From Stephanie Leonidas

American Gothic – Episode 9: “The Oxbow”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 9: “The Oxbow”
Directed by Doug Aarniokoski
Written by Lawrence Broch

* For a review of Episode 8, “Kindred Spirits” – click here
* For a review of Episode 9, “The Veteran in a New Field” – click here
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The title for this episode comes from Thomas Cole’s View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm. Otherwise known as The Oxbow.
I wonder where the series will give homage to the 1836 oil painting?
Brad Ross (Elliot Knight) is having a rough go of things. But at least now he’s got Garrett Hawthorne (Antony Starr) in custody. He’s got the missing piece and Garrett’s knife matched. Flash to 2002, as Madeline (Virginia Madsen) finds her son, covered in blood, holding a knife. “What did you do?” she asks.
Well, we’re not given a straight answer. He looks incredibly guilty. But what more is there. Much more, I bet. Madeline visits him in jail and tries to start spinning things in her favour, to help her son. Or is it mostly to help herself? For now, Garrett has an attorney working for him, although he’s not particularly worried about what she’s doing. Instead he rattles off quotes from Horace Mann: “If evil is inevitable, how are the wicked held accountable? Why do we call men wicked at all? Evil if inevitable, but it is also remediable.”
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Back to 2003. A younger Garrett wakes up before his family arrives at the cabin, he takes off into the woods on his own again. While breaking into a cabin, he comes across Al Jenkins (M.C. Gainey) who isn’t exactly convinced with his story of just being out on his own, away from Boston. You can tell there’s more to that relationship.
In the current day, Garrett gets a call from Cam (Justin Chatwin) in rehab. Both brothers in their own respective cages. The older of the two apologises for getting his younger brother close to drugs the last time. Cam doesn’t think he needs to, but Garrett feels guilty generally for never being around. He confides in Cam: “You stayed true to yourselfIm so proud of you.” Cut back to the younger Garrett, out in those woods. He chases a rabbit with a knife until coming across Al once again. They have a bit of dinner together around the fire. They bond. This leads to Garrett getting his own cabin after Al leads him to the place of a now dead old man. And the life of the wandering Hawthorne begins. Al teaches him a thing or two about surviving on his own.
In present day Alison (Juliet Rylance) doesn’t believe her brother was an accomplice of any kind to the Silver Bells Killer, their dear ole dad. Who knows what’s left to be done for the elder Garrett brother at this point, though. In other news, Alison has Jennifer Windham (Sarah Power) started on a bit of dirty work trying to dig up dirt on the current mayor. Ah, the greasy Hawthorne ethic comes out strong in this one.


Slide back to 2008. Al tells Garrett about losing a niece, as they bond over family members to which they were close; Garrett talks about his sister Tess (Megan Ketch) and how they were the closest of all the family. Speaking of Tess, she is certainly not convinced about her brother, either. She keeps telling her husband there must be some other explanation. However, Brady does not get her “loyalty” to a guy like Garrett. He suggests confronting her brother, seeing if he’ll confess or deny it to her face.
It’s on!
The painting from which the episode gets its name is all about the confrontation between wilderness and civilisation. We see that represented totally through Garrett. As the years pass, he stays in the woods, away from civilisation. Away from his family. He peeks in occasionally. He buys a newspaper to read Cam’s cartoon Roger’s Cube. There’s part of him that doesn’t want to let go. He gets his number to Tess without being seen, so they can get in touch: “If you need it,” Garrett lets her know. Their bond is so obviously a deep one, a caring one. Great scenes between those two.
When Tess goes to see him in jail things have changed. At least a little. Garrett’s mostly only concerned with his possible niece or nephew coming along. He doesn’t want anybody worrying about him. Tess asks him point blank about the knife. Her brother won’t answer what she needs to hear, casually suggesting his guilt. The change in their relationship is becoming more of a divide. Everyone’s opinion of Garrett has gone 180 degrees.
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Jennifer’s been tracking the mayor. He meets with Detective Linda Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy) in secret. What exactly are they doing?
We see more of creepy little Jack (Gabriel Bateman) visiting his uncle, being weird. Talking about the bubonic plague and other happy things. He mentions seeing Christina (Catalina Sandino Moreno) at the hospital near the ultrasound department; Garrett tries calling her, but no luck in talking much. Then he calls his lawyer, desperate to get out of jail: he’s going to be a dad.
There are big things happening in the Silver Bells case. Mainly the police department is getting their ass kicked by Garrett’s lawyer. She starts bringing up chain of custody, mishandling evidence. Might not be long before Garrett does see the light of day.
Switch back to ’08. Garrett finds Al in pain on the floor, his heart aching. He’s writhing in agony. “This is it,” he says. Death is coming for him. So Al begs his friend: “Help me die.” Of course Garrett refuses. The begging becomes desperate until finally he agrees to help Al along the way. He holds a pillow over the man’s face and eases him into the afterlife.
Seeing this, can we actually now say that Garrett was an accomplice to murder? Definitely not in the first hand sense. He could barely help a dying man go ahead and die. There’s reason to suspect he may not be a killer whatsoever.
Then 2016 rolls around, and Garrett heads back to the city when his father’s ready to die. Present day, he sits behind the walls of prison. On the television he watches Jennifer Windham reporting on the Silver Bells Killer. Someone holds her hostage, making her read a note claiming himself as the true accomplice.

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In 2002, after Madeline walked in on Garrett with the blood stains over him, the knife in his hand, she asks what he’s done. The young Garrett replies: “He tried to kill me.”
Everything gets deeper and deeper, with every turn.
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A solid entry into the first season. Great episode! Suspenseful, mysterious.
Next is “The Veteran in a New Field” and is titled so after an 1865 painting by Winslow Homer depicting a man using a scythe in an open, empty field. You can find that painting here.

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American Gothic – Episode 8: “Kindred Spirits”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 8: “Kindred Spirits”
Directed by Lexi Alexander
Written by Deidre Shaw

* For a review of Episode 7, “The Gross Clinic” – click here
* For a review of Episode 9,”The Oxbow” – click here
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Who are the titular “Kindred Spirits” and where will we find the influence of Asher Brown Durand’s 1849 painting in this episode? You can find the painting here, so look out for where the painting might be recreated or referenced.
So is Madeline Hawthorne (Virginia Madsen) accomplice to her husband’s crimes?
Garrett (Antony starr) is trying to get a lump sum of money out of his mother. Says it’s “in the familys best interest” to be paid. At the Boston Eastside Clinic, he gives them a bunch of it. He gives it all away. Perhaps a way for him to assuage his guilt.
Cam (Justin Chatwin) is headed into rehab. All over the news, too. In fact, the Hawthornes are being targeted quite fierce in the media by a young reporter named Jennifer Windham (Sarah Power). Certainly doesn’t help things. And Cam, he’s trying his best to kick that habit; he winds up meeting a fan of his comic Roger’s Cube, a nurse  named April (Bethany Joy Lenz).
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Detectives Linda Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy) and Brady Ross (Elliot Knight) continue trying to figure out who was the second hand in the Silver Bells murders. A hit and run accident may hold the key.
Aunt Tessa (Megan Ketch) is looking after crazy little Jack (Gabriel Bateman), as well as meeting with her doctor. I feel awful for her in a lot of ways. She’s been swept up in a whirlwind of different emotions, which are all crashing up against one another. Tess is at least trying to do something for the kid. She takes him to a camp for… strange kids. I don’t know. Regardless, Jack doesn’t seem totally adverse to the idea.
Ms. Windham gets a visit from mother-daughter team, Alison (Juliet Rylance) and Madeline. They might’ve pushed too hard in the wrong direction. Not only that, she has lots of information on the Hawthorne family. Even knowing that Jack’s out at the creepy kid camp meeting an equally creepy young lady named Sadie (Aviv Cohen); she might harbour some of the tendencies.
Well, Garrett and the rest of the clan are now determined to dig up the “source” of all their troubles.
Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas) goes to visit Cam. She seems on the outside of her little family, as her husband is in there cleaning up, trying hard, just like her son, too. Maybe there’s hope after all. If only she weren’t totally full of shit most of the time.
Out on their search, Dts. Cutter and Ross come across a house in the woods. There, they meet an old woman named Ramona Canby (Clare Coulter). They’re looking for her husband, James. Except he’s dead now nearly three decades. And the car the detectives were tracking got stolen twenty years back.
Problem for Tess now is that she’s scared of passing on the horrific Hawthorne gene to her child. Infecting it with the want for violence and murder, like her father. Most likely the same with young Jack. Speaking of the boy, he and Sadie are getting closer; he mentions Garrett having a cabin near the camp. Also that he was suspected of being a serial killer, which interests twisted Miss Sady.
Alison and Garrett sit on Jennifer’s place, waiting to follow her, figure out to whom she’s been talking. The brother and sister reconnect slightly, but then they find out it’s Tom (Dylan Bruce), her husband. He is the source. Yikes. Their marriage is rough.
When Brady suggests there’s something bigger at play, Cutter shuts him down. However, you can see that he’s not willing to let that go totally. Better than that his keen eye discovers that old widow Canby lied. She had a program from Mitchell’s funeral in her home.

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The 1849 Durand painting is given literal homage when the two kindred spirits in Jack and Sadie emulate the men in the picture, standing out in the woods above the forest, as if lords of the world. Dark lords, but still. They soon find Garrett’s cabin out there. Sadie fires a small crossbow nearly taking Jack’s head off. Then their bright idea is to play a bit of William Tell. Only Jack can’t bring himself to do it proving he may not be as sick as we thought. Definitely a tad too curious, though.
Sophie unsuccessfully tries getting April fired. This probably only drives Cam closer to the sweet nurse. She helps the guy, quite a bit. Further aiding him in realising that “Cam is to heroin as Cam is to Sophie” – a hate/love, burning bright and hanging low type of love. Nasty. Yet necessary.
When more personal Hawthorne details, including Tess’ pregnancy, make it out into the news, Garrett locates a bug transmitting from the dining room. That’s why Jennifer bumped into Tom at the house, where he had sex with her, after which she planted the device. Oh, man. Tom is one real dimwitted man. Nevertheless, Tess and Brady are at odds now because of the big pregnancy news, and she isn’t even too happy about bringing a child into a “horrific family legacy.” Their argument leads to him telling her Papa Hawthorne was working with an accomplice.
Meanwhile, the detectives go back to the Canby place at night. Front door wide open. Ramona lying dead on the floor. More victims of The Silver Bells Killer.
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Alison confronts Jennifer with the bug, plus the truth about her and Tom. She’s a pretty intimidating lady when she wants to be, just like mother. She does a good psychological job on the young reporter. This rolls into Jennifer being pressured to do positive spins for the Hawthorne family. Along with a little humiliation. What a scene, wow!
In rehab, Cam tells Sophie they’re finished. “This is not what I want anymore, you are not what I want anymore,” he confesses coldly. That’s what true rehabilitation often means for those with friends or loved ones who are also addicts, or enablers. Sad, yet true. I know all too well.
Things with Tess are smoothing out. She’s feeling more confident about the baby, the family and life with Brady. Calm before the storm, I imagine.
At home, Alison, Madeline, and Garrett toast their latest success. Everybody’s friends, everyone is happy. Only Alison doesn’t know everything about her mother, or her brother. Most interesting is when Jack gets sent home from camp to Tess – he’s found with the knife he lifted from Garrett’s cabin. Just so happens Brady sees the chip in it, the missing piece, literally, to his puzzle. At least partly. The chip is in evidence, photographed clearly. Once Jack tells Brady the knife is from the cabin, things changed. Quickly.
So is Garrett the true accomplice? Or are we being led astray once more?

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Great, great episode. One of my favourites. This was creepy, some new things came to light, and we’re consistently thrown off in regards to Garrett. Next up is “The Oxbow” and it’s named for the 1836 oil canvas by Thomas Cole – the actual name of the painting is View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm, but The Oxbow is the common name.

American Gothic – Episode 7: “The Gross Clinic”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 7: “The Gross Clinic”
Directed by Steph Green
Written by Aaron Fullerton

* For a review of Episode 6, “The Chess Players” – click here
* For a review of Episode 8, “Kindred Spirits” – click here
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To start, this episode is named after the painting by Thomas Eakins from 1875.
Last we saw Garrett (Antony Starr), he was not doing so well. Christina Morales (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is telling her side of the story, given the news that Garrett’s father was a match for The Silver Bells Killer. Supposedly.
The Hawthorne matriarch, Madeline (Virginia Madsen), is dealing with the fallout of the revelation that her husband was Silver Bells. Did she know? Well, for now we’re not sure. But then Garrett reveals that 14 years ago he found rope, bells, in his father’s things. He didn’t know what to believe. The day after, Christina’s father was killed. This made for a confrontation between father and son. He promised to come back if ever there were another Silver Bells murder. While Tess (Megan Ketch) isn’t impressed he didn’t tell them their father was a murderer, Alison (Juliet Rylance) isn’t so much shocked as she is at least relieved to know her brother isn’t the killer. Doesn’t make it any better.
Oh, and Garrett tells Cam (Justin Chatwin) he needs a little favour. Hmm.
Brady (Elliot Knight) apologises to his wife for jumping the gun on Garrett. He tries his best to assure her, about their marriage and so on. At the same time, she’s struggling to cope with the fact her father was a serial killer. Hard to reconcile. Although she tries. By smashing an ornament he once gave her; it’s a start.
Something sparks in Brady, though. He feels something isn’t quite right. Not yet.
This is confirmed more once we know there’s more to Garrett and his revelation. “Its best to let your father take the fall for everything,” his mother comforts him. I always knew there was more to Madeline and her part in this than any of what we know already.
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Tess: “Was my dad real? Was Mitchell Hawthorne just a character that he played to seem normal so people wouldnt suspect he was a killer? Or was he just a normal guy with this desire?”


The comment about hot air ballooning from Tess, about her father taking her out for her birthday, leads Brady to believe maybe Mitchell could not have killed his victim and made it back in time to the Hawthorne mansion. It all doesn’t make sense. And Detective Linda Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy) is on to his doubts, she knows there needs to be a “Scully” to his “Mulder” so he stays on the rails.
A growing rift is cracking open between Tom (Dylan Bruce) and Alison. He wonders if there’s any reason to hold onto their marriage if she and Naomi (Maureen Sebastian) are actually in love. Tom doesn’t like their former arrangement. Not that there’s major feelings involved at this point. Either she ends it, or he isn’t going to be able to stick around much longer.
Cam goes to see Christina, to let her know Garrett wants to explain what happened. That’s not so easy. She doesn’t want anything to do with their tainted family. Can’t say I blame her, either. Plus, Cam is still wrestling with his addiction, and being out in the streets away from his closed in family protection only tempts. Most troubling is Tess, who’s still dealing with mental issues. She looks on the verge of a panic attack. With everything happening, it’ll only get worse.
Falling off the wagon, Cam is found out by Tess right as he’s ready to get high. This prompts another round of rehab. Their boy Jack (Gabriel Bateman) was stranded at school while they were blasting to the moon. So this time Cam knows he fucked up. He even wants Tess to look after his boy instead of Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas). She is one absolute mess of a person.
Over at the first SBK murder house, Brady and Cutter are starting to work on their recreation of the scene, to see if there’s any reason they ought to be suspicious of Mitchell being named the killer. Meanwhile, Garrett tries explaining to Tess why he did what he did; only we know he’s lying. Every bit if made up. So what’s the real truth? Who killed those people? Was it Garrett, or was it dear ole mom? Let’s wait to see more of the mystery trickle down. Me, I’m starting to really, really worry about young Jack. He’s a twisted little bastard. Doesn’t help that he has a sick uncle.
Note: our interpretation of Eakins’ The Gross Clinic comes when Garrett takes Jack to see a corpse in the hospital; the picture is recreated with a doctor giving a lecture, as medical students look through the inside of a body.

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See the real painting here

Brady and Cutter figure out the timeline is close, but possible. Just too close. The new owner of the house gives them a bit of information about a security system installed in the house due to a “Feng Shui bandit” back during that era. What Cutter believes is that it could’ve been SBK’s first attempt before going full-on murderer.
When Alison decides to concede defeat in her campaign, mom slaps her face. However, I believe Madeline is more concerned with her image, the family, not Alison in particular. She wants her dead husband to take the fall, once and for all, and to put the SBK saga behind them. “You will not squander this, for either of us,” she tells her daughter sternly. So rather than give up, Alison fights her family’s newly uncovered history.
In the hospital, Garrett gets a visit from Christina. We can’t be so sure exactly why he’s been stalking her. Is it guilt? Seems to me like maybe part of it has to do with guilt, in some way, shape, or form. She wants to know more, but there’s no guaranteeing that even if he decides to say anything further that it will be the truth. Luckily, Christina gauges his pulse from the monitors, as he reels off lies. “Last chance,” she tells him. To this, no response. He isn’t ready to tell any truths.
And scary little Jack, he’s luring his cousins out onto a pool that’s covered. This is just great. Another sicko in the family. The way he watches one of the cousins flail in the pool is downright evil. He’s got that nasty family gene. When Tess asks why Jack didn’t call for help, he simply replies: “It was science. I wanted to see how oxygen deprivation affected her brain.” Holy flip. That’s seriously muffed up. This all makes Tess try to get her brother to consider getting Jack serious help. Like any sane, caring sister would do.
Later, Tess gets a little good news: she’s pregnant. No guarantee the child won’t come out a budding serial killer, by the looks of the current progeny. Rolling the dice on that one, and it’s exactly what she’s thinking, too.


Mommy and Garrett have another bedside chat. “Im done, mom,” he explains. “Cant keep starinpeople I love in the eye and lying to them.” Except Madeline doesn’t agree. There’s something breaking through in Garrett. He’s curious if maybe his father started wanting to get the truth out, and she killed him off. We know what she did. Now, her son knows, as well. And there’s no coming back from it. The secrets come out, then they’re never able to be crammed back in.
What will Madeline do to further ensure her own secrets are kept locked up tight?
When Brady and Cutter track down surveillance footage of a break-in across the street from SBK’s first murder scene, they discover there were two people in the car that night. Somebody else was driving for Mitchell.
…and then there were two.
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So excited to see the next episode. This was one of my personal favourites because of the switch up on how I thought things were going. Still some unexpected surprises. Next episode is titled “Kindred Spirits” after a painting by Asher Brown Duran from 1849, which depicts a painter and a poet together in the Catskill Mountains.

American Gothic – Episode 6: “The Chess Players”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 6: “The Chess Players”
Directed by Ed Ornelas
Written by Allen MacDonald

* For a review of Episode 5, “The Artist in His Museum” – click here
* For a review of Episode 7, “The Gross Clinic” – click here
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Who is The Silver Bells Killer?
Tess (Megan Ketch) and Brady (Elliot Knight) are finally on the same page. Meanwhile, Alison (Juliet Rylance) is onstage with Mayor Bill Conley (Enrico Colantoni) at the Boston Mayoral Debate. Gun control is a big issue, as usual. At home, Cam (Justin Chatwin) watches his sister with his creepy son Jack (Gabriel Hawthorne).
Then everything blows wide open when a reporter asks Alison about the Silver Bells murders, the police now officially linking the DNA to a member of the Hawthornes. Yikes. Not good press.
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Back at the mansion everybody’s wondering what to do next. Mother Madeline (Virginia Madsen) is not pleased to discover Tess and Brady went ahead to have the DNA tested. I guess at least Cam is cleared. Only now someone within the ranks is most certainly the serial killer. “Which one of us is it?” Alison asks them all.
At the same time, Garrett (Antony Starr) isn’t present. He’s off in the woods somewhere with Christina Morales (Catalina Sandino Moreno). He has… something to show her. No cellphones allowed, either. Isn’t this getting unsettling? Personally, I feel like Garrett is too easy an answer.
Madeline believes the police “manipulate evidence all the time to fit whatever narrative they please” and she’s adamant. She believes the belt being found made them look bad, so now they’re being framed. My opinion? Madeline is directly involved in the Silver Bells murders. Before much more family time the police arrive. With a warrant: DNA swabs, any evidence they can find, et cetera.
There’s a part of Garrett that does seem genuinely infatuated with Christina. Is that all there is to it? Or, perhaps, is there guilt due to him having witnessed a clue to, or the actual act of, Christina’s father being murdered? Very hard to tell right now. Part of why I dig the series as much as I do. Not perfectly written, but there’s a good deal of interesting mystery, intrigue, and suspense.
At the Hawthorne house, Alison lays out her idea that Garrett was the killer. Then Cam reveals seeing a body dragged down the stairs when he was a teenager; he believes it was their father, Mitchell (Jamey Sheridan). Nobody’s sure, really. Everybody has their own opinion, though Cam definitely saw somebody with that body. Madeline puts her foot down after their talk. She doesn’t want to hear anymore nonsense.
I keep wondering about Jack, too. He’s definitely got the strangeness in him. “This house is full of predatory birds,” he tells his bewildered father. What I wonder most is if Jack will continue on the family tradition of murder later on down the road.


In other news, Alison’s husband Tom (Dylan Bruce) has nearly had enough of his wife and Naomi (Maureen Sebastian). Particularly now that it’s encroaching on their love life.
Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas) shows up at the Hawthornes. She tries to convince Cam that his family is a toxic relationship. Never mind their junkie relationship. The Hawthorne family is harbouring murderous, evil secrets.
There is a huge soft spot in Tess’ heart for her older brother Garrett. He took her playing, swinging, all sorts of things. Out of nowhere, she and Cam notices a strange fixture in Garrett’s room: a bell on the wall. It gives them pause for a second before they crack up laughing on the floor; the tragedies of their family are simply too much to get through without having a laugh. Although it’s short lived.
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Sophie: “Your family thinks Im the poison in your life, but its them.”


Loving daughter Alison has a look at her father’s old copy of Wuthering Heights. In a hiding spot carved into the middle, she finds pictures, cash, and a document we don’t see, though her eyes say it all. Certainly isn’t something pleasant.
Alison’s point of view has changed. The document in question is a Boston Police Department report stating their father Mitchell as a violent offender, having beaten an undisclosed victim unconscious; the only info for the victim states it was a male in his 40s or 50s. Could it have been Gunther? Or somebody else that Mitch took his rage out on? Now the view of ole Pop Hawthorne is turning, as even Alison wonders if maybe he was a killer after all.
Naturally they bring it to their mother. They want an explanation. She reveals an affair, back around the times of the SBK murders. When Mitch found out, he found them together and beat the guy nearly to death. Madeline uses this to explain Cam’s memories of a body being pulled down the stairs; real, or just a cover? The lies and the deception is so thick you can never fully figure it out. Not quite yet. For their part, the children aren’t exactly sold either. The paranoia is running wild, as Cam starts accusing Alison now. Nobody’s safe from speculation and suspicion.
In the woods, Garrett gets a little closer with Christina. He tells her about wanting to leave after the funeral, but she was the reason he stayed. A little bit of his past slips out. Before any further romance happens, a few guys show up, slightly menacing. Except Garrett drives them out with a knife in hand. This doesn’t really make Christina feel comfortable. At all. Are his true colours coming out, or does his past hold some sort of trauma to make him so aggressively defensive? Can’t wait to discover more about him.
Tom only figures out more about his wife and Naomi. So much so he sets up a clandestine meeting with Naomi believing she’s going to meet Alison. Ohhh shit. When Naomi arrives, Tom tries to crush her hopes of a real love with Alison. I can see something bad going down on this end, too.
After Tess finds some pills prescribed by Christina, she brings them to Brady. And he recognises her last name as being related to an SBK victim. Lots of trouble gearing up here. That’s not even considering all the tension between Sophie and Madeline. Could get nasty all around. Unless Cam and Sophie take off to start a new life together like they’re beginning to plan.
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Brady wants to make sure Christina is okay, and alive. They don’t realise she’s out camping with Garrett. Brady is just grasping at any straws possible because he knows someone in the Hawthorne family is obviously a serial killer. Just can’t be sure if the oldest Hawthorne boy is the right suspect. It doesn’t look good that he left the day the DNA evidence broke in the news. Then Brady pulls a bait-and-switch on his wife, taking off without her to track down her brother. Everything’s about to get serious.
On the news, Garrett is a prime suspect. He’s considered armed, dangerous, and apparently has a hostage. Nothing is helped when Christina gets a voicemail from Brady saying Garrett is a suspect in the SBK case. She demands keys to the truck, she believes he’s brought her camping to killer her, as once he killed her father.
Everybody is going crazy. They all believe Garrett is the killer, no question.
After Brady pulls Garrett’s truck over on the side of the road, he finds Christina covered in blood having accidentally stabbed Garrett when they were arguing. “Its not my blood,” she mumbles getting out. Cut to the Hawthorne family discovering the blood on the belt from the SBK murder matches Mitchell, the deceased patriarch. No way? Madeline does not believe it. However, Brady got DNA off the high school football jersey of Mitch. This is crazy, I didn’t actually expect it to go down that way. Surely there’s more.
And in the forest, Garrett, innocent, bleeds out from the knife in his gut.
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This episode was titled after a painting by American artist Thomas Eakins from 1876. The next is titled “The Gross Clinic” and is so named for another painting by Eakins done a year before The Chess Players, so that’s pretty intriguing. Can’t wait to see the next one. Exciting, especially after the developments we’ve seen in this hour.

American Gothic – Episode 5: “The Artist in His Museum”

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
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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 cant 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.
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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 dont,” 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.
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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.

American Gothic – Episode 4: “Christina’s World”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 4: “Christina’s World”
Directed by P.J. Pesce
Written by Lawrence Broch

* For a review of Episode 3, “Nighthawks” – click here
* For a review of Episode 5, “The Artist in His Museum” – click here
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This episode is titled after the painting “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth from 1948, one of the most recognised images in American art from the 20th century. How will it play in? We’ll see.
Alison (Juliet Rylance) is busy with her campaign manager, Naomi Flynn (Maureen Sebastian). In bed. Meanwhile, Mama Madeline (Virginia Madsen) calls to let her know about Gunther’s suicide. This propels all the Hawthornes back to home base.
Then there’s Brady Ross (Elliot Knight), caught between his wife’s family and his duty. He’s doing his best and claiming the Silver Bells Killer is indeed Gunther. Oh, the little he knows. His wife Tess (Megan Ketch) is busy trying to convince her mother to tell the cops about the bells, seeing as how Gunther is the supposed culprit now. But mother and Alison don’t think that’s any good. I can’t help feeling Madeline is most certainly hiding much deeper, darker secrets. And now she’s got her youngest daughter Tess mixed up in the whole lot.
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Cam (Justin Chatwin) is with his estranged wife Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas), and glad to not be a “suspected serial killer” like anybody would. These two are bad news together. No wonder little Jack (Gabriel Bateman) is a bit of a psychopath. His parents are degenerates, through and through.
Every married couple in this family has their trouble. Not least of which is the Ross arm of the clan. Brady tries apologising, admitting that everything is over at this point. Except Tess is getting sucker further into her family’s madness. That can’t be good at all for them going forward. The doubt about Brady, where his loyalties lie, is planted in her head. Mother exerts a strong influence.
More of Madeline’s deception comes out. A woman injured in the tunnel collapse is making things difficult for them. Of course mom makes it seem like the concern is for Alison and her campaign, but it’s more for the skeletons poking out of her closet. Doesn’t help now that Alison’s husband Tom Price (Dylan Bruce), hanging on by a thread in their relationship, owns Hawthorne Concrete. So he’s also got be involved. The whole thing isn’t going to go over easy. The woman agrees to drop her lawsuit for $15-million. Yiiiikes.


There’s a bit more trouble brewing on Cam’s front. His equally junkie wife has racked up a $4K drug debt with her tough-looking dealer, who happens to come poking around while she isn’t home. Cam gets a good punch in the face and a warning to pass on. And down at the station Cam’s family is getting bitched about by their neighbour, the owner of Caramel the cat. Will the macabre interests of young Jack bring more scrutiny on the Hawthornes? I’m just waiting for that to happen. In the meantime, Dt. Linda Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy) thinks it’s possible Gunther just may be innocent.
Then who IS the Silver Bells Killer? We knew it couldn’t be as easy as the gardener, nor Colonel Mustard in the library.
Tom and Alison are busy trying to work their magic. They find some interesting little bits of information against Mayor Bill Conley (Enrico Colantoni). The sort of info they can use to get rid of their lawsuit problem.
Over at the Hawthorne mansion, Tess and her mother talk about life. Tess isn’t so sure about having a child anymore, not with Brady. At least things have changed for the moment. Getting pulled into the family is not a good thing, especially seeing as how there’s some ugly secret lurking in the background of the Hawthorne family. For her part, Madeline doesn’t totally go against Brady, but there isn’t anything righteous about her. Not truthfully so, anyway. She is a snake and I can only imagine what it is she’s sheltering from the world.


Finally, we find Garrett (Antony Starr) again, sitting in a bar. He’s watching the nurse again – Christina Morales (Catalina Sandino Moreno). Instead of being inconspicuous, she easily finds him out. They talk a bit, flirt around one another slightly. He’s still a complete enigma to most. What is most interesting comes when Garrett finds out she believes her father’s killer – Silver Bells – has been found, he’s dead. But the look in Garrett’s eyes, man… it speaks louder than any words in his vocabulary could manage. There is something else he knows. Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop him from getting close to her. I just feel there’s going to be no good come of it, as Garrett is also hiding something.
Dts. Cutter and Ross figure out that Gunther could not have been the Silver Bells Killer. Not only was he laid up in a body cast during one of the murders, he was also ill, only a few weeks left to live. Cutter starts wondering if Gunther took the fall for somebody. Or maybe it’s the fact he knew of SBK’s identity and didn’t tell anyone that weighed him down full of guilt.
Big brother Garrett does his younger brother Cam a solid and asks Madeline for $4K. Hmm. Will Garrett use this as some kind of leverage over Cam later? Nah, he just hands it directly over to him in front of his mother telling him: “Be smart.” In other family news, Tess and Brady make up, which is a surprise to her husband. Even better they’re planning on having lots of sex. Y’know, for baby making purposes. And for good old fashioned fun.
The relationship between Garrett and Christina deepens. They picnic together, getting to know each other better. Yet each time Garrett hears her talk about her father, his eyes change and he makes comments about the killer likely not realising the “collateral damage” of the deaths he caused. Jesus. I’m just waiting for more of that backstory to drop. Did Garrett witness a kill? Did he find out about someone in the family doing some killing? Or maybe he did it. We’ll have to keep on waiting/sweating it out.


Mayor Conley and Alison take a run at their mutual opponent. Although the woman is not at all willing to work with them. Until they’ve got some video evidence of her breaking probation on a DUI charge. Ahh, this puts a chip in the lady’s plan. However, she still gets $1-million. With stipulations. The lawsuit has to be dropped, as well as Alison and Conley being pumped up on live television as real do-gooders.
At the same time, Madeline gets an odd note in the mail. It tells her COME SEE ME OR I’LL COME SEE YOU.
Cutter finds problems with the DNA that Brady brought in, supposedly from his wife. Turns out the DNA is from a Hispanic woman. Everything is spinning slightly out of control for ole Dt. Ross. He worries about Tess and what her family is involved in, what she may be involved in, whether directly or not. When he confronts Tess, he discovers that she planted the hair. A test for him, she says. The fire’s been lit under Brady and he is out for blood. He’ll figure out SBK, one way or another. Or die trying.
And Cam, he goes to meet Sophie’s dealer to give him the money owed. But the dealer says they’ve settled up. Not with any cash. She banged her dealer to pay off the debt, and that really bothers her husband. Worst of all, Cam is now beginning to figure out he and his wife are causing their son plenty of grief, likely why he’s completely messed up.
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Garrett goes to see Christina at her place, bottle of wine in hand. They spend a nice romantic evening together. Until the ghostly look on his face gives way to him taking off his shirt, undoing his belt, and brandishing it, the look in his eyes spelling murder.
Could this be what we’re seeing? Is Garrett the Silver Bells Killer, or is this him hoping to clean up a loose end and keep his family out from under scrutiny? Very, very hard to tell. Amazing ending.
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Loved this episode. The mini-series isn’t perfect, nor do I expect that. But it is enjoyable, it has enough edge to be fun. The next episode is titled “The Artist in His Museum” and I hope to find more secrets bulging from the seams.

American Gothic – Episode 1: “Arrangement in Grey and Black”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 1: “Arrangement in Grey & Black”
Directed by Matt Shakman
Written by Corinne Brinkerhoff

* For a review of Episode 2, “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” – click here
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To start, I dig how they’ve named the episodes after famous paintings, in line with the name of their series being American Gothic. Arrangement in Grey and Black is better known as Whistler’s Mother painted by James McNeill Whistler in the latter half of the 19th century. The next episode, “Jack-in-the-Pulpit”, comes from a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. So that’s at least a fun aspect to he writing off the bat.
We begin in Boston, Massachusetts. A car is crushed in a tunnel, as a couple are headed towards the wife’s parents place – this is Tessa Ross (Megan Ketch) and her husband Brady (Elliot Knight), a police officer who just got a big promotion. She’s a Hawthorne. Her father is Mitchell Hawthorne (Jamey Sheridan), her mother Madeline (Virginia Madsen). They’re a grand group, including artist and former drug addict Cam (Justin Chatwin), his son Jack (Gabriel Bateman) also a budding and excellent artist in his own right. Can’t forget Alison Hawthorne-Price (Juliet Rylance), a big mover and shaker – heading off the fact Hawthorne Concrete supplied material for the part of the tunnel collapse that nearly took out Tessa and Brady. There’s a whole bunch. And a whole bunch of things going on. Seems like there’s a run for office in the family’s current life. Alison wants to be mayor.
What’s most interesting? Inside part of the bridge that fell, jammed inside the concrete, is a belt. One used in a murder, possibly. It was linked to a serial killer committing what was dubbed The Silver Bells Murders.
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So now this is the drama. There’s confusion, paranoia, tension about to come out. Did someone in the Hawthorne family dispose of a body in a string of killings using the family company? Or could it have been an employee, someone like that? There’s many things going on. We hear talk of Garrett (Antony Starr) earlier, having his picture taken down by Madeline, so there’s obviously an immediate idea that maybe the obvious black sheep might’ve done something bad. Afterwards, we learn that Garrett is just off the grid somewhere, disappeared. Yet patriarch Mitchell goes and has a heart attack; guilt, maybe? Could he be the Silver Bells Killer? Oh my.
At the hospital while the family waits, we also meet Sophie Hawthorne (Stephanie Leonidas), estranged wife of Cam. She’s very punk rock, seems chic, though there’s clearly a bad history between the two. Inside, Mitchell recovers from his attack. He wakes up mumbling about the tunnel; why – does he worry about the structural failure, or does he worry about what’s inside? Can’t wait to find more. The intrigue is fun to start. Let’s see if the writing can keep that playing out nicely.
Later at home, we see more of the family dynamics. Tessa wants to help her brother Cam, as he searches for his drugs after being clean a whole year. So there’s a bond between family members, rather than a typical Hollywood-style rich family that we always see, siblings at one another’s throats, and so on. She helps him trying to track down the drugs he’s stashed, so they can toss it out. Only – you guessed it! – they stumble across something else: Silver Bells, newspapers about the S.B.K. murders. Ahh shit. Tess naively believes it may be the previous house’s owner. Cam wonders if perhaps their father collected memorabilia concerning the case, tracking the newspaper clippings; just as naive


Except now, everything is suspicious. Cam sees the silver bells everywhere, even in the morning staring at the shower head, that looks just like a silver bell. Creepier still, there’s stuff on ole grandpa’s iPad about the murders, so says little Jack. Man, oh, man. That is damn unsettling. I dig the macabre elements of the show so far in this first episode, despite its soapy-ish feel at times. Both the siblings are set on their own quest, each rattled by the notion their father possibly has links, somehow, some way, to the Silver Bells Murders.
Meanwhile, Tess finds long lost brother Garrett returning out of nowhere. She and Cam head out with him to the hospital. Lots of strange stuff happening, and plenty of rich family dynamics to play off. We find Garrett’s been living in Maine, reading lots of books (Stephen King maybe?). He didn’t come out for Cam’s wedding. Not Tess’, either. All the same, he seems happy to be there with them. A little standoff-ish, but glad. At the hospital, he’s received well enough. With surprise, hugs. A bit of awkwardness. Alison looks a bit shocked to see her brother.
Back at the Hawthorne mansion, Garrett settles into his old room. For however long he’ll be around. The memories of his life there are surrounding him. For some reason I don’t think they’re all so great. “Youre weird,” his nephew Jack tells him:”Its okay. Im weird, too.” When Madeline is alone with her newly reappeared son she wonders why he’s back, after saying he never would be. In another room, Tess asks her detective husband about killers, whether they seem like normal people. Similar to SBK, he mentions BTK, and how that guy seemed absolutely fine to everyone around him – a Scout leader and everything. This worries Tess, thinking of her father and the Silver Bells Murders. Still can’t count Garrett out. Next morning, instead of shaving with a razor he uses a knife, and better still claims he’s “used to” that method. Yowzahs.


The plot thickens. Cam suggests to Tess that 14 years ago, when the Silver Bells Murders stopped, their older brother Garrett simultaneously left town. Hmm. They further bring it to their powerful sister Alison. She starts believing it’s likely some type of way to smear the family: destroy Mitchell’s legacy, destroy her campaign for mayor. Problem is the newspaper the two also found, the one from their newspaper, a cartoon Cam drew. Too suggestive. Alison won’t believe the concept her father could be a serial killer, neither will she entertain the notion it’s Garrett, nor anyone else in the Hawthorne family. She’d rather put it away until after the election. Morally ambiguous. Alison says it’s a “weird box of bells” and nothing solid. I’m inclined to believe something, anything, different. For now, they agree to set things aside. Nah. Cam and Tess aren’t doing that, you can bet your ass. Again, there’s a nice soapy quality to the show that I actually dig. Not usually my thing, but these are good actors and they help sell it. The writing’s a bit dark, campy, yet still unnerving at times. There’s potential.
Scariest yet? Young Jack appears to have a bit of a sick mind. He’s doing experiments on their cat Caramel. Cutting off the tail to see what happens. Then he wants to see the vet sow it back on. You sick little freak! There’s obviously a drop or two of weird blood in this family, regardless of whether someone in it is the Silver Bells Killer. Although, this Jack moment only makes us wonder if there’s serial killer genes flowing already.


Alison finds out later that one of her little daughters heard uncle Garrett say some interesting things to grandpa Mitchell earlier. “Im gonna tell them it was you,” Garrett says quietly to his father. Oh my! This now has Alison in a mental frenzy. Me, too. There’s lots of nice intrigue to start with this episode. Lots of ways this could possibly end up, and that’s fun. This one line by Garrett might mean that he simply hates his father, hoping to use the tunnel collapse to make things seem like it was him implicating him in the murder. Or perhaps it’s Garrett having committed the crimes alone, hating his father, wanting to pin them on dear dad. Or further still, maybe father and son committed the murders together, and now Garrett wants to use his father’s death to escape the law. Who knows. Maybe it’s none of the above. From his hospital bed, Mitchell tells his wife “We have to tell the truth” and then not long after that she… helps him die. Well, you could say that. You could also say she kills him. That’d be much more accurate. Now there’s absolutely no telling which vein this story’s about to find its way through. And I think that’s spectacular.

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Lots of fun intrigue, interesting characters coupled with fantastic actors like Antony Starr and Virginia Madsen and Justin Chatwin. There is plenty of room to grow and expand. Sure, it’s campy and it has an almost soap opera-like quality in certain scenes. But overall it is enjoyable. Looking forward to “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” – what will it bring? Stay with me and we’ll find out together.