Wow! There’s only two episodes left of American Gothic and it finally seems like we’ve learned some truth about the Hawthorne family’s ties to SBK. Episode 11 presented answers to a slew of major questions, but as with all things in this series, can we really trust anything Madeline says? Let’s discuss.
“Freedom from Fear” splits its time between present day and 2002, around the time of the last SBK murder. As we saw last week, Brady approached Garrett as he’s digging up (and grinding up) a body, and Cam, Tessa, and Alison approached Madeline about Caleb and the story she told about the body on the stairs. It turns out the body in question — in both of these scenarios — is the same body, which supposedly belongs to the real SBK. Both Garrett and Madeline proceed to tell their sides of this saga.
To start, we see that Tessa was very sick one night around Christmas in 2002. She had a fever and the whole family was worried about her. Alison, Tom Price, Garrett, and Madeline were sitting around a table talking about Tom running for student government (Cam was off doing drugs), when Mitch walked in and asked Alison a question about some documents she’d sent out on behalf of Hawthorne Concrete. It appears Alison had sent the wrong box of documents — she sent a box with the company’s payroll files to their accountant’s office, instead of sending accounting papers as originally intended. Alison plays this off, showing very little concern about this mistake. She may have even said “WHOOPSIE,” if I’m not mistaken.
But this isn’t your average whoopsie. Apparently, Mitch had ever-so-slightly stolen from his employees, a little here from this paycheck, a little there from that 401(k). He later explains his actions were solely intended to secure a huge client and keep the company in business, but no matter how you slice it, it’s still fraud.
At the time of this conversation Mitch laughs it off, like it was NBD that Alison just screwed up everyone’s lives for the foreseeable future. When Madeline and Mitch later discuss this alone, Madeline insists Mitch does absolutely everything in his power to get their accountant to keep quiet.
While Mitch is on the phone with their lawyer that same night, someone breaks into the Hawthorne mansion. This presumed burglar quickly dismantles the home’s security system and makes his way toward the massive staircase. As he gets to the top, young Tessa is there, and she screams and shoves the man down the stairs. The rest of the family gathers and sees the stranger sprawled out on their staircase, not moving. Mitch “takes his pulse” and determines the man is dead. Then we see a small silver bell fall out of the man’s pocket.
Tessa is sent back to bed, and Mitch and Madeline contemplate what to do about the elusive Silver Bells Killer’s dead body in their foyer. Madeline (who hasn’t lost an ounce of manipulative deviousness in 14 years) makes it clear they can’t simply call the cops, fearing how an incident like that might ruin their family name and traumatize Tessa for life. (Defending yourself from a well-known serial killer? Seems like covering it up would be maybe more of a problem, but I digress.)
Tessa is upset with what happened and calls Garrett, who’s now at an apartment with his girlfriend, Molly (whom we met in episode 3). When he gets back to the Hawthorne estate to comfort Tessa, Mitch and Madeline beg him to help get rid of the body. Garrett, who I’m realizing may very well be the only sane Hawthorne, tells them they’re crazy and insists they call the cops. He eventually agrees to help them, under the guise of protecting his baby sister.
At this point, Cam gets back from his drug bender and sneaks in the house. That’s when he sees who we now know is Garret, dragging a body down the steps.
Garrett takes the (presumed) SBK to that same forest everyone seems to frequent in Maine, and starts digging a hole. He turns around to grab the body and toss it in, but it’s gone. The real SBK was, in fact, not dead. Instead, he was awake and wielding a knife at Garrett. SBK manages to stab Garrett, and after some back-and-forth scuffling, Garrett ultimately gets the knife and stabs the real SBK to death.
NEXT: “Garrett, what did you do?”
This exchange explains why Garrett had the SBK knife. In present day, he tells Brady he kept the knife to forever remind himself of what he did to survive. This also clarifies the scene from a few episodes ago, in which Madeline approaches a muddy and bloody young Garrett in his bedroom and asks “Garrett, what did you do?”
Back in present day, Cam points out that this story so far doesn’t quite add up. “Why was dad’s DNA on the belt?” he asks.
Madeline explains the payroll files sent to the accountant still presented a major problem. Mitch’s accountant was David Morales — Christina’s father and the last known SBK murder victim. When Morales refused to look past Mitch’s fraudulent activities or accept his bribe, Mitch killed him with Cam’s belt and left a small silver bell at the crime scene. This made Mitch a perfect SBK copycat.
Cam, Tessa, and Alison are enraged with Madeline. They couldn’t believe she’d lied to them for so many years or encourage the murder of two men. Madeline tries to convince them that everything she and Mitch did was an effort to protect them, and as usual, that “everyone needs stick together.”
Madeline starts warning her children about the small bells she found in her purse, insisting the SBK accomplice is back and out to get them. Suddenly, a very comprehensive model home is sitting on a table in the Hawthorne living room, complete with a tiny sculpture of each Hawthorne, dead in a rocking chair.
Someone is definitely messing with them, but who has the artistic ability to put THAT one together? (Perhaps Sophie and Phyllis are working together on this one?)
Brady tries to convince Garrett to come clean. Brady swears he will protect Garrett and do everything in his power to keep him out of jail. Garrett has the answers to the SBK questions the police have been asking for 14 years, and coming forward might actually get Garrett the new life he deserves.
Finally, towards the end of the hour, the audience is shown the truth behind this whole ordeal. Unsurprisingly, Madeline orchestrated every single part of the story we saw. She alone insisted they didn’t call the cops, when Mitch wanted to; she convinced Mitch he owed it to his family to save them from his mistakes by murdering Morales and pinning it on SBK; she convinced Garrett he was hiding the body for his sister, and that he would go to jail if he ever spoke. And finally (here’s the real kicker): She was THERE when David Morales was killed… She went to Mitch’s meeting with their accountant, and when Mitch chickened out, Madeline was the one who finished the job.
It’s a shocking reveal, but at the same time, not so shocking — right? It seems that small pieces of what Madeline has been telling us since series premiere may be true (like Mitch being a fan of true-crime stories), but to what degree? Tune in next week for the two-hour finale and the end of our American Gothic journey!
Ep. 11 Honorable Mentions
Who Actually Dun It?
It seems Jack got his psychopath gene from his dear grandmother. She’s more sinister than I ever imagined, and I also think she must have some involvement in Mitch’s reason for stealing money from his employees.
Technically, we still don’t know who SBK is, and we certainly don’t know the identity of the accomplice. Everything’s still up in the air, but I’ll just say this: There’s at least one person we know, who lives very close to the Hawthornes, and could be the one sneaking in and playing these SBK pranks…
What are you hoping will happen in the finale? Let us know in the comments! (Shout-out to Jeffrey Clinard, whose theory last week nearly nailed it!)