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Thursday, April 11, 2024

“AHS: Delicate” Review – “Ava Hestia” Just Delivered the Season’s Best Episode to Date

‘AHS: Delicate’ turns out its best episode of the season with a flashback-focused installment that recants Adeline’s brutal backstory.

“We don’t have to stay where we’re born…”

Hestia, the namesake of AHS: Delicate’s antepenultimate episode of the season, is the Greek goddess of the hearth, home, and hospitality. This may seem like a benign thing to celebrate, but what is a family without a proper home? A home is the safe support system that keeps a family secure. To take this one step further, what is a womb if not a baby’s first home before they’re thrust into the world? Hestia is regarded as a goddess who’s both soft and strong, which are extremes that are forced upon every mother, whether it’s Anna, Adeline, or even Ivy. It’s a fundamental dichotomy that very likely will be the key to Anna’s survival by the end of AHS: Delicate. “Ava Hestia” is a disturbing and cautionary ode to this goddess that appropriately enough plays out like a Greek tragedy. It’s without a doubt AHS: Delicate’s strongest episode and an entry that optimistically indicates that the season won’t have a stillborn finish.

American Horror Story: Delicate has had an incredibly frenetic timeline that’s jumped all over the place. “Ava Hestia” is particularly reckless in this regard, but there’s at least a method to this episode’s madness. “Ava Hestia” turns the clock back – way back – to 42 AD where Cara Delevingne’s Satanic matriarch engages in a grotesque birthing sequence that feels as if it’s straight out of Immaculate, The First Omen, and The VVitch, but without fully stepping on their toes. One of “Ava Hestia’s” greatest assets is that it actually finds something interesting to do with Delevingne as a performer after six episodes of goofy facial expressions and glasses. She really goes for it here and it’s at least a more captivating performance than what Emma Roberts has brought to the table so far, even if Delevingne doesn’t always succeed in these efforts. She has some very big moments during a sequence that’s set in Ireland circa 1243 as well as “Ava Hestia’s” final act.

Delevingne gives a memorable performance in “Ava Hestia,” but the real MVP here is Annabelle Dexter-Jones, who does impressive double duty as Adeline and Sonia. Dexter-Jones makes sure that these both feel like distinct individuals, even when AHS: Delicate descends into camp. She fully carries this episode. There’s a running theme of twins throughout “Ava Hestia” that helps cast the rest of the season in a new light and begs the question of whether AHS: Delicate will conclude with Anna giving birth to two demon offspring rather than one. It’s a curious theory that also brings previous American Horror Story seasons to mind. On that note, one wonders if this nebulous Satanic witch story would hit a little harder if AHS: Delicate made some attempt to connect these dots with AHS: Coven or Apocalypse. It’s frankly a little freeing that Delicate hasn’t been needlessly tied to the series’ grander baggage. However, there are certain elements from “Ava Hestia” that would very naturally tie into Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. 

Jennifer Lynch gets great performances out of Dexter-Jones and even Matt Czuchry punches above his weight in “Ava Hestia.” Some simple yet constructive scene work between Adeline and Dex proves how important a child is to him and that Anna is just the latest symptom of a vicious cycle rather than any sort of soulmate. She’s a variable, not the end result. “Ava Hestia” continues to examine the growing rift between husbands and wives (Dex Sr. is still the absolute worst in every regard) and how ambivalence and apathy are features of marriage, not a bug

Lynch consistently directs some of American Horror Story’s most visually arresting episodes. “Ava Hestia” manages to top what she’s done in the season’s second and third episodes, “Rockabye” and “When the Bough Breaks.” The episode’s final sequence is genuinely haunting and a beautiful bookend to the visceral prologue that kicks off “Ava Hestia.” The season is actually going somewhere now. That being said, these cryptic flashback cold opens would have been even more effective earlier on instead of AHS: Delicate adopting this withholding approach that tells rather than shows.

AHS Delicate Episode 7 Adeline Sonia Twins

It’s rather telling that the season’s best episode is one that doesn’t feature Emma Roberts and focuses exclusively on lore. “Ava Hestia” is a great standalone horror story that would be one of American Horror Stories’ strongest entries if it were just allowed to do its own thing and not worry about eight other episodes of connective tissue. There’s such atmosphere, emotion, and genuine stakes to this installment, all of which have otherwise been lacking throughout AHS: Delicate. Ryan Murphy and company’s compulsion to poke fun at the entertainment industry through a vapid fame-hungry celebrity protagonist makes sense and fits American Horror Story’s general energy. One can’t help but feel that this season would have been significantly stronger if it just focused on Adeline, rather than Anna, and made this story its centerpiece instead of a stop-gap.

“Ava Hestia” gets a lot right, but there are still some clunky elements in this installment. Adeline begins to develop the same facial blemish that Anna has shown over the past few episodes as AHS: Delicate makes it painfully obvious that they’re on the same trajectory and destined for comparable fates unless Anna does something very drastic very soon. It’s also surely no coincidence that Adeline has full-on Mia Farrow-in-Rosemary’s Baby hair going on. This is a wild and scattershot episode of AHS: Delicate. However, it’s still considerably more thought provoking and entertaining than anything that’s preceded it this season. 

AHS: Delicate’s walls increasingly close in around Anna as the audience gains a better understanding of why Delevingne’s Ivy has been so obsessed with her ever since Adeline was out of the picture. “Ava Hestia” doesn’t necessarily answer all of the season’s questions, but it sure has a lot of fun setting them up. There are only two episodes left in AHS: Delicate and we finally have a clear birth plan of where the season is headed and how Anna’s story may end. 

4 out of 5 skulls

AHS Delicate Episode 7 Adeline Satanic Ritual

The post “AHS: Delicate” Review – “Ava Hestia” Just Delivered the Season’s Best Episode to Date appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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