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American Gothic - Madame X/Whistler's Mother - Review: "Caramel's Revenge"

8 Sept 2016

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It starts with Whistler's Mother and ends with jellyfish.

Of course American Gothic couldn't resist paying homage to the most famous visual reference in the American Gothic style. Like Whistler's mother, the faithful audience is left with the image of Madeline in a peaceful repose. The painting is so famous because it creates an enigma that the audience feels compelled to solve. In the end, that is what Madeline ultimately was. No one fully understood her. All everyone got was pieces of the puzzle. The audience may have gotten her backstory, but her children all remained unaware of the poverty and instability she was desperate to flee. Her lawyer may have hilariously advised her to leave the country, but she wouldn't have suspected Madeline would hide all her money in Mitchell's mausoleum space, unceremoniously dumping his ashes in her purse. Cam, Tessa, and Garrett still only know part of the truth of David Morales's death and any present-day Silver Bells killings have been pinned on Sophie. No one figure Madeline out.

Well, almost no one.

The twist is only shown in the final moments. After Madeline's confession last week, the siblings are rightfully afraid for their lives. Cam makes the wise decision to take Jack and get as far away from the house as possible (not knowing he is bringing Jack closer to the killer). Brady ropes a reluctant Garrett into helping identify Silver Bells. Tessa gives Garrett some very bad advice about running away and worries about his perception of her as a helpless child (that gives really bad advice). Alison responds to news of a stranger having access to the house by inviting a whole security team of strangers to have access to the house. This somehow doesn't backfire and instead leads to the discovery of the Silver Bells bells stash in the ventilation. It is then that Alison realizes the truth about the Silver Bells Killer.

The Silver Bells Killer was never a danger to Madeline. The Silver Bells Killer was a gift. Madeline kept the bells because she was never sure if she would need to kill someone else to ensure the family's legacy. She paid Gunther to kill himself and strangled Jennifer to get Garrett out of jail (and presumably to stop her from wearing any more turtlenecks).

Alison struggles with whether or not to turn Madeline in. In the end, with the advice of the newly returned Naomi, she throws all the silver bells into the water.

Well, almost all of them.

As Cam and Tessa frantically search the city for Jack, who has been taken by his mother for one last irresponsible adventure, Alison realizes another truth. Sophie is the grown daughter of the Silver Bells Killer, a man who went absolutely insane after the death of his wife and enlisted his daughter in slaughtering the one percent. Sophie began stalking and eventually dating Cam to get close to the family she blamed for her father's death. Her love for Cam and Jack stopped her from going over the edge, but now that Cam has filed for divorce she has nothing to lose.

Alison tracks down Sophie and offers her a deal. She won't turn her into the authorities if Sophie does her one favor. It just so happens that Alison has one silver bell left and wants Sophie to take care of the liability Madeline poses to her campaign, family, and future with Naomi.

Brady figures out Sophie's past at the exact time Sophie is tightening a belt around Madeline's neck. Cam rushes in to save her, but it is too late. Cam almost shoots Sophie in revenge, but Garrett stops him, once again the protector of siblings who take murderous action.

Sophie escapes with her life and knowledge of the hidden fortune in Mitchell's mausoleum space. Cam and Garrett, completely ineffectual in the grand scheme of things, both live to embrace fatherhood and new girlfriends. Tessa and Brady have a beautiful baby. Naomi and Alison reunite. Alison does everything but cure cancer as the new super mayor of Boston. Dana gets her boat. Everyone gets a happy ending.

And now let's talk about jellyfish. Jack is particularly delighted with the jellyfish. He obliviously speculates to his harried Aunt Tessa that special cells in jellyfish could lead to medical science extending people's lives. It could be its own form of immortality. In the end, the reaching effects of one person's actions was what drove the show's plot. American Gothic wasn't just about family or even about very questionable parenting decisions. It was about the effects a parent leaves on their child and how they achieve their own kind of twisted immortality. Silver Bells wasn't one person. It was a father and daughter, and then, eventually, a mother and daughter.

Both Sophie and Alison choose to follow in their parent's footsteps, becoming the new Silver Bells and Hawthorne matriarch. Alison does the exact thing she condemns her mother to death for and uses Silver Bells to get rid of something threatening the family. The audience may be given the image of the happy Hawthornes on the beach, but nothing has changed. The children have morphed into the parents and Madeline lives on. She really would be proud.

Top Suspects of the Week: In the end, the Silver Bells Killer ended up being a combination of Sophie's Ted-Danson-lookalike father, Mitchell, Madeline, Sophie, and Alison. I don't think I ever guessed that. The show helpfully flashed back to the big clues. Sophie talks about her mother dying when she was young. She knows how to sneak into the psychologist's office. She knows how to get into the Hawthorne mansion. Her meet-cute with Cam was staged. There is one clue the show didn't flashback to, however. In the first scene of the finale, Jack says that he is disappointed that there isn't a figure of him in the murder dollhouse. No matter how twisted Sophie got, she would never threaten her own son.

A Farewell to American Gothic's Boston: the main actors have all been great, but it was the assorted weirdos of Boston that made this a fun show. Farewell to the catty cops, nonchalant convenience store clerks, shady lawyers, and fickle voters that make up this great city. A special farewell to the Old Blind Lady. I'm sure you had a name, but no one ever called you anything else.

Caramel Watch: Caramel was not seen in this episode, but his presence was felt. Phyllis provided one more out for Madeline. If she hadn't been so snobby to her neighbor and gone to the HOA meeting, she would still be alive to scowl at the ever-growing Hawthorne clan. Somewhere, Caramel is pleased.

Thank you so much for watching this show with me! I've enjoyed reading all the comments and speculating with you. I'll be sticking around SpoilerTV and will be reviewing Bull, Hawaii 5-0, Dr. Ken, Black-ish, and American Housewife for this fall!

What did you think of the finale? Do you think it was a satisfying ending? Who was your favorite weirdo? 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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