American Gothic premiere

American Gothic Premiere Recap: Were You Slayed by CBS' Murder Mystery?

The Hawthornes’ annual holiday newsletter’s gonna be a doozy this year.

Will the family at the center of CBS’ ominous serial-killer drama American Gothic lead with eldest daughter Alison’s mayoral run (or the fact that she appears to have an illicit lesbian attraction to her campaign manager)? Then again, they could go with prodigal son Garrett’s return to town (along with a how-to guide to shaving your mountain-man facial hair with a hunting knife).

Oh, wait, I know! How about that time when mom attached dad’s heart monitor to her own finger, then quietly cut off his oxygen supply and ushered him into the great beyond! It’s not as if she could’ve really let him live and spill the beans about possibly being the long-dormant Silver Bells Killer, right?

virginia madsenBut don’t hand the Creepiest Family Member statuette to Maddie (Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen) just yet! Tween grandson Jack made a good case for himself by abducting the neighbor’s cat Caramel and… well, more on that in just a second. Let’s recap the series premiere (aka “Arrangement in Grey and Black”) and predict just how many of these folks will be locked up before the season is over.

INSIDE THE BELT WAY | Things get off to an almost supernatural start as the Hawthorne’s youngest daughter Tess (Jane the Virgin vet Megan Ketch) and her detective hubby Brady (Once Upon a Time‘s Elliot Knight) drive through a tunnel in Boston — and just miss a portion of the ceiling collapsing behind them as they exit. The crumbled debris contains a belt with a fingerprint that traces back to a victim of the Silver Bells Killer, a notorious serial murderer who targeted rich and powerful businesspeople from 1999-2002, then “retired” without ever being caught. While Alison (The Knick‘s Juliet Rylance, sounding awfully British), flanked by her entire family, gives a stump speech about the discovery of the possible murder weapon (and how she’ll work to get the case solved), her powerful contractor father Mitch gets a case of the uncomfortable woozies, then collapses. Damn, dad, didn’t you get the memo about staying on message!

107972_D8_0200bMEANWHILE, BACK AT THE HAWTHORNE ESTATE… | Tess catches her heinously coiffed brother Cam (Shameless‘ Justin Chatwin) rooting around in a greenhouse/storage shed, and quickly realizes the recovering addict is seeking some hidden stash. Turns out he’s left his fellow addict wife Sophie and gotten custody of their son Jack, but he’s still teetering, and their father’s hospitalization is proving more than he can handle. Tess agrees to help him locate — and dispose of — the drugs, but what she finds on the top of a dusty shelf sends both of their heads spinning: It’s a red box filled with little silver bells (the killer’s calling card) and newspaper clippings about the unsolved mystery. When they tell Alison, she declares it “a November 6 problem.” Little does she know, the family matriarch wants it handled sooner.

American Gothic premiereTHE SILENCED TREATMENT | Mitch’s recovery goes awry when long-estranged eldest son Garrett (Banshee‘s Antony Starr) returns home and whispers something into his ear. Garrett claims it was nothing more than a sentiment about being happy to see the old man, but Alison’s spooky little twins, Harper and Violet, catch a different message from their perch on the floor. “I’m gonna tell them it was you.” The episode closes with Maddie knitting beside Mitch’s hospital bed, and apparently, he wants to beat Garrett to whatever punch Beardy McBlankeyes is planning. “We have to tell the truth,” he pleads to Maddie. But her gentle “shhh” turns to something more menacing as she instructs her husband, “Just close your eyes and relax. I love you” and then holds his gaze as she cuts off his oxygen supply.

american gothic caramel the catTHE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE CAT IN THE NIGHTTIME | OK, so it seems deeply weird that the episode is interspersed with the Hawthorne’s neighbor ringing the doorbell and seeking information on the missing Caramel’s whereabouts. But it all makes hideous sense when Cam finds out Jack (who has a penchant for drawing corpses with ligature marks in his free time) has been hanging with the kitty, performing an experiment to learn that “garden shears can cut through bone!” Caramel only loses a tail in the incident — and Cam quickly rushes her to the vet to reattach it — but Jack’s sketchbook reveals a feline diagram sectioned off like something you’d find at your local butcher’s shop.

But enough about Caramel — may the show’s writers keep her safe! What did you think of the American Gothic premiere? Grade it in our poll below, then share your thoughts in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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16 Comments
  1. Lynne says:

    It kept my attention and the hour didn’t feel like it was dragging on for 3 or 4 hours. That’s more than I could say for alot of new shows I try. I’m going to give it a shot, see if I manage to stay for the entire run.

    • dan says:

      I thought the hour moved very quickly. I enjoyed it and will come back next week. Seems like a fun summer show. Even my wife, who is a picky tv watcher, was intrigued for next week’s episode.

  2. B says:

    I thought it was pretty good and will keep watching, but I could do without the kid’s obsession with death and going the future-psychopath route of harming animals. (I know it’s acting and kids can be pretty savvy, but I always wonder about a kid actor’s parents letting them do dark material like that.) — Very nice to see Antony Starr, and also Dylan Bruce from Orphan Black – except I don’t think he had a single line!

  3. Patti says:

    I missed the first 10 minutes and apparently that was the most important part.Otherwise,it was pretty good.This family has a bunch of crazy members.Am going to dvr it.Was definitely intriguing enough for another look.

  4. Sarah says:

    Wow, this show is terrible. I don’t know if it’s just bad acting, bad direction, a script even great actors couldn’t sound good or, as I suspect, a combination thereof, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this big a collection of awkward dialogue, awkward delivery and blatant schmacting outside of a soap opera. Also, I think they forgot the promised “dark comedy” at home. I spent the entire episode with an involuntary “cringe” face – will not be watching this again.

  5. Rster says:

    So many issues with this show. Anyone who didn’t see the issue with the cat coming wasn’t paying attention. It was obvious from the first time the neighbor knocked on the door that the kid had done something. They are trying way too hard to telegraph the issues. Sadly they didn’t try nearly hard enough to address the science. Nasal cannulas deliver supplemental oxygen. Clamping the line will not result in someone instantly suffocating the way it would for someone who is intubated and fully dependent on the oxygen being delivered. I can’t wait to see how they try to explain the issues with the finger monitor. And there are many with the entire concept. The show is cliched and sloppy. I am still trying to figure out why the even cast Dylan Bruce as they didn’t give him a single line that I can recall. What a waste.

    • The Beach says:

      Yep, I’m one and done myself. I was expecting something gritty like American Crime, etc but instead I got a big ol soap opera. No thanks.

  6. Imzadi says:

    Are they having a problem paying their electric bill? I found much of the show hard to watch because it was so dark. I do realize that it’s atmospheric, but I do like to be able to follow what’s going on because I can see!

  7. Charlene says:

    It was ok. I will keep watching and hope it gets better.

  8. S.uddenly says:

    I’ll give it another watch but was disappointed in it – love Antony Star but felt he was still in Banshee; “Cam” looked completely different in every scene he was in – glasses/combed hair; no glasses/combed hair; no glasses/crazy hair; etc. found that a little unsetting but perhaps foreshadowing.

  9. liame says:

    WTH was that?

  10. Ray says:

    It’s great to see Virginia Madsen in anything and Justin Chatwin is really good as the struggling son Cam but that Jack kid bypasses quirky and goes right to plain old creepy.Nothing against the young actor portraying him but his Jack is just weird and annoying, not charismatic or intriguing. I also wish they didn’t have use the predictable animal abuse thing of showing harm being done to an innocent cat to prove that this is about a serial killer. They could’ve just glazed over that with some vague statements and it would’ve done the same thing. I realize that historically a lot of killers started out on animals, butchering their pet dogs or shooting birds or whatever but I wish they could’ve left that bit out. The show is slow going so far but I’ll give it a couple more episodes to see if it catches on with my interest.

  11. Sandrine says:

    The device Virginia attached to her finger wasn’t the heart monitor per se. It was a pulse oximeter and it measures the amount of oxygen in a person’s body and the heart rate. When the Dad died and the monitor flat lined, an alarm should have gone off even if Virginia’s oxygen levels and heart rate were still normal because the leads of that cardiac monitor is still attached to the Dad’s chest.

  12. Why says:

    They lost me as a viewer when they went the animal torture route, same as Penny Dreadful when they fed a cat to the vampire. It’s a stupid, cheap tactic that ensures any animal lover that had an interest in the show will just turn off for good.

    • Radha says:

      They’re not really harming the animals. Calm down. There are a LOT of things I hate seeing in the world. Am I going to turn off the tv every time I do? I wouldn’t watch anything at all then.

      Let’s see how many things I don’t like were featured in the first episode:

      1. A woman possibly physically and/or emotionally cheating on her husband

      2. Children being allowed to crawl all over the dirty floor

      3. Drug addiction

      4. Stupidity

      5. Animal abuse

      6. Knowing your child is potentially disturbed, but you go get high with your estranged wife instead.

      I could go on. Animal abuse sucks. But it happens. Just like murder of innocent/ not so innocent people. The fact that the cat being “tortured” was what made you turn off the tv instead of oh, I don’t know, the man being murdered in his hospital bed, is what worries me. Animals are important but they are in no way more important than people.

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