CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 5: “The Artist in His Museum”
Directed by Hanelle Culpepper
Written by Lauren MacKenzie & Andrew Gettens
* For a review of Episode 4, “Christina’s World” – click here
* For a review of Episode 6, “The Chess Players” – click here
Last we left Garrett Hawthorne (Antony Starr) he was taking off his clothes, brandishing that belt, and moving uncomfortably close to Christina Morales (Catalina Sandino Moreno). Is he the Silver Bells Killer? Too obvious, right?
Well, they get interrupted and Garrett slips that belt back on. He’s nervous, especially considering Christina’s friend swears she recognises him from somewhere. “I can‘t do this,” Garrett tells her before leaving. Damn.
Washing blood off his hands, Cam (Justin Chatwin) decides to take a nice dose of heroin. Right as Brady Ross (Elliot Knight), brother-in-law, busts in to find out what he knows about the whole SBK case. Cam’s just shaken up about Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas), the drug dealer. However, Brady lets Cam know about the picture, the belt, so the poor junkie’s got more to worry about than a drug debt or a possibly cheating wife or anything else. At the Hawthorne Mansion, Tess (Megan Ketch) tries to talk with her husband. Unfortunately there’s so much going on that I don’t think there’s any way any single one of them can keep a lid on things. Furthermore, Tess once more refuses to let the family DNA go to the cops when her husband wants to test the needle Cam was ready to mainline. For his part the guy doesn’t want to be a junkie. As a former addict myself, I know the struggle (not heroin; and that’s worse). Still, it’s tough to deal with as the people around an addict.
Oh, and dear ole mom is out doing her own thing. That strange note she got during the last episode is in an envelope. Madeline (Virginia Madsen) fills it with twenties.
The Silver Bells case is not particularly going smooth. Not for Brady. Detective Linda Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy) continually breaks his balls, even if he’s fighting for the good side. His boss is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. That’s all that really matters.
Alison (Juliet Rylance) and Naomi (Maureen Sebastian) are being blackmailed by a young woman working for the campaign. The one that saw them having a steamy time during the previous episode. While she’s extorting money, Alison has other pressing things to attend to apparently.
Now Cam is into the detox stage. He wants to get back on the wagon, shake the horse. Only problem is he’s seeing things. Terrifying things. Like silver bells falling out of the medicine cabinet. Like his father in the mirror, saying he needs to show his son a body. He’s hallucinating hardcore, as his father keeps chasing him. So much so Cam actually knocks his sister in the head accidentally. “You know what you saw,” Mitchell Hawthorne (Jamey Sheridan) says ominously to his son.
What an opener. This episode is titled after a painting by Charles Willson Peale, a self-portrait from 1822, in case anyone’s interested.
So the police are looking to speak with Cam, and the Hawthorne children are struggling to hide him. To hide other things. Even things of which they have no clue. The sort of stuff their mother is hiding. Of course they all have skeletons. Although the dirtiest, darkest ones belong to mommy.
All the while, Cam is detoxing. His siblings, despite their attitudes, are trying their best to help him out. He’s finding reality tough to delineate from his hallucinations and the dreams and all the rest of it. Alison supports him. Or is that mostly out of concern for her political career? Not easy to tell with the Hawthornes. They’re master manipulators. All of them.
The always amazing Lin Shaye makes a nice cameo as Lila, waitress at a diner. She’s the one getting money from Madeline – her daughter. Yowzahs! Love that. Shaye is a fascinating presence. Just to see her now, the way she grifts from one moment to the next, it’s no wonder Madeline turned out at least a little skewed. Looking forward to more of that backstory.
Meanwhile, Garrett and Alison are left together. He confronts her. Wondering why she’s avoiding him. She excuses it all because of her busy schedule. When she makes insinuations about Garrett, his past, he tells her: “I have no idea what happened.” And then he makes cryptic references about secrets, meant to hold onto that “greater good” or otherwise known as the Hawthorne family’s best interests.
In Cam’s latest nightmare, his own son Jack (Gabriel Bateman) sits with his false teeth doll reciting Robert Burns’ poem “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” in eerie fashion, as Mitchell wanders around in other parts. The poor guy cannot catch a mental break. He later sees Mitch pulling a body down a spiral staircase, mumbling. Real creepy stuff.
Out at Lila’s trailer her daughter waits. Then the waitress comes flying home, drunk as hell. She nearly knocks the trailer over and tears up her own garden. Hammered. I guess most of that money Madeline is giving her goes to booze.
Detective Cutter keeps pressing, overstepping the boundaries by questioning Jack when nobody’s around. There’s definitely a bigger confrontation brewing there. Especially now with young Jack being brought into the mix. Tess decides it’s time to “end this” and wants to have the DNA finally tested.
Garrett hears Cam talking in his sleep. He needs to know more, though Cam is in the throes of an awful detox. So the older brother ties his younger brother up and heads out for a bit. He goes to see Christina to try and get some help.
We find out more about Madeline’s “arrangement” with her mother Lila. They’ve agreed, because of Mitchell, that she stay away from her grandchildren. Lila sees it as control. She mentions someone named Caleb, perhaps a previous husband or a boyfriend, somebody close. But Madeline says it was all her idea to keep Lila away. To protect her children from the dysfunction of her own mother. “People change,” Lila says between tears. “But you don‘t,” replies Madison. The relationship seems irreparable.
Cam is sweating it out, as his siblings try to rally around him. Lost in a dream he’s walked, hand in hand, by his father down the staircase, the body being dragged nearby. “Was it me, Cam?” Garrett asks, then Mitch asks, then Cam himself asks.
There’s a nasty secret buried somewhere deep down there. Wonder if it’ll work its way out.
Later, the brothers chat again. Garrett pokes around for more info. Cam says he’s had those images and thoughts in his head since his teenage years. He tells his brother about the body being dragged. He worries there’s more to the Silver Bells, the repressed memories he’s got floating around in his mind. But Garrett does his best to keep those memories repressed. Awhile later, Cam starts inspecting the staircase looking for clues of what happened on that staircase in his dreams, or if it’s all just smoke.
Brady tells Tess that it urns out Cam is not a match to the DNA.
However, there’s a familial match. The blood on that belt is still from a Hawthorne; the Silver Bells Killer.
Fun episode. Again, not perfect. But I dig it enough to keep watching. Next episode is titled “The Chess Players” and is named after a painting by American artist Thomas Eakins.