Tagged Justin Chatwin

American Gothic – Episode 13: “Whistler’s Mother”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 13: “Whistler’s Mother”
Directed by Greg Beeman
Written by Corinne Brinkerhoff & Aaron Fullerton

* For a review of Episode 12, “Madame X” – click here
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The finale is here – “Whistler’s Mother” you may remember is the informal name given to Arrangements in Grey and Black, which is the first episode of this mini-series. Why that painting, you wonder? This last episode in particular and yet so much of these episode has consisted of a focus on who?
Mama Hawthorne.
Everybody’s out voting for Mayor of Boston. Madeline (Virginia Madsen) is worrying about the “crazed dollmaker” after her family. So she has private security watching the house, and her paranoia is high. Tess (Megan Ketch) and Cam (Justin Chatwin), along with Jack (Gabriel Bateman), are down at the Alison Hawthorne (Juliet Rylance) campaign HQ. Even Garrett (Antony Starr) turns up to support his sister.
But nobody’s seen Alison. Where could she be?
Over at the station, Detectives Linda Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy) and Brady Ross (Elliot Knight) lay the whole case with the new evidence out for everybody. Then Brady gets a call from his wife, worrying about her sister. Now, they’re worried the accomplice is very, very close to the campaign.
We all know from last episode it’s Naomi.
Or is it? That secret she had was all about union workers, supposedly. A background check proves Naomi has always been Naomi. A dead end. Ahhh, tricky. Only problem is the cops are still at square one. And who could be the accomplice?
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Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas) ends up at the Hawthorne door. She wants a few pictures before heading off for good. At the campaign HQ, Jack is starting to feel the effects of not having his mother around; he reads too much. Simultaneously, Christina (Catalina Sandino Moreno) has turned up to reconcile with Garrett. She’s planning to move to San Francisco and hopes he’ll go. Although he doesn’t want to leave his family, not after everything.
The detectives go to the grave of SBK’s wife, to see if maybe someone comes to visit. He has an epiphany about the cherry blossoms on Sophie’s neck. Just like the ones at the graveyard. And all alone in the mansion with Madeline, we find Stephanie revealing herself a bit more. Most of all after she plants a needle in her former mother-in-law’s neck. Jesus. I honestly never saw any of this coming.
Where do we go from here? Well, Madeline gets tied up for the time being. Sophie talks more about her life, her mother, her father and his ‘art’ of sorts. Seems SBK got his kill list, for him and his daughter, from the donors at the hospital. She tells us that the bells were there to symbolise the one thing that could save their victim stays “just out of reach.” When Cam turns up things get tricky. She reveals their love stayed her want for revenge, but of course things went sour.
Everyone’s closing in now. Will they make it to the mansion in time? Or will Sophie enact the last breaths of her plan for revenge? Looks like she managed to at least strangle Madeline.
Cam manages to get a gun and point it at Sophie. But Garrett doesn’t want him to kill anyone, not like he did, and to have to live with those memories the rest of his life. He prevents Cam from making a terrible decision. Yet Sophie makes off into the night once more.
In other news, Alison wins her bid for Mayor of Boston. What good is that when your family’s being hunted? Small victories, I suppose.
The Hawthorne family is devastated. For all her faults, it’s still not nice to have your mother murdered. And to have been infiltrated so deeply by SBK’s daughter, his accomplice. Just, staggering. Brady kicks himself for not seeing it sooner, though Cutter tries to assure him he couldn’t have known, and at least now they DO know. They came around to becoming better friends and partners throughout the entire ordeal.

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Skip to a year later. Everyone is doing well, Tess and Brady have their child, Cam and his lady friend are getting closer finally. The family is okay after all. Somehow. There’s still creepy Jack. Who knows how they’ll eventually end up. Naomi and Alison are together, happy. Then Garrett and Christina show up with their own little family.
With his little bear still holding his mom’s recorded voice, Jack stands alone listening to it, wondering when she’ll come back to take him. Because a normal life is not what he wants. He’s got that nasty gene somewhere deep down.
We discover more of the secrets hiding amongst the Hawthornes. Alison knew a long while ago that Sophie was the accomplice. She revealed it to her former sister-in-law. Hmm. She even kept one of those bells instead of tossing them all. Thing is, Alison made a deal: don’t kill anybody else, just mom. Holy. Shit. Kills her mother, essentially, and creepily she’s JUST LIKE HER MOTHER. What a twisting, turning, strange little end.
With these last words, Alison ends her interview and the mini-series: “You can be a victim of your circumstances, or you can summon the strength to push through; no matter what. Today our family is thriving. I think my mother would be proud.”

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The end personally surprised me, from the opening of this episode to the finish. Far as I know this is only meant to be a mini-series. I dig it that way. Leaves you not with questions, but with a deeper idea of the corrupted roots of the Hawthorne family. What was done cannot be undone. It begets more of its own violence, the secrets of their family. Lots of fun, weird stuff that happened, too. Throughout the whole series. I had a blast, honestly. Didn’t expect to get so into it. Yet here I am. Hope some of you reading have enjoyed as much as I have. A stellar finish, way better than anticipated!

American Gothic – Episode 12: “Madame X”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 12: “Madame X”
Directed by Edward Ornelas
Written by Allen MacDonald & Lauren Goodman

* For a review of Episode 11, “Freedom From Fear” – click here
* For a review of the finale, “Whistler’s Mother” – click here
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The penultimate episode upon us, its title comes from a John Singer Sargent painting formally known as Portrait of Madame X, but also just as Madame X; you can find it here.
So has the truth come out? Are Garrett (Antony Starr) and his mother Madeline (Virginia Madsen) telling the truth?
For now, they’re dealing with the diorama of their house including a figurine of each family member dead. Everybody’s back under one roof, as Brady (Elliot Knight) comes back with Garrett. Cam (Justin Chatwin) takes Jack (Gabriel Bateman) away, not wanting to be in a house supposedly targeted by the accomplice to the Silver Bells Killer. Most interesting is that Tess (Megan Ketch) appreciates what her older brother did for her. She tells Garrett: “You should run.” All but begging him. To start a new life, maybe get the chance to be a part of his son’s life with Christina (Catalina Sandino Moreno), someday. But he doesn’t want to do that. He’s all about family. “No more running,” he tells Tessa.
One thing’s for sure, Garrett and Madeline have fallen out completely. No love there. As far as legality goes, they’re both given suspended sentences so long as they cooperate with the investigation.
Oh, Alison (Juliet Rylance). She can’t let go of Naomi, who’s back in Boston for a little while. Their relationship was clearly more deep than a fling. You can tell just by how they talk to one another. When there’s cable being run in the Hawthorne residence, Alison discovers a box of silver bells in a vent. The ones Madeline said were gone so long ago. Uh oh.
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The police are doing their jobs now, all over, from fingerprinting the little diorama mansion to a sketch artist. Detective Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy) and Detective Ross aren’t exactly pleased with two completely different drawings from the mother-son descriptions. But then Garrett remembers a tattoo on the man’s chest; a Brigid’s cross. Not exactly a perfect clue. A clue nonetheless.
Young Jack (Gabriel Bateman) relaxes watching stuff about jellyfish while his mother Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas) sneaks in, locking Cam in the bathroom. “You wanna go for a ride?” she asks her son. Shit. I do not like the sounds of this, I don’t know she’s capable of, really. By the time Cam breaks out of the bathroom, she’s gone with Jack in tow, and a knife in her husband’s tire.
Alison figures out that her mother is the likely culprit of Jennifer Windham’s death. Yikes! That woman is one bad bitch. Even admits to her daughter what she’d done. All for the family, right? Oh, my. “You can justify anything,” Alison nearly weeps. She further pieces together that her mother killed off her father in the hospital. So ole Madeline’s officially a serial killer, I guess. And incredibly delusional.

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Cam’s attempting to figure out where his wife has gone with their son, enlisting his sister Tess to help. They try tracking her down via credit card purchases, a bit of slick work from a couple rich kids. At the same time, Alison has the whole dilemma of wondering what to do about their mother. She’s too busy thinking about Naomi, though.
Over at her husband’s final resting place Madeline stows cash, a passport, all that good stuff. Just in case. Meanwhile, Garrett is at the station with Brady asking for a bit of help to track down Christina. We get a nice topical joke from Brady: “You need anything else? Maybe Hillarys emails, or Trumps tax returns?” At first I thought it was cheesy. Then I laughed a bunch. What we do find out: the accomplice must be female. The prints on the dollhouse diorama confirm it.
And so Alison tosses the silver bells box into the river. Letting the memories and souvenirs rest. Good idea? Certainly not the morally best idea. She lets her mother know, which obviously puts Madeline’s mind at ease. However, the ties are being cut. “As far as Im concerned you no longer exist,” Alison tells her before leaving. Ouch. Slash totally understandable.
Sophie took Jack to an aquarium. Nice gesture, if she didn’t technically kidnap him. When Tess and Cam show up, the husband and wife have a little confrontation. She talks about wanting “one last memory” and hopes her boy won’t forget his mother. I worry she might do something to herself. She isn’t a good mother, or person, but still…
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The detectives have Garrett trying to identify SBK, except nothing comes out. All of a sudden, Brady wonders if maybe the Brigid’s cross was meant for more than the symbol; maybe it was for a name. When they track down a name, Garrett finally recognises the man himself, the dreaded Silver Bells.
Turns out Naomi may be more important than anyone thought. She’s the daughter of the Silver Bells Killer, having reinvented herself to slip inside the inner circle of the Hawthorne family. A place where she could destroy them easily.

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WHOA! Nice little shock at the end.
The finale is titled “Whistler’s Mother” and I can’t wait to dig in.

American Gothic – Episode 11: “Freedom From Fear”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 11: “Freedom From Fear”
Directed by Jet Wilkinson
Written by Andrew Gettens & Lauren Mackenzie

* For a review of Episode 10, “The Veteran in a New Field” – click here
* For a review of Episode 12, “Madame X” – click here
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The title of this week’s episode comes from a Norman Rockwell series, Four Freedoms; the last of which is titled Freedom From Fear. You can see it here.
We last saw Brady (Elliot Knight) with his gun drawn, Garrett Hawthorne (Antony Starr) in his sights, as he watches him disposing of old human remains in a makeshift grave. Nasty.
So the brothers-in-law find themselves in an interesting predicament. “Tell me whats happened,” Brady quietly pleads with Garrett, lowering his gun.
More interesting still is that simultaneously Alison (Juliet Rylance), Tess (Megan Ketch), and Cam (Justin Chatwin) confront their mother, Madeline Hawthorne (Virginia Madsen). They know something has been hidden from their eyes. She reveals the bells recently dropped in her purse. And Mama gives up the goods.
Flash back to 2002, cleverly given to us through image instead of a date printed across the screen. 14 years ago, the kids are all sitting happy by the tree with mom, even dear ole dad, Mitchell Hawthorne (Jamey Sheridan), who sneaks out with an excuse as his wife eyes suspiciously. Young Alison’s already a campaign loving politician in high school. Cam is getting into drugs. Garrett is dating Molly. Behind closed doors the husband and wife talk of secrets, the accounting files Mitch had supposedly gone out to settle. Later in the night, a man makes his way into the Hawthorne mansion. At the top of the stairs he frightens young Tessa, and she pushes him down. Although as a grown woman she doesn’t remember. “It gets more complicated than that,” says mother. So with a guy dead at the foot of their staircase, Madeline and Mitch find… silver bells? Was Mitch to be framed?
Yeaaah, right. I don’t believe it for a second. How is she expecting to sell this? At the same time, Garrett tells the story to Brady. Another mother-son lie?
One of the better openings of any episode yet.

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So a younger Garrett got a call, from Tess. That’s what he says, anyway. When he went home, SBK is lying dead, or so says mom and dad. They get Garrett wrapped up in the entire thing. “We can dispose of the body. No one needs to know,” Mitch tells his boy. And then the older brother convinces his little sister nothing ever happened; a fever dream mixed with medicine makes for bad dreams. While Tess remembers Garrett being a comfort whenever she’d get sick, she doesn’t remember anything of that specific event. Cam’s memory of that night is then SBK being hauled down the stairs. Problem is he was high on drugs, including a taste of mushrooms. Hallucinogens and dead bodies on the staircase. None of that’s any good for memory.
Garrett went to bury the body. Then the man wakes up, running off into the woods, even slashing Garrett with a knife a few times. This left the young man no choice but to stab the man to death in the dark of the woods. Now we have a supposed explanation for why Madeline found her son in the dark, bloody, holding a knife.
The whole story is quite a yarn. Tough to swallow, not only for the Hawthorne kids themselves, but also for Brady, trying to understand how it all makes any sense.

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Well at least the other kids have some sympathy for Garrett. Or is that yet another brush under the rug for the Hawthornes?
Madeline reels off more to her kids. About those files her husband went to get that night, from none other than David Morales (Yancey Arias). They were incriminating bits that would sink the Hawthorne family and its business. Therefore, Mitch breaks out a belt, some gloves, and a silver bell. A nice way to “silence” Morales, to “save himself” is how Garrett put it: “He made me a killer. Just like him.”
Is Mitch a mere copycat of SBK, all to save the family reputation (and cash)? Still not solved. Still not.
Things went off the rails between Garrett and Mitch, after the father, in his hubris, attempted to justify his murder. When Garrett went to his mother, she played the part; the one she needed to play. Mom essentially blackmails her own son to keep him quiet. Yikes. No wonder Garrett’s got mommy issues. And daddy issues. And all sorts of other issues.
Mama tells her kids the accomplice of the true SBK is out there, and he is back now to torment them all. When Cam steps into the living room, he finds evidence that it may just be the case: there lies a diorama of the Hawthorne mansion with all of them posed as little characters, dead in various rooms with silver bells lying everywhere. So creepy. Almost like something Jack (Gabriel Bateman) would make. Or his mother Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas).


Out in that field, Garrett tries to explain to Brady he wants to start a new life, to get away from everything. However, Garrett does not want to go back to jail, and Brady doesn’t have much to offer other than his word. I wonder if it’s enough to keep them together on this one.
More and more, we come to find Madeline – if you didn’t already understand – pulled all the strings. Even if this is all true, what we’ve seen throughout the episode, Madeline and Mitchell are still awful people. What they did was orchestrate the death of Morales, both Madeline and Mitchell, as SBK’s final victim, out of pure greed and ego.
And it was Madeline who put the final touch on Morales, once and for all. She literally did the deed. You sly mama! She won’t tell her kids that, though.
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How will the last two episodes play out? What does “Madame X” hold for us? For one thing, its title comes from the John Singer Sargent painting of the same name, also known as Portrait of Madame X. So stay tuned with me. Let’s see what we’ll get for excitement, and maybe explanation, next week.

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.

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 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 3: “Nighthawks”

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
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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.
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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. “Heres 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.
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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 dont 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?
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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.
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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!

American Gothic – Episode 2: “Jack-in-the-Pulpit”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 2: “Jack-in-the-Pulpit”
Directed by Greg Beeman
Written by Corinne Brinkerhoff

* For a review of Episode 1, “Arrangement in Grey & Black” – click here
* For a review of Episode 3, “Nighthawks” – click here
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Following the first episode, and a trend that runs through this mini-series, the second episode’s title comes from a series of paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, some of which you can see here. And now, we dive in…
This episode opens with Cam Hawthorne (Justin Chatwin) at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. He talks about his recent slip up, but seems optimistic, or trying to be, about going clean. A friend there tries to help Cam get the dealer out of his life. Then the news about Papa Hawthorne hits. At home, Madeline (Virginia Madsen) sees the shaving kit of her husband then breaks down, keeping the guilt buried just below the surface. Downstairs, Alison (Juliet Rylance) and Tessa (Megan Ketch) are both grieving, though it seems the older of the two is most upset. Tessa immediately blames Cam, once he shows up, for not being there with their mother – y’know, when their father died. Oh, little do these ladies know about their own matriarch. “Everyone loved dad,” says Alison, so incredibly filled with literary irony that it almost chokes you. But while Alison is upset, Cam and Tessa are more concerned with determining who was the Silver Bells Killer after all. Was it their dad? We’ll see how he comes into play, either way.
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Tessa’s husband Brady (Elliot Knight) is doing his best to take care of his police duties as much as he does with those of the family variety. I’m interested to find out how he comes up against the family. Because you just know that’s going to happen. Sooner or later. Right now, he and Detective Linda Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy) head up the investigation with their new clue: the belt in the collapsed tunnel, linked to Hawthorne Concrete.
At the family table, Madeline weaves a story about her husband being disoriented, out in the garage, showing her the box with the Silver Bells inside. Supposedly, he’d gone into dementia and believed he was the murderer. Madeline clearly killed him, so does she know he was, know who really was, or is she merely trying to hold onto whatever power she can by offing her ill husband before he brought a whole wave of controversy their way? One thing’s for sure – Mama Hawthorne has things to hide. Dark things. Meanwhile, Garett (Antony Starr) arrives and says he wants to speak at his father’s funeral: “I have something to say,” he tells them. Although nobody is too thrilled with that. There’s still a shadow cast over him. Still a possibility he could be the killer. You never know.
Madeline gets a sketchy call – irregularities in the machines as her husband passed. Uh oh. Well, the Hawthorne kids are all busy warring with one another, anyway. Alison and Garrett talk about what her little daughter heard, apparently, when he’d leaned in to speak viciously to his ailing father. There’s lots of intrigue about Garrett and what exactly’s going on with him, what happened in the past, so on. I’m not sold on every aspect of the show. I am sold on a few characters; Garrett being chief in that stable.
Alison isn’t pleased that Garrett, essentially, wants to accuse her father after death of being the Silver Bells Killer. At the same time, mother Madeline doesn’t appear to be rocked by much of it. Those dark secrets will come out, eventually. At the very same time Brady’s faced with the Hawthorne patriarch being on the list of potential suspects. Cutter wants DNA, though he’s not so thrilled about barging in before the funeral to get a sample. So now we’re already seeing what’s about to pit Brady against the family into which he married.
Someone else I’m interested in is Cam’s little kid Jack (Gabriel Bateman), whose fascination with death is all too chilling. The only one who isn’t overly creeped out is Garrett: “The apple doesnt fall far from the tree, does it?” he quips to his slightly scared younger brother Cam. I feel bad for Cam in particular because he’s saddled with a damaged child, a mysterious family and older brother whose past is shrouded in fog, and then all this Silver Bells stuff on top. Sucks being a Hawthorne. In other news, Alison and her campaign manager obviously get closer and closer; have they been together yet, or is it just that they’ve flirted around it so long the whole thing’s become lusty? With everything else going on Alison is still drawn to her.


Gunther (Aidan Devine) cleans up around the Hawthorne place, as Tessa looks through pictures. He ends up recounting that he and her father played chess. Also, he lets slip that they played Thursday nights – only just last week, in fact. Gunther says his mind was sharp, right until the end. This makes Tessa wonder. And wonder she should. Her mother is over meeting with a woman at the hospital. She’s told there was possibly a “machine malfunction” and that it could look bad for them; ah, a sigh of relief for Madeline. Ah… except they want to do an autopsy, so that this won’t happen to anybody else. What a wrench. We know for sure the deviousness of Mrs. Hawthorne, sadly widowed, as immediately afterwards she calls to have the body cremated instead of sent over for an autopsy. Ooh wee, this is picking up steam.
At the Hawthorne place, Brady is sneaking around trying to find himself something with a bit of DNA on it. Instead he runs into his wife, whose stress levels are pretty god damn high. And she doesn’t even know how deep her husband is in, having to investigate her father. Funny – if he told her, maybe she’d be of some help seeing as how she and Cam found that eerie box. But good man, he respects his job. He ends up running around everywhere, trying to stop Papa Hawthorne from being cremated before he can get a sample, which does not turn out well for him. Then poor Cam, he starts succumbing to his old vices. He tracks down one of the caterers that likely has a stash. Not good. At the church, Cam’s estranged wife shows up to give her condolences, and instead of being awkward it actually becomes a nice moment for them.
Can’t forget about Garrett. He gets pulled over in his way over expired truck with a way over expired ID, and things look bleak. Brad gets the call for that one. Yikes.


Tessa confronts her mother at the funeral about her father having dementia. This begins driving a wedge between the mother and the children now. Madeline acts the victim, spinning more words to the people around her. She continually uses her husband as a type of scapegoat, without really letting him be the scapegoat. And now we’re gradually getting a peek behind the mask of the Hawthorne matriarch. She even goes so far this time to say her husband asked for her help in dying. Good one, Madeline. Alison and the rest go about their business, as mama keeps her secrets close to the chest. Garrett manages to get to the church and Alison looks highly surprised; did she call in to have him picked up? Oh yes. “Nice try,” Garrett mocks. Strange to be pulled over after 12 years of expired tags, all of a sudden on the day of their father’s funeral. Not very sly, Alison; not at all.
Tessa and Garrett share a nice moment. She sees only the good in him, as it was Garrett that always calmed her down and helped with her anxious nature. At least he has one sibling ally. Then he gets up to give his semi-eulogy, whatever it is. “I hated my father“, he begins, launching into a short, biting speech before ending it quickly and sitting down. He lets Alison take the reins. A better hand at the public speaking, though another one stuck in the dark about her terrifying family with all their hideous roots coiling beneath their foundation. In the bathroom, Cam and his estranged wife Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas) meet, but she isn’t happy to see him struggling and wanting to get high – “There are other ways,” she tells him and then starts taking off some clothes. Yowzahs what a funeral. The kicker? Their son gives his little speech and that turns out incredibly morbid. Garrett laughs; no one else does.
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At home, Alison’s husband Tom (Dylan Bruce) gives her a gift, obviously unknowing of her passion for a woman – a woman whose hate seers when she sees the two together. What’s wildly intriguing is that Madeline seems to see and know everything, an omniscient matriarch above them all. She passes through and sees it all.
Madeline suggests to Cam her grandson needs therapy. Definitely does. Further than that, Brady still searches for something belonging to Papa Hawthorne. He ends up getting a call from Cutter; they’re most definitely looking for a man who “comes from money.” It’s then that he realises Hawthorne could be a genuine possibility. Also, Madeline tells Garrett he ought to leave. He retorts with a bit of a threat.
The big shocker is that Brady finds a picture of Papa Hawthorne with a young Cam, back in 2002 – Cam is wearing the very same belt they’ve found stuck in the cement, the one used in a Silver Bells Murder. This casts suspicion on both father and son. Yummy darkness.
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Let’s stick together, those of us that enjoy a bit of the campy mysteriousness that American Gothic provides. Next episode is titled “Nighthawks” and those who are familiar with the famous painting will be thrilled, as I am. Stay with me and we’ll get to the bottom of the Hawthorne/Silver Bells mystery after all.

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.