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'American Horror Story: Hotel,' episode 8: The unfinished work of James Patrick March

March mentored infamous serial killers like Gacy and Dahmer, but none tickled his fancy quite like John Lowe.


March mentored infamous serial killers like Gacy and Dahmer, but none tickled his fancy quite like John Lowe.



The hand of a thief, dozens of teeth from migrant workers, the brain of a pedophile, the eyes and tongue of an adulterer, the hearts of two selfish children, the vocal cords of gossip mongers, the spleen of a hypocrital priest.

All represent a Biblical commandment, and all come from the victims of the Ten Commandments Killer.

But who is it?

To answer that, we have to go back some 90 years to James Patrick March's murderous days. He killed for sport and pleasure. But the completion of his masterpiece - a trophy case of body parts representing the sins of his victims - was cut short when he took his life to avoid police.

He needed someone to finish his work, and tried to mentor famed serial killers into taking his place. But none satisfied his criteria quite like John Lowe.

He's the one

It all started five years ago after working the troubling case of a father shooting himself after finding his whole family dead of poisoning. John starts to remember everything he's done when he demands Sally show him where the hotel is hiding the killer. He confesses his actions to his partner, Andy, while at the medical examiner's office after Wren killed herself.

Five years ago, John drank himself silly for two days following the death case, and he did it at none other than the Hotel Cortez.

He first meets James March when he and Donovan interrupt March and Countess's monthly dinner. March takes a liking to John, crediting John's jet black aura and attitudes toward death.

For two days they drink absinthe and talk. March sees him as a man who is willing to do bad to do good. "You're full of rage," he says to John. March knows he's the one to continue his work, and enlists Countess's help, promising her John's son, Holden, if she agrees.

The day he returns home to his family is the day he and Alex take the kids to the carnival, and the day Holden disappears. Countess kidnapped Holden to be one of her babies, and the plan to make John a murderer was set in motion.

How delicious a little cruelty can taste

After Holden's disappearance, John kept frequenting the hotel but never remembered it. Sally called the Cortez a "selfish mistress, she'll never let you take anything with you."

He started to live two lives - one at home with Alex, struggling through the daily grind of gruesome murder cases, and one at the Cortez with March and Sally where he could forget everything.

At first John is disgusted by March's trophy room and his proposition to continue the legacy. But he's swayed by the story of one of the first victims, Gamboa, who March says is a pedophile who brought a young boy to the hotel to take nude photos.

It was the same day Holden would've turned 10, and John snapped. He beat Gamboa to death with a trophy and took his brain for the trophy room. Gamboa worshipped false idols, and he paid for it with his life.

Though John immediately regrets the murder and tries to hang himself in room 64's bathroom, March cuts him down and berates Sally for not saving him. Sally has grown attached to John and wants him to die in the Cortez so they can be together forever. But John's work for March is far from over.

The next murders - the adulterers, the gossipers, the selfish twins - come easier, though John starts to fear himself. "I love it (killing)," he says. "I loved it more than anything."

John wants to complete March's work, but worries about getting caught. Don't worry, March says, you're going to make yourself the lead detective in the Ten Commandments killer case.

Death is your art

Throughout John's confession, Andy continues to disbelieve. March died 90 years ago and Sally died more than 20 years ago. How is it possible that John has been so close to both of them?

Andy believes John isn't a killer. But Andy has been meeting up with John's wife, Alex, for coffee and to discuss her worries about John.

Jealousy kicks in, and John stabs Andy to death with a surgical tool in the examining room. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, Andy.

He goes back to the Cortez with a little piece of Andy in a paper bag ready to cross off another commandment on the list. Iris is glad to see him, and so happy he's found his true self. She doesn't have to worry which John will walk through the door next.

Iris tells him he can move on, leave the hotel and all this tragedy behind. But John has two more commandments to take care of.

The Ten Commandment murders

March's victims

Thou shalt not steal: the hand of a thief

Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy: teeth of migrant workers

John's murders

Thou shalt not worship false idols: Martin Gamboa's bashed in brain

Thou shalt not commit adultery: tongue and eyes of male adulterer

Honor thy mother and thy father: hearts of two ungrateful twins who killed their parents for money

Thou shalt not bear false witness: killer took vocal cords after nailing their tongues to their desks

Thou shalt not take the lord's name in vain: hypocritial priest found gutted in church. "He would go on TV and vent his spleen, so the killer took it," Sally says.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife: the best part of John's partner, Andy

The final two

Thou shalt have no other gods before me

Thou shalt not murder

Final thoughts

This episode is, by far, my favorite yet. Though it was a tad obvious from the start that John was probably the Ten Commandments killer, the ways in which he was so closely tied to the Hotel were subtle. This episode also steered the focus away from Countess's plans to take over the hotel and gave it to March's legacy and John's sadistic personality. We should be done with backstories and we know who the killer is, now it's time for an important character to be killed off.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] and on Twitter @chelseatatham.


[Last modified: Thursday, December 3, 2015 11:42am]


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