CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 3: “Nighthawks”
Directed by David Straiton
Written by Meredith Averill
* For a review of Episode 2, “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” – click here
* For a review of Episode 4, “Christina’s World” – click here
So this episode is named after the wildly famous painting by Edward Hopper from 1942, depicting that lonely, diner on the corner with its few patrons sitting at the counter with a sole man behind it. Another great choice for an episode name.
Garret Hawthorne (Antony Starr) is sitting outside a diner, watching. He fills in a book of times, places, what the woman he’s watching is doing. Before he gets out of the truck someone comes to meet her, so he hangs back.
All around family friend/handyman Gunther (Aidan Devine) shows young Jack (Gabriel Bateman) how to catch raccoons, or any other “destructive pest” he might need to trap. Mother Madeline (Virginia Madsen) is busy worrying about Garrett, or at least snooping around. Then there’s Brady (Elliot Knight), he’s got that photo of the Hawthorne patriarch with a younger Cam (Justin Chatwin), wearing that belt found in the tunnel’s concrete and making things suspicious. Tessa (Megan Ketch) is of course concerned for her brother, though caught between husband and family, and mixed in with the law.
The rest of the Hawthorne family are at the dinner table hearing about their father’s will, leaving his assets to his wife. Even further, Tessa brings the picture and the possibility of Cam giving over DNA for testing to everyone. Madeline claims the belt got paint on it then she gave it over to Good Will. Yeah, right. She’s also planning on selling off Hawthorne Concrete. Probably to wash her hands of it all before the law gets any closer.
In the meantime big sister Alison (Juliet Rylance) suggests not to do the test because his DNA will be in the system; and what would that matter? Nothing, if there isn’t anything to hide. Like she’s the one to trust. While her husband Tom (Dylan Bruce) tries his best to be a father and husband, she’s got a thing for her campaign manager.
Well everyone gets a bit freaked out in the middle of it all when little Jack puts his cousin Harper’s doll in the trap Gunther gave him. Y’know, because you have to use something the “animal wants” and if you’re trying to trap your little cousin, who’s a girl, what better than a doll? Christ.
When Tess refuses to help Brady out by giving her own DNA to cross Cam off the list, Brady’s colleague Dana (Teresa Pavlinek) suggests it isn’t actually illegal to take a sample from his own home, seeing as how they live together. Ah, shit. Not a good idea in the slightest.
Finally taking the matriarch Hawthorne’s advice, Cam and his estranged wife Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas) discuss the benefits of taking Jack to therapy. Sophie’s father died when she was young, so she was sent to therapy and now feels it was useless. But Cam wins out. He also discovers his therapy sessions were recorded when he was a minor, just as now his son’s will. This worries him. He said dark things and if the cops find those tapes it may get worse for him legally, re: the Silver Bells Killer stuff. Man, this whole thing is thick with mystery. Cam wants to find the tapes and get rid of them. What’s on them? What could be so bad?
And at home – Brady decides to do the unthinkable and take his wife’s brush. He gives it to Dana for some down-low testing. There’s only a matter of time before the family and Brady are really head-to-head.
Jack is now in therapy. He talks with Dr. Donna Stanhope (Ellora Patnaik), as she employs use of a puppet to help. The little dude sees right through that. Even complains the doll’s not “anatomically correct” and is missing his teeth. Meanwhile, Sophie gets Cam the security code for the building’s rear. Wow, these two are sort of made for each other. Perhaps they’re so alike that it’s the reason their relationship doesn’t work. Who knows.
The Hawthorne black sheep Garrett finally goes into the Filly Diner where the woman he watches sits drinking coffee, reading a book. He sits a little down the counter. Then, from nowhere, he sees an old face – Molly (Lara Jean Chorostecki). They do a little catching up. We see how long Garrett’s been out of circulation, not understanding what Molly means by him having “no social media footprint.” As they sit for a chat, the woman Garrett watched closely is gone. So intriguing. He’s definitely the most interesting of the Hawthornes, in my mind.
Over at the mansion, Madeline circles around Gunther, saying his behaviour’s been strange. He makes an eerie comment, almost knowing more than he should: “Nobody should have to die in a cage, anyway.” Then she fires him. A little too close to home. Did she euthanize Mitchell to keep him from jail? Still not sure. Yet.
We start to understand Molly and Garrett were close to marriage. Out of the blue, he disappeared virtually from the face of the earth. No doubt that left behind a ton of baggage. “Here‘s the part where you tell me why you left,” she urges him. From Garrett we start figuring out that he didn’t want to be the predictable guy that took over the family business, that “Golden Boy” type. Too much pressure.
Out being a creep we find Jack, once more. He’s searching out the neighbour’s cat Caramel. Simultaneously, his potentially creepy father Cam sneaks around to get those tapes, hopefully. He doesn’t know there’s someone snapping photos of him from afar. Jack doesn’t find the cat, though he comes across his old neighbour asleep in her bed. And his father, he locates the tapes; one shows him telling the doctor “I wanna talk about the body.” Yikes. Just… yikes. The next day, Cam and Sophie bring Jack back to the doctor. He says he brought his own puppet today. Is why he spied his neighbour’s teeth so eagerly at her bedside table? Dr. Stanhope now says she can’t continue Jack’s therapy. Coincidence? I think not. Little creepy bastard.
The Hawthornes have a big party at their place, Alison using a big sports star to bump her presence. Mother Madeline is skulking around, not sharing everything about Gunther, while the gardener himself is still lurking, as well. That looks like trouble brewing. Upstairs, Garrett brings Molly to his room, for old times sake. Although he looks reluctant. Still they embrace, they kiss. Everything feels like it once did. So they fall into bed together while the party goes on below. Except after she asks about his scars and keeps pressing when he won’t answer, Garrett throws her off, frightening her. Turns out, Madeline told Molly about where Garrett had been going, to the diner. Ah, now we’re going to see the black sheep rage a little, I think.
Mayor Conley (Enrico Colantoni) arrives to the party, uninvited. He brings nothing but bad – pictures of Cam going into the building to get the tapes. To him, and now Alison/her campaign manager Naomi (Maureen Sabastian), it looks like the junkie brother is stealing drugs. The family roots tangle into Alison’s political career, beginning to make things difficult. She confronts Cam, but he’s not telling the truth, obviously. And all this serves to do is drive him back to Sophie.
At the station, Brady finds a receipt for Nellenthal Clothes and Accessories – for one Madeline Hawthorne, from 2002. For a belt. Oh, Brady, you are slipping into the undertow of the Hawthorne family. Sadly, his own wife Tess, a part of the gang, doesn’t have any idea how dark and murky their family tree gets. Moreover, Dana has the DNA results, or at least the short version.
Later, Jack shows his father the puppet he brought Dr. Stanhope. Her name is Phyllis. It’s actually Harper’s doll, only with the old neighbour lady’s false teeth stuck in the mouth. One of the more creepy things I’ve ever seen a kid hold and play with, all the while looking positively thrilled. But hey, it’s anatomically correct now! For Cam’s part, he looks horrified to no end.
Detective Linda Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy) comes to the mansion, looking to talk with Madeline, re: the belt. As Cutter starts digging in deep, Brady arrives with the DNA test: nothing. There’s no connection. What Madeline lets them in on is Gunther having access to all their belongings, et cetera. A great scapegoat. Worse for right now, Tess is pissed that Brady took DNA without her permission, regardless of their family’s exoneration. Lots of trouble within the walls of that home, within that family and its various extensions. Brady’s out on his ass, Tess is mad, Madeline has some degree of control over things again. So much happening.
We discover husband Tom bought Hawthorne Concrete. And he’s done with being his wife’s errand boy. She and Naomi sit drinking together. Alison laments the state of things, and while her mother is powerful she feels like there’s none left for her. These two secret lovers, or maybe not so secret according to Tom’s attitude, take reprieve from the harsh world, and use their alone time to get very, very close.
Garrett confronts his mother about Molly. She wants him to “be happy” except he sees it as wanting his silence. About all the family secrets. There’s something in his past that’s terrifying. Madeline says he needs to put it behind him without destroying them all, himself, the family. “I don‘t know if I can,” he tells her. What skeletons are hiding in this closet?
The one Garrett was watching, Christina (Catalina Sandino Moreno), she’s a nurse. She stitches up his hand after he cuts it wide open. Also, her father was a Silver Bells victim. Holy. Shit. Does Garrett know something about it all? Does he know the truth, whether something his father did or otherwise?
At episode end, Madeline and Tess find Gunther – hanging in the shed outside. Nearby he’s left an envelope or a paper with I’M SORRY scrawled on it.
The mystery in this show is great. Sure, the whole thing isn’t perfect. But I really feel like American Gothic is dark and fun and thrilling. The characters are interesting, the plots are twisty, and there’s even a couple chuckles to be had. Either way, let’s indulge the next episode titled “Christina’s World” together – a 1948 painting by Andrew Wyeth, an important image in the 20th century world of art. Stay with me, fellow fans!