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Thursday, April 25, 2024

“AHS: Delicate” Review – ‘The Auteur’ Gives Birth to a Lackluster, Laughable Finale

‘AHS: Delicate’ concludes with one of ‘American Horror Story’s’ most disappointing finales that makes up its own rules, hammers in rote themes, and then turns to dust.

“When are they going to let us tell our own stories?”

A pregnancy brings genetic material together until it culminates into a person and American Horror Story: Delicate also tells a story where its success is dependent upon the season’s ability to tie all of its ideas together into a satisfying finale. Pregnancy stories are all about the ending and one’s enjoyment of “The Auteur” really comes down to what you want out of an American Horror Story finale. Anyone who’s watched the series has been burnt by past finales that are underbaked or overwrought. There are also only so many places that a season finale that begins with Anna in labor can go. Most pregnancy horror stories are going to culminate in this event, which really puts extra pressure on the finale’s success. 

AHS: Delicate has tried to eat Rosemary’s Baby’s lunch all season and emerge as the predominant demon spawn pregnancy horror story. The problem with this is that it then still needs to concoct a conclusion that’s better than Rosemary’s Baby. “The Auteur” has its options limited from the start, which is never a good thing for American Horror Story. AHS: Delicate has been a messy experiment with many highs and lows. It does find a way to do something different with its finale, but unfortunately it’s not a very logical or gratifying approach. None of this helps make AHS: Delicate, as a whole, feel worthwhile and “The Auteur” is one of American Horror Story’s sloppiest episodes in a long time. 

“The Auteur” is a mess, but it scratches the surface – just for a moment – of an interesting idea. This finale posits that IVF treatment is a modern form of magic that attempts to frame AHS: Delicate as a modern fairy tale where science is this generation’s Fairy Godmother. This could have been intriguing territory to explore this season, but AHS: Delicate comes in far too late with this concept and then does the bare minimum with it. It’s a really long walk to just get to a bloodier riff on Rumpelstiltskin or Sleeping Beauty. It’s Dead Ringers meets Dune’s Bene Gesserit. “The Auteur” drops clunky Biblical allusions so there’s zero confusion over any of the episode’s subtext, all of which is matched by the finale’s awkward presentation of the pains of motherhood. Women need to literally bleed and give their lifeforce for their children. It’s an unbalanced cycle, but who would have thought that being a mother requires selflessness?

Heavy-handed visuals fill “The Auteur,” some of which are powerful, despite their surface-level meanings. Anna grips her Oscar, rather than her husband’s hand, during her labor pains. It’s a perfect distillation of this season’s broad themes of fame versus family. Shortly after, Dex literally chokes to death on his own severed hand so that he can’t ever mansplain, interrupt or talk again. “The Auteur” pushes the idea that all men are ushered into the world to the sound of a screaming woman, but this also becomes the soundscape that complements Dex’s demise. It’s more of AHS: Delicate repeatedly underlining the same message.

The Satanic Midwives have been one of AHS: Delicate’s most effective pieces of disturbing imagery. It’s particularly unhinged to see all of these figures gossiping together in Anna’s ear like they’re Stepford Cuckoos or Wicked Stepsisters. This brings out Cara Delevingne, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, and Kim Kardashian’s most playful performances of the season. They tap into a really uncomfortable energy where everybody just lets loose and goes for it. For a moment it’s as if Barbie Land were set in Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge – and not in a good way. It’s a bewildering spectacle. 

Evidently, what this whole season has been building towards is not just the birth of Anna’s child, but the beginning of a new matriarchal utopia where evil eugenics reign supreme. Men are chastised for generations of destruction while these women still perpetuate their own toxic breed of gender-based thinking that’s rich in exclusion and abuse. These Midwives are so deluded that they can earnestly talk about a perfect tomorrow and male sex slaves in the same breath. It really feels as if Halley Feiffer just watched Barbie, Dune, and Rosemary’s Baby at the same time at 1.5x speed and then called it a day. There’s no room for this eccentric experiment to breathe. 

American Horror Story Delicate Episode 9 Satanic Midwives Help Anna Give Birth

Anna’s baby, while the season’s focal point, really becomes a blood red herring and afterthought in “The Auteur.” This finale instead examines whether Anna will join Siobhan and her Satanic Midwives to become part of this generational curse; like a pregnancy It Follows, so to speak. This is actually a unique and interesting angle that focuses on a relatively original aspect of pregnancy horror that never pulls focus from the mother. However, “The Auteur” produces too many ideas that are too lofty to cram into a single episode. As wild as all of this is, it could have actually worked if it just had a few episodes of deeper development.

“The Auteur” bombards the audience with evocative tableaus that are ultimately shallow and make no sense, like Siobhan watering a plant with blood or snow owls in cages. It’s hard not to take it personally when Anna repeatedly screams in confusion while Siobhan tells her – and the audience – that they’re stupid for not understanding and she continually spouts platitudes like, “It’s a beautiful day to make mayhem.” Exposition is expelled from Siobhan like morning sickness for 3/4 of the episode.

There’s a very disjointed nature to not just “The Auteur,” but the entire second-half of AHS: Delicate. The whole season was written before the SAG-AFTRA strike, but the abundance of 30-minute episodes during Part 2 makes me seriously curious if there were availability issues during the second-half of filming. It feels like certain scenes were removed or replaced with other characters to help fill in gaps. That’s not to say that more scenes would have explained many of the season’s unanswered questions or ended this all in a satisfying manner. However, it just feels lazy to have so many episodes — including the finale — come in so short. 

Once AHS: Delicate is done with laborious exposition it drops some revelatory bombshells that barely detonate, like the news that Dex is actually Siobhan’s son. This builds to a truly egregious final act where Siobhan gets skeletized to dust because Anna happens to read the right magical Hestia chant that breaks her Satanic spell. Apparently women can have it all, in the end – fame, family, and a coven. That’s the profound insight that American Horror Story: Delicate has to impart after nine episodes. 

What? Excuse me? Why didn’t Adeline just chant Siobhan and company to death back in 2013 then? “The Auteur” is a genuinely baffling season finale to one of American Horror Story’s most forgettable seasons.

There’s so much focus on the buildup in pregnancy horror stories that the aftermath seldom receives the same attention. It’s rare that films or series stick around and chronicle a lengthier span of the child’s complicated life to see what lies ahead. This is ultimately a different story with unique themes and aims, but AHS: Delicate might have hit a little harder if it actually got into what’s next for Anna’s child. In a season that’s certainly taken its time and guilty of meandering, it wouldn’t have been impossible for Anna to give birth in episode eight instead of the finale. Halley Feiffer is interested in the mother of this “perfect product,” not the perfect product itself. However, fans are still going to be naturally curious over what happens with it next. “The Auteur” is an easy birth for American Horror Story: Delicate, albeit one that’s succeeded by a perplexing recovery period that makes up radical rules – some of which feel like they’re written by a baby – before it just abruptly ends.

There were exciting prospects behind this American Horror Story season, especially with a fresh showrunner. However, Delicate feels obligatory and definitely one of the anthology series’ weakest seasons (and easily the least interesting Emma Roberts character). This stings even more after AHS: NYC’s strength and how it signaled that this series still might have a few more good stories to left to tell. “The Auteur” couldn’t be more different than AHS: NYC’s “Requiem 1981/1987 Part One & Two” and it’s a dopey, disappointing, disorienting note to go out on. Execution is everything and AHS: Delicate doesn’t nail the horror or camp enough to be one of the cool kids. Delicate is instead destined to be bullied by Rosemary’s Baby, Immaculate, Mother! and L’Interieur for being a plodding, pointless endeavor

It can pick on False Positive though. It’s better than that.

Episode Rating: 1.5 out of 5 skulls

Season Rating: 2 skulls out of 5

American Horror Story Delicate Episode 9 Satanic Midwives Playful

The post “AHS: Delicate” Review – ‘The Auteur’ Gives Birth to a Lackluster, Laughable Finale appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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