Spooky season has finally arrived! The temperature is cooling, the leaves are changing, and our yearly fix of horror is returning to our screens. Nothing signals a shift from summer to fall and the need to consume everything pumpkin spice and a new season of American Horror Story. Now in its twelfth year, the Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk-created series does something this season it has never done before: adapted a book for television. American Horror Story: Delicate is based on a novel by Danielle Valentine, called Delicate Conditions, which explores the trials of pregnancy and the issues women face being heard in our society, with a horror flair.
The season premiere, “Multiply Thy Pain” is written by Halley Feiffer, who wrote every episode of this season as well as served as the showrunner. This is the first time that Feiffer has written for the AHS universe, however having written all the episodes shows that she has quite a bit of creative control and understanding of this season. Jessica Yu directs the premiere. Yu is also new to AHS but has directed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, 13 Reasons Why, and Citadel.
So is American Horror Story: Delicate worth your time? Continue on to see what the premiere episode has in store!
[Warning: Spoilers from American Horror Story: Delicate Premiere are below! There are also depictions of miscarriages, so viewer discretion is advised.]
Pregnancy scares and other ghastly things
Anna Victoria Alcott (Emma Roberts) has a life many would die for. She’s a (relatively) successful actress, living in a gorgeous high rise, and is with an incredibly supportive man, Dexter (Matt Czuchry) who appears to worship the ground she walks on. However, for everything that her life has going for her, one of her deepest desires seems just out of reach. Anna wants to be a mother but hasn’t had the greatest of luck or experiences.
As the show opens up, we see her having a miscarriage after someone apparently breaks into her house. Although, it’s unclear if someone actually broke into the house, if there’s something paranormal going on, or if it’s all in her head. Regardless of what set it off, the experience leaves its mark on Anna, as the ordeal of having a miscarriage obviously would. And yet, she picks up the pieces of her life and continues on the best she can.
Flashing forward an indiscriminate amount of time, Anna and Dexter have another appointment set with Dr. Andrew Hill (Denis O’Hare). Dr. Hill is a leading expert in fertility treatment, who successfully harvests many eggs, provides the couple with hope and a ton of prenatal drugs to prep her body for another round of in vitro fertilization. Now they have to wait to see if the eggs become embryos so that the two can finally become parents.
Mystery and suspense at the core of American Horror Story: Delicate Part 1
It isn’t long after this appointment that Anna begins experiencing odd instances that she can’t quite explain. The first is the appearance of not one, but two mysterious women who seem to show up whenever Anna is, with one of them being played by Cara Delevigne. Obviously, this concerns Anna deeply, and I can’t blame her. The ladies are creepy, in appearance and stature, but whenever Anna speaks up about it, everyone dismisses her concern.
But that’s not the only time that she’s dismissed as paranoid and anxious, because this message comes up frequently as things begin to move around her. At one point, her medication is left out, when it’s supposed to be refrigerated. She insists that she didn’t leave it out, but Dexter doesn’t necessarily believe her. The same instance happens in her manager/friend Siobhan’s (Kim Kardashian) office when she’s signing autographs for her fans. No one seems to believe her or writes it off as forgetfulness due to stress. However, Anna knows deep down that something is off.
On top of the creepy woman and the extreme bouts of forgetfulness, odd occurrences relating to spiders keep popping up. A hair from her head that never ends resembles a spider’s web for example, but it’s not the only callback to spiders in the episode. Anna even voices her concern about having a spider child (cue the Madame Webb jokes), which Siobhan laughs at, again dismissing her concerns as normal folly.
Anna is also haunted by the figurative ghost of Dexter’s deceased wife, whose presence is felt throughout the first episode. Be it from Dexter’s friends who knew and loved his previous wife, or Anna’s questions about producing a child. This haunting force looms over Anna, adding to the tension and fear felt throughout the episode.
As the episode continues on, the paranoia and intensity ratchet up, as Anna begins to doubt the in vitro process. She begins to see danger at every corner, some mundane, others bordering on the paranormal. She feels like someone is watching her, hunting her, but she can’t prove it and even if she could, no one will believe her. The episode ends with a scene reminiscent of the opening one, with an intruder, a miscarriage, and a message left in lipstick on the mirror. “Don’t Do It, Anna”, ending the episode with a sense of unease.
The positives and negatives of “Multiply Thy Pain”
As a psychologist, the first thing that struck me about this premiere episode was the topic of choice it chose to cover. Birthing trauma is experienced by more women than anyone talks about. There’s almost a shame to the topic, a feeling that isolates the people who have to go through it. Instead, if women talked about it, they may not feel so alone in their sadness and anxiety.
This is something that Luna spoke about in her review of the novel, and that message still remains clear in the show. I feared prior to watching the episode that perhaps it would be toned down for television, however, FX refused to shy away. Instead, it feels like it’s been highlighted in a way that makes the topic more accessible for women to talk about. The possibility of a more open dialogue about miscarriages and the strife that occurs from it will always be a positive in my book.
So far, the writing has been great as well. The story in this episode is well-paced, with intriguing characters and just enough of a mystery to keep audiences engaged. The possibilities of what’s going on with Anna are enough to keep me tuning in. Is there something sinister happening to her? What do the spiders have to do with what’s happening with Anna? And why is someone warning her against having a child? Whatever is going on, I’m pulled into the mystery and drama, needing to know just what exactly is going on in Delicate.
The show pushes the idea of how no one believes Anna and her experiences, which again is a reality for so many women. Especially when it comes to the medical field. So for that reason alone, I hope that American Horror Story: Delicate doesn’t go that route. Let it be something paranormal or sinister. I’ll even accept a cult that is after Anna and her child for some reason or another. Anything would be better than it all being in her head, which would negate the message of the novel.
With this premiere only being one episode, it’s hard to get a feel for many of the characters. The first episode focuses primarily on Anna’s story, with everyone else just serving as secondary characters. Roberts brings a great duality to Anna, which some of her other AHS characters have lacked. She’s great at playing the mean girl, which for a while after Coven she seemed to get typecast as. However, Anna is vastly different and shows just how good of an actress Roberts is.
I was also surprised by Kim Kardashian’s performance of Siobhan. I haven’t watched much of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, but she’s known as a reality star, not a serious actress. However, as Siobhan, Kardashian shows that she can act among the best of them. Her performance isn’t ridged or cold, but instead feels natural. I’m excited to see where she goes with this role over the next seven episodes.
My one concern about this season is that the story itself feels like it has a ton of moving components. As fans of American Horror Story know, some of the seasons, such as Asylum, struggled when the stories became too complex. I think there’s a reality where all the pieces work perfectly, making it one of the best seasons of the series so far. However, there’s also a strong possibility that all the cogs don’t work together and Delicate ends up falling apart. I suppose judgment will have to wait until more of the season comes out and audiences can watch the story unfold.
American Horror Story: Delicate Part One airs Wednesdays on FX and Hulu. What are your thoughts on the premiere episode? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.