“American Horror Story: Delicate” promised a memorable next chapter of the hit anthology series. The theme of Hollywood conspiracy theories, along with the surprising castings of Kim Kardashian and Cara Delevingne, could have made for an eerie and culturally relevant twelfth season that both appealed to old fans and roped in new ones. But with the show delivering a cliche plot and dispassionate acting thus far, audiences are left pessimistic about the rest of the season.
“Delicate,” which aired its mid-season finale Oct. 18, is based on Danielle Valentine’s novel “Delicate Condition.” The story follows Anna Victoria Alcott (Emma Roberts), an actress who rises to fame after the unexpected success of her most recent film. There is only one thing in the world Alcott wants more than an Oscar nomination: a baby. But when she finally gets pregnant after multiple IVF attempts, Alcott starts noticing strange things happening — she finds a figurine of herself with nails in its stomach, starts losing hours of her day and sees strangers following her. Alcott begins to suspect that someone is stalking her and voices concern to her husband Dexter (Matt Czuchry), who convinces her that she is just stressed with work and the pregnancy.
As the season progresses, viewers begin to understand that something sinister is afoot. It is revealed that women throughout history, including Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, have supposedly been targeted by satanic worshippers and invited to sacrifice their babies in return for fortune and glory. Though audiences are still unsure of Alcott’s fate at this point in the season, it appears that she has been selected as the next victim.
In the past, “American Horror Story” has been able to stand out from other shows in the genre because of its warped and creative take on common horror tropes. The show has been able to grow a large fan base due to its ability to keep viewers on edge while maintaining interesting storylines. Though the concept of “Delicate” is compelling, its execution is boring and fails to harness the bizarre nature of previous seasons to revive its overused themes of creepy dolls and devil worshippers. The producers appear to rely on cliche editing and over-dramatic music to overcompensate for the lack of fear-inducing originality in the script.
Even if the writing for this season was good, it would have been eclipsed by the glaring lack of complexity in any of its characters. Overall, it appears that the show worked around casting bad actors by simply making all the characters cold and utterly uninteresting. Roberts’ mediocre performance presents an insecure, unlikable Hollywood actress whom the audience struggles to empathize with, and the absence of chemistry between her and Czuchry also leaves viewers feeling apathetic about the threats to their relationship. Further, while Czuchry’s portrayal of the out-of-touch husband may be fitting for the role, his emotionless acting makes him feel like an unnecessary part of the cast even though he plays one of the main characters.
Without iconic cast members like Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe and Evan Peters from past “American Horror Story” seasons, the series seems to be resorting to big-name cameos to maintain engagement. Though arguably the most anticipated addition to the series, Kardashian’s role in the show is completely predictable. She plays a steely publicist whose vernacular and mannerisms do not stray too far from her real-life persona. This sparse variation between her character and actual self suggests that she was cast mostly for publicity purposes rather than for her superb acting chops, which does not serve to improve the show in any way.
The only somewhat commendable aspect of the series is its subtle chastisement of gaslighting and not believing women, as illustrated by the characters’ interactions with Alcott. Still, “American Horror Story: Delicate” has failed to live up to expectations so far. The creators have not yet announced when the second half of the show will air, but this viewer won’t be sticking around to see it through.
Daphne is an Arts & Culture writer from Austin, Texas. She is planning on studying International and Public Affairs. Her passions include cats, running and Phoebe Bridgers.