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American Gothic - The Oxbow - Review: "The Wicked"

18 Aug 2016

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In media res can be a powerful way to open an episode. It is often used to mimic a character's emotional state. Putting audiences in the same confusing frenzy as the characters allows us to connect with them. The opening of this episode of American Gothic, however, didn't seem to add much to the plot. It is implied that between the celebration at the end of the last episode and the opening of this one, Brady got an arrest warrant for Garrett, the police served the warrant, the entire family processed the information, and he was booked into jail. For a show that thrives on drama and confrontation, it would have been actually nice to see the drama and confrontation. Instead, like Garrett, I mostly felt bored and a little sleepy in the first couple of scenes. Luckily, the episode picked up steam quickly.

The episode does something interesting with structure. Instead of zipping back and forth between all the siblings, for the most part the episode stays with Garrett as he has one-on-one conversations with the people in his life. It was smart to keep the action mostly confined to the jail. Viewers begin to feel the same claustrophobia Garrett is feeling and see the flashbacks as a welcome distraction from the drab jail walls.

It wouldn't be a proper flashback without a Lost alum! M.C. "We're going to have to take the boy" Gainey adds some gravitas to Garrett's journey from spoiled city kid to cold-hearted rabbit hunter. You can tell that the cranky old hermit probably saved Garrett's life by offering his help and his sanity by offering his company. The moment when he talks about his niece's death is a nice reminder that the Hawthornes aren't the only people suffering. Tragedies happen ever day and they are equally devastating (that being said - I thought for sure the niece would end up being another Silver Bells victim). To bad he's dying of Wise Old Mentor Disease, always signaled by badly hidden coughing and the imparting of folksy wisdom before it's too late. When Garrett finds his mentor dying on the floor, he does the merciful thing and makes sure it's quick. This scene is probably the most important in the episode. It shows us a couple of things. It shows where Garrett's feelings of helplessness and guilt come from. It also shows, at least to me, that Garrett isn't the Silver Bells killer. He was much too upset about killing someone, even if it was a merciful death.

The other standout scene in the episode came a little earlier on, with Garrett spying on his family from the secrecy of the woods. The writers were smart in making this the only scene with the entire family together in the episode. Just like Garrett, we're charmed to see everyone getting along together in a much happier time. This tableau of the Hawthornes is just one more lie - Garrett can't see Tessa's anxiety, Cam's addition, or Alison's turtleneck hatred in the scene. He has likely idealized most of his family in his head for years and this just presents him proof of that. It isn't until he goes back to Boston that he sees his siblings for who they really are, and loves them anyway. His jail conversations with his siblings aren't particularly illuminating and purposefully obtuse (why didn't Tessa ask him if he was the serial killer instead of "have you ever killed someone?"), but they are nice illustrations of the connections he's being trying to make.

One of those connections become more important than he could have ever imagined. Throughout the episode, the combination of individual goodbye scenes with every family member and the flashbacks to the hermit's death made me think he was either going to kill himself, claiming responsibility for the killings to end the family's ordeal, or plead guilty. He may very well have been planning to, but life, and Jack, have other plans.

Jack's special cousin-killing instincts must have kicked in at the ob/gyn appointment and he finds out Christina is pregnant. When he tells his uncle, Garrett realizes the truth. He's going to be a father (he should probably borrow Tessa's research on the warrior gene) and he doesn't intend to spend his child's life behind bars.

Garrett's new outlook on life leads to him cooperating with his lawyer, but it isn't needed. Our favorite ex-turtlenecked reporter Jennifer gives a special broadcast, telling the world that the Silver Bells Killer is back. The mysterious figure claims Jennifer as a new victim and doesn't look like he or she is about to stop with her...

Meanwhile... this week in Brady: I can't believe Garrett could get arrested just because he has a knife that Silver Bells used. The simplest explanation is that his father gave it to him, not that he was part of the crime. But I am forced to admit that Brady's "This goes all the way to the top!" predictions are probably right.

Top Suspects of the Week:

Tessa: It's got to be Tessa, right. The one thing the flashbacks proved was that Garrett would do anything for Tessa. Brady's going to show the picture around to the neighbors, and it's going to be Tessa they recognize, not Garrett.

Conley and Cutter: Say it ain't so! Cutter's sketchiness is ruining my theoretical Boston PD spinoff. Their rendezvous and connection with Jennifer move them close to the top of the list.

DC's Newest Supervillain, Silver Bells: I've been glossing over Mitchell Hawthorne actor Jamey Sheridan's other role as a deceased, secretive, wealthy patriarch married to a manipulative blonde with a survivalist kid and an addict kid, one of whom ran for mayor. The finishing moments, however, reminded me too much of Star City's near-weekly supervillain hostage broadcasts. Moira vs. Madeline? Please let me know in the comments.

Caramel Watch: No Caramel. Caramel is probably off celebrating that Jack has moved from vivisection to historical pathogens.

Who do you think Garrett killed? Who was Mitchell's accomplice? Do you miss Lost as much as I do? Let me know in the comments.

About the Author - Laurel Weibezahn
Laurel Weibezahn is a freelance writer. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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