode, we see two characters–Liz and Iris–face death head on. These are two characters who have had their most potent emotional connections stolen from them. For Iris, her love for her son has never been able to compete with that of The Countess. And for Liz, Tristan’s death has been more than she can bear. These characters are desperate, for love and death. They need love to rescue them from their static existence. They want death to do the same. Iris and Liz walk a fine line, waiting to teeter one way or the other. And just when they’re ready to go one way, they’re thrown a curveball.
As Liz and Iris each tie up loose ends, Liz finds the courage to contact her son whom she hasn’t spoken to in decades. When they finally meet, what she encounters is a self-possessed man who is compassionate, successful, and most important of all: accepting. She discovers that, despite her absence from her son’s life, she’s still wanted and loved. This unexpected love is what brings her back from the brink of self-imposed death and also gives her the strength to extend a hand to Iris who is more than ready to go.
From this, these characters find it in themselves to reclaim who they are and what they stand for. But that comes of a hefty price. What they sacrifice in the end is likely worth the power and life they will gain over the coming episodes. But it begs the question: is a life without sacrifice truly worth living?
For John, it doesn’t seem to be. In his quest to become the next James March, he has sacrificed the very thing he loves most: his family. He comes to understand that he’s living only half a life without them and that it’s the other half that truly counts. After reuniting with both Alex and Holden, he comes to terms with leaving The Cortez and fulfilling his role as devoted husband and father. But it isn’t without a fight: Sally, as always, challenges him before he goes and insists that he’ll be back. WIll he? That remains to be seen.
The last scene of this episode is a powerful one. Iris and Liz take it upon themselves to finally oust the bad seeds of the hotel: The Countess and Donovan. It’s eerily reminiscent of Thelma & Louise. These are two gun-wielding women who are on a mission to prove that they, too, are worth being seen, heard, and respected.
I’m excited to see what comes next.