As they lay Mitch to rest, all is not well in House Hawthorne

By Christina Ciammaichelli
June 30, 2016 at 03:08 AM EDT
Ben Mark Holzberg/CBS

American Gothic

S1 E2
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  • CBS

The series premiere of American Gothic ended with Madeline Hawthorne, our matriarch, calmly suffocating her husband in his hospital bed. It’s become abundantly clear that whatever secrets are lurking amongst the Hawthornes, Madeline knows all. We also see the rest of our main characters struggling — with addiction, with their consciences, and with each other.

Just when you thought you couldn’t keep track of anymore potential serial killers, “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” brings us a few new characters. First we have Detective Cutter, who is the lead on the Silver Bells Killer (SBK)/tunnel-collapse case and leaves no room for error about whether she’s born and bred in Boston. Then we have Gunther, also with a heavy Boston accent, who appears to be a landscaper/trash-remover/chess opponent employed by the Hawthornes. Everyone speaks fondly of him, like he’s a member of the family, but let me just say right now — I ain’t buyin’ it.

Episode 2 takes place over what I assume is a few days, from mourning to funeral planning to funeral itself. We see Madeline act remorseful early on, but that 20 seconds she spends crying in her bathtub is all she’s got — for the next 40 minutes, she really outdoes her evil self.

In the midst of grieving, Cam, Tessa, and Alison finally find time to question their mother about the silver bells in the shed (Tessa, in particular, will not let it go). Madeline tells them Mitch was always obsessed with “true-crime stories” (did he binge Making a Murderer? We’ll never know), and that he bought the bells and newspaper clippings from a collector. However, Mitch began suffering from dementia in recent months, and he became convinced he was SBK. Mitch’s quick descent into senility was such a torturous experience for Madeline, she’s just happy it’s over. Both Tessa and Cam are skeptical about this explanation, but Alison wraps things up by making everyone swear they won’t tell a soul about any of it because they need to protect “dad’s legacy” — a.k.a. her campaign for mayor.

Garrett comes in from one of his “long walks” and announces he wants to speak at the funeral. Alison is relentless in preventing him from doing so, because she worries he’ll say something crazy and defamatory in front of the press, but Garrett doesn’t care. Alison confers with Naomi about what she could do to keep Garrett out of the funeral altogether, and they conspire to have him pulled over by the police knowing he won’t have a license. During this conversation, Naomi attempts to comfort Alison, pulling her close and then grabbing her hand. Alison doesn’t quite pull away, and the looks they exchange imply something has (or will?) happened between them.

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Cam continues to ignore Jack’s sociopathic tendencies, some of which include: an interest in rigor mortis and postmortem fingernail growth; a simultaneous complete lack of interest in his dead grandfather; and finally, pretending to hang himself with his necktie. Make no mistake… This kid is a charmer.

At the police station, Brady suggests his fellow detectives seek out everyone who had a hand in the collapsed tunnel’s construction, in an attempt to find the owner of the SBK belt. When this list of names is obtained, Detective Cutter points out that Mitch Hawthorne was one of the supervisors on the project, and that Brady will need to get DNA from Mitch as soon as possible. Brady is less than thrilled to mine his father-in-law’s home (or even his dead body) for some DNA, but he also wants to prove himself, so he obliges.

NEXT: “Should I open the casket and pull a hair off the corpse?”

It’s now the day of the funeral, and Brady is panicked trying to find something with Mitch’s DNA on it. He’s having some trouble because Madeline has methodically rid the house of Mitch’s belongings. Tessa claims this is part of her grieving process, and we see Gunther carrying out several large trash bags of what we can assume are Mitch’s personal effects, silver bells included. Brady even goes to the morgue and then the crematorium, but can’t manage to get to Mitch’s corpse.

Meanwhile, Tessa continues to grapple with the news of her father’s unknown illness and death, but she still doesn’t fully believe her mother. Gunther told Tessa he’d just been playing a game of chess with Mitch, and Tessa overhears some friends mention they recently played bridge with him. She again confronts Madeline, who is, of course, beyond offended her daughter would accuse her of lying — especially on this, the day of her husband’s funeral. She tells Tessa things had gotten so bad for Mitch that he was forgetting names, and at times even asked Madeline to kill him and spare their kids of this trauma.

(Is anyone buying this? I’m definitely not buying the Mitch-had-dementia story one bit.)

Despite Alison’s best efforts, Garrett makes it to the funeral. Garrett goes on to give the funeral speech of the century, kicking things off with “I hated my dad.” We’re still not sure what ax Garrett has to grind when it comes to his father, but we do learn Mitch wasn’t pleased when his eldest son didn’t want to take over the family business.

Garrett leaves the podium without saying anything else too slanderous, and Alison gives a perfect-politician speech about her father and a music box. Meanwhile, Cam and Sophie — while sitting next to their son in a churchsneak off to the bathroom, where Cam hoped to do some drugs he scored from a waiter. Sophie won’t let him and insists he needs to feel the pain of this moment. So they have sex instead. In the church bathroom. At his father’s funeral. Leaving their son unattended.

Since Jack is left to his own devices, he takes to the podium to give a speech of his own. It starts out as a pretty normal “ode to my grandfather,” but he closes by mentioning he’s “mostly sad because he won’t get to see [his] grandfather’s decomposing body.” The funeral-goers weren’t really as shocked and horrified by this as they should have been.

Post-funeral at the Hawthorne estate, Madeline begs Cam to get his son in therapy, which Cam is somehow still resistant to doing. Then, gunning for mother-of-the-year, Madeline thanks Garrett for “keeping his mouth shut” — but in the same breath, tells him everyone’s been great without him and that he should just leave. Garrett doesn’t agree.

In this episode’s final scene, Brady gets a call from Detective Cutter, who explains the belt didn’t belong to the SBK victim as originally thought, but must have come from SBK himself. At that moment, Brady is looking through old Hawthorne family photos, and sees Cam wearing the exact belt in question in a photo of him and Mitch from 2002.

YIKES. What a tangled web we’ve weaved, in such a short amount of time.

So will Brady and Tessa confer about the evidence they both have that ties the Hawthornes to SBK? Will Madeline insult any more of her children? Will Cam and Sophie have sex in any other houses of worship? Stay tuned!

Ep. 2 Honorable Mentions

  • “He was dead, right?” —The crematory employee
  • Naomi looking on jealously, as Tom gives Alison a post-funeral gift: a music box.
  • Gunther and Detective Cutter’s (Deirdre Lovejoy from The Wire!) Boston accents need a second mention. Why have all the Hawthornes lost theirs?
  • Phyllis showing up to inquire about Caramel the cat’s tail, to which Madeline bluntly replies, “Phyllis. Remember my husband, Mitchell? Tall guy, gray hair? He’s dead. Good luck with your cat.”

Who Actually Dun It?

Who do you suspect SBK is, two episodes in? Right now my money is on Gunther, or perhaps Phyllis — neighbor and “mother” of Caramel the cat. Let us know your thoughts!

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American Gothic

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