Motherhood is terrifying. I know that many will disagree with me, but I personally find the thought of being a mother enough to send my heart plunging to the pit of my stomach. Even more so, the thought of being pregnant is equally terrifying. Especially when confronted with the very real possibility of an unplanned pregnancy. Your body morphs to accommodate the fetus and, for many women, the process of carrying a child can come with major complications, even threatening the mother’s life. However, there are many who will do anything to have a child. Hulu and Blumhouse aim to explore these anxieties and needs in true horror-filed fashion in INTO THE DARK’s Mother’s Day-themed episode titled DELIVERED.
The episode focuses on a very pregnant Val (Natalie Paul), who is dealing with anxieties surrounding the arrival of her upcoming baby. While struggling with late-term vomiting, her husband’s enthusiasm, and whatever is burdening her mind as the due date approaches, Val finds a sounding board in Jenna (Tina Majorino), a seemingly pregnant mother-to-be in her Mommy-yoga class. One day Jenna invites Val and her husband over to her farm for a home-cooked dinner. However, things take a real sharp turn after Jenna’s plan reveals itself and Val is left defenseless and – literally – chained in this stranger’s home. It soon becomes a battle between the two women as Val tries to save herself and come to terms with the arrival of her future child and the secrets it carries.
As I always try to do, I’m going to try to keep things as spoiler-free as I possibly can. Into The Dark’s DELIVERED hit certain emotional points with me that I wasn’t exactly expecting. It’s hard not to step into the shoes of both main characters in this, especially as a woman who’s hit that point in her life where she’s being asked continuously when she’s going to conceive. Even today, it seems like that’s all anyone really focuses on for us. With all that being said, writer Dirk Blackman constructs a tale that is both straightforward, yet peppered with little nuggets that help provide an extra little spice of surprise for the viewer. And, for fans of Stephen King’s Misery, there are a great many homages to the spine-chilling classic that you are all sure to enjoy. Director Emma Tammi pulls performances from both Natalie Paula and Tina Majorino that helps propel the story forward and, dare I say, elevate it. And, even when we arrive at an uncomfortable animal death scene, Tammi handles it with care while also reminding the viewer that, unlike most animal deaths, this one is entirely necessary.
On a thematic level, there is much to take in. I would be remiss if I didn’t address how the casting of a woman in color alters the narrative arc slightly for Val. In Into The Dark’s DELIVERED, we have an example of a woman of color’s body via physical and emotional labor being exploited for a white woman’s gain. While the topic of race itself is not addressed or a focus in the film, it’s hard not to pick up on certain symbolic elements that change as a result of the casting. Val is forced to wear chains in the house to keep her from running away. She experiences a sheer loss of autonomy as it becomes quite clear that, despite Jenna’s friendly face and tone, she fully plans to dispose of Val once her purpose is served. And there is a particular moment in the film where Val finds photos of Jenna’s previous failures. The catch is that they are all white or passing women. This makes Jenna’s assertions that Val is “the one” ring differently when you realize the subtle differences between her and those photos.
There is also the matter of discussing the insecurities and anxieties surrounding motherhood. While there are other reasons for Val to be anxious concerning the approach of her child, it is a normal thing for women to worry about the arrival of a newborn. We see this expressed through some rather concerning body horror as well as an excellent performance from Natalie Paul when Val is alone with herself and her thoughts. On the flip side, we see Tina Majorino’s Jenna struggle with her inability to have children. While her character takes extreme measures to acquire a child, we all know someone who struggles with infertility and the heavy emotions that come with it. This particularly resonated with me because there is so much pressure for women to have children in our society. When there is a failure to conceive, it is hard to escape from that feeling of failure, which feels particularly amplified with Jenna’s life story.
Overall, I did enjoy Into The Dark’s DELIVERED and how it handled the complexities of impending motherhood. There are questions concerning quality parenting, infertility, and a loss of bodily autonomy that make this seemingly simple story weigh heavily once the credits roll. With strong performances from both Natalie Paul and Tina Majorino, with Majorino’s eerie quirky delivery rattling differently, this is definitely one of the more successful episodes of this current season of the horror anthology series.
Into The Dark’s DELIVERED will be available on Hulu on Friday, May 8, 2020.