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American Gothic - Freedom from Fear - Review: "Definitely Kill Ross"

1 Sept 2016

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Money is the root of all evil. That could basically be the mission statement of this episode. In the end, it didn't come down to the violent genetics manifesting itself in Jack. It had nothing to do with Tessa's strange behavior or Garrett's creepiness or Alison's controlling nature or Cam's addiction.

In my first review for American Gothic (and my first review ever for this site!), I wrote about how places are tied to the mindframe of their occupants. In the pilot, ever since they opened that box of silver bells, the house seemed to be openly rebelling against the siblings. The production team plays with physical space again in this episode. The house was really what was working against them. Or rather, not the house itself but everything it stood for. Madeline may tell her children until she runs out of breath that her choices have always been for them, but it was for the house, the prestige, and the money.

The flashback of the episode offered both subjective and objective looks at events. According to Madeline's and Garrett's stories, Tessa surprised the Silver Bells Killer as he had come a'killing and pushed him down the stairs (which may explain her weird connection to the stairs). The world's strongest cold medicine caused her to completely forget doing so. Garrett is manipulated by his love of Tessa into burying the body. SBK comes to and Garrett has to kill him. Mitchell uses the SBK tools left behind to kill an accountant (David Morales) who was going to expose his embezzling.

The Hawthorne siblings take it at face value, too upset about the idea of an accomplice to try to pick apart Madeline's story. Only the audience is treated to the other flashbacks. A flashback of SBK preparing reveals that there is indeed an accomplice. We also see Madeline and Mitchell conspiring together to kill Morales and finally Madeline taking the murder in her own hands when Mitchell is too squeamish to continue. Garrett spent all his time believing his father was a killer, when it was his mother behind everything.

This story should be a relief for both the characters and the audience. All the truths are coming to the surface. But, despite Alison cautioning the others about sticking together, the Hawthorne siblings seem far apart once again. Madeline's story only further isolated them. She keeps emphasizing Alison's honest mistake and she paints a more violent picture of Mitchell than the audience sees. When she and Mitchell decide to kill Morales, she says specifically that they have to do this because "You cheated". Madeline may claim that she wants the family together, but she's more than happy to manipulate them for her own gains. Think about the first scene where the siblings confront Madeline. They all crowd around the foot of her bed, close and united against the isolated Madeline. Then, as she moves them to the kitchen and tells them the story, they're scattered throughout the set and spread out in the shot.

The best example of this blocking and framing is when it is revealed that Madeline is next to Mitchell in Morales's office. They may have both come to kill him, but at that moment Madeline and Mitchell are shown to be miles away from each other. They were never really a couple in this endeavor. When it comes to murder, Mitchell's not even in Madeline's league.

And in the final, spooky shot (hope this isn't a fakeout and Jack made the dolls...) the family is all isolated again - each dying in a separate room. The Hawthorne siblings are still dolls in someone else's playtime, and the dollhouse may kill them all.

Meanwhile... this week in Brady: I originally wrote in this space how nice it is that Brady is so fundamentally decent, but then something occurred to me. I've never seriously considered him a suspect. He's very much the audience surrogate character and the writers clearly want us to identify with him as the outsider in this crazy family. The Hawthornes, however, have switched from being the family that preys on innocent outsiders to the family that must be protected from crazy outsiders. Maybe with this switch, we should start looking at Brady in a different light.

Top Suspects of the Week:

Tom: I had not been aware the Tom was already dating Alison on that fateful night. There are two things that none of the flashbacks adequately explain: how SBK knew the Hawthorne's alarm code and why he was so comfortable sneaking around in a house full of people. The boyfriend of a Hawthorne daughter would know the layout of the house, the sleeping habits of the occupants, and maybe even the alarm code. Killing the Hawthorne parents might lead to an inheritance for Alison. Jennifer would have let her guard down for Tom. And now Tom has the twins!

Alison: Alison is the only Hawthorne sibling not accounted for during SBK's break-in and nearly all the same points that apply to Tom apply to her. As Madeline tells her, "It all started with you."

Naomi: Now that we know that the accomplice has had a lot of time to plot revenge against the family, any person in the siblings' lives sounds possible. Naomi is just about due for a return, anyway.

Caramel Watch: Caramel better make a triumphant comeback and rescue all the Hawthornes from a house fire or something.

If you had killed someone as a child, would you want your parents to tell you about it? If your child killed someone would you tell them about it? Do you agree with Molly's answers in the Friends game? Who do you think the accomplice is? 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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