Tagged Virginia Madsen

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 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.

Candyman: White Guilt and Urban Horror

Candyman. 1992. Directed & Written by Bernard Rose; based on the story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker.
Starring Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, Vanessa Williams, DeJuan Guy, Marianna Elliott, Ted Raimi, Ria Pavia, Mark Daniels, Lisa Ann Poggi, Adam Philipson, Eric Edwards, Carolyn Lowery, & Barbara Alston. PolyGram Filmed Entertainment/Propaganda Films.
Rated R. 99 minutes.
Drama/Fantasy/Horror

★★★★1/2
POSTER The idea of a hook hand often has its roots for people in the area of urban legends. So already the infamous, titular Candyman plays on fears. Add to that an excellent basis in the short story “The Forbidden” from Cliver Barker’s Books of Blood. As well as the fact Bernard Rose – proven by his 1988 feature Paperhouse – has a proven ability to give people the creeps.
This 1992 horror film is an amalgamation of different ideas. You can see it as a straight-up slasher horror. Then again, can you? It’s part slasher, part ghost story sub-genre. So there’s a definite crossover of genres here. Some of my favourite movies weave from one genre to the next. Rose expertly crafts a spooky urban legend into a living, breathing work of horror that reaches out of its roots in the past and grabs hold of us. On top of it all, Candyman can be taken as an allegory for urban horror and the white guilt people feel standing on the outside looking in, encountering worse horrors after invading places where they just don’t belong. Or maybe it’s anti-colonialist, set in the sprawl of the urban jungle of the Cabrini-Green housing development of Chicago’s North Side. Either way, Rose takes us to the heart of darkness. He touches on everything from the ghosts of slavery to very real, visceral horror. This is one of my favourites out of the 1990s in terms of horror. I still remember first seeing it, and now when I watch it still scares me. A great ride through fantasy-horror territory, along with a solid dose of human drama to give the terror some actual weight.
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Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) and her friend Bernie Walsh (Kasi Lemmons) are students that decide on writing their thesis concerning local urban legends and myths. At the Cabrini-Green housing complex, they investigate the legend of the supposed Candyman (Tony Todd). He is a one-armed man that appears from nowhere if you repeat his name five times at the mirror. What Helen and Bernie decide, not believing in such legends, is to do their thesis on how those legends are actually based around real events, which create these sorts of entities that then dominate a culture.
Only, this legend? May just be true after all. And when Helen finds herself framed for a murder committed by that very same Candyman which she could not bring herself to believe in, the horror of its reality becomes brutally clear to her.
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One thing I love about this one is that, at the beginning of the 90s, this movie came out with some real mature horror. The rest of the decade included Scream (though I love it) and other stuff like Urban LegendsI Know What You Did Last Summer, and other similar slashers, which are all filled with pretty young teens. And I’m not saying Virginia Madsen isn’t a beauty. But the fact this story is all centered around adults is something special. Sure, it isn’t innovative for that, it’s not like there aren’t tons of other movies out there in the horror genre involving adults. There’s simply a perfectly timed aspect to Candyman, jammed between the late 90s and those aforementioned titles, and those which came before it in the 80s where slasher movies were often populated with teens being sexualized and promptly murdered after their various debauchery. This is one horror villain whose range exceeds the typical slasher. Not only is he a ghost, an entity of the wretched past, he doesn’t need a stable of teenagers for victims. So it isn’t some schoolyard ghost story, or an urban legend told in the dark around campfires or in the bedrooms of teenage boys and girls during sleepovers. The legend of Candyman moves beyond the realm of childish scares and enters the adult world of nightmares.
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While Clive Barker’s original story “The Forbidden” is based in England, the adapted screenplay from Rose moves things to America, specifically to Chicago and the Cabrini-Green housing development. I dig the story, Barker has a knack for all things macabre. However, I also dig the way Rose has transposed the story into an American setting. Because so much of this screenplay deals with the white guilt of Americans over their racist past. In a sense, Madsen’s character Helen embodies the ultimate experience of white guilt. She wants to investigate the supposed Candyman murders, she goes to Cabrini-Green, a place completely out of her element, and she superimposes her perspective over that of the black residents. She wants to shape their story for them, just like all those other white folk that come in wanting a story, wanting something. So through a metaphysical ghost story Helen becomes a real part of the legend, framed for murders committed by this entity, Candyman. Her white guilt has taken her from an outsider’s perspective, to one of a woman whose guilt is palpable and all too real. So now she no longer tells the story, she lives the story. She is the story.
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Most of all, Helen’s experience with the Candyman is symbolic of America’s constant, consistent struggle with its racial history. All the horrors of slavery, everything that came out of that period. The story of Candyman’s becoming and the men who terrorized him is a vicious tale, befitting of the post-Civil War era where those memories of slavery still linger, haunting the people, descendants of those who endured amazingly savage experiences fueled by the irrational hate of racism. And it can never be escaped. In the end when Helen tries to do the right thing, or at least the best thing she could at that point, she must purge herself in the fire outside Cabrini-Green. Because it is not her place from the start to interject herself into the black struggle. So she becomes the opposite of what she’d hoped, a woman who kills black people, steals a black baby, all setup by the Candyman. Her white guilt and need to be the white saviour is shockingly derailed, which allows Rose to also give us some wonderful, vividly nasty horror, too.
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The gorgeous, dreadful vision of Bernard Rose and Clive Barker collide in 1992’s Candyman, still one of the movies that scares me most. There will always be unsettling aspects to Tony Todd’s villainous persona. But everything down to the writing and execution of the effects, all of it, works as a complete package. Horror and sociology come together to make this ghostly slasher something bigger than the sum of its parts. It isn’t a by-the-numbers sub-genre horror that simply goes through the motions. At times Candyman plays perectly into those expectations, others it subverts the norm we’d usually expect. Regardless, it is a terrifying modern horror that plays on white guilt and repressed racial history. It haunts my nightmares to this day. You can’t ask any more of a scary movie.