“American Gothic”- For Whom the Silver Bell Tolls…

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With the two-hour season finale of “American Gothic” airing next week, I thought it was time to check in with the summer’s most twisted family one last time, and make some potential predictions as to who the killer might be- or the current one, at least. (Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen the most recent episode that aired on August 31st!)

For, as we found out on the most recent episode, “Freedom from Fear,” the actual Silver Bells killer has long since been dead, having first been pushed down the stairs by a freaked-out Tessa, then, after being mistaken for dead by her parents, taken to an isolated locale in Maine to be buried after they decided it would be bad press for the family, as well as welcome some unfortunately-timed scrutiny.

As it turns out, patriarch Mitchell Hawthorne (Jamey Sheridan) had been bilking his customers for some time, skimming money off the top of their 401K for his own financial gain after his business was in danger of going belly up. Then, to compound matters, he accidentally sent proof of said crime by mistake to Dave Morales (Yancey Arias), who was threatening to go to the authorities and turn in the materials as evidence, which would land Mitchell in prison.

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So, though she told her kids otherwise, mama bear Madeline (Virginia Madsen, chewing up scenery like it’s going out of style and having a grand old time doing it)- and boy, is she a fierce one- encouraged Mitchell to “eliminate” the issue and take out Morales, under the guise of it being the Silver Bells killer who did it, using the killer’s MO, which, as a true crime fanatic, she knew he was intimately familiar with. There were several problems with this, and that’s beyond the moral issues at hand.

One: Mitchell wasn’t able to go through with it, forcing Madeline to do it in his place, which she also lied to her kids about. Hence his trying to atone for his part in things in the hospital and why Madeline had no problem taking care of this particular “problem” once and for all.

In turn, this also makes anything and everything that comes out of Madeline’s mouth suspect- not that it wasn’t already, really. We might not know the whole story even now, but regardless, Madeline is clearly not one to be trifled with, though, as we see in the preview for next week’s back-to-back episodes which make up the finale, she may well get her comeuppance, as it looks like someone has her tied up, planning to do who knows what.

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Two: As it turns out, while they were taking care of Morales, his parents had poor Garrett (Antony Starr) dispose of the body for them, so as to eliminate the “other” evidence of what they were about to do, telling him it was to protect the good name of the family and keep the media out of their lives.

The problem was, the Silver Bells Killer wasn’t actually dead, forcing Garrett to finish him off for good, using the knife that would later land him in hot water, as it belonged to said killer. The event ended up traumatizing the then-young man, especially when he realized that his father- or so he thought- had killed Morales under the guise of it being the Silver Bells Killer.

After a nasty conversation with his father, in which Mitchell accepted the blame for the murder and another with his mother, who lied through her teeth about knowing about it, much less being the one who really did it, he threatened to go to the police, but Madeline, naturally, put a stop to that.

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This was, of course, the reason Garrett had ultimately left town, having been unable to face what his family did- as well as his own complicity in it, not to mention the fact he took a life his own damn self, even if it was a serial killer’s. To further protect his family, Garrett had intended to destroy the body once and for all, with the aid of the wood chipper he bought in the previous episode, only to get caught in the act by Tessa’s detective husband, Brady Ross (Elliot Knight).

Agreeing to help him however he can, Ross tells him to let him take Garrett into custody so that he can help identify the SBK’s accomplice, who is still out there, and assumed to be the one who killed reporter Jennifer Windham (Sarah Power)- who has sketchy ties with sister and would-be Mayor Alison Hawthorne-Pryce (Juliet Rylance), who was blackmailing her- as well as the blind old woman. The accomplice could have also possibly killed the Hawthorne’s gardener and made it look like a suicide.

We also know that the accomplice was sitting outside the Hawthorne’s residence, waiting for the SBK’s signal before bailing when Cam arrived and he still hadn’t gotten one, likely assuming something had gone awry. Furthermore, SBK knew the Hawthorne’s alarm code well enough to disarm it, meaning he almost certainly knew the family intimately enough to know such things- or, more likely, his accomplice did.

So, who could it be? Ruling out the family members themselves, who were otherwise occupied, save one lone exception- Alison, who was unaccounted for at the time of the crime- the list is a short one, assuming that it’s not someone who is completely unknown to us, which would be a bit of a letdown. Let’s take a look at the main suspects and assess the odds of their being guilty.

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Tom Price (aka Alison’s husband): We know he has a temper, has been in Alison’s life for some time and that he definitely resents his wife’s bisexuality. Alison recently broke their pact to involve each other in any side relationships by telling him in intimate detail what she got up to with her various trysts, as well as getting a little closer than she should have to campaign manager Naomi Flynn (Maureen Sebastian).

Granted, Alison did break it off with Naomi when pressed to do so by her husband, but he could still have a grudge against her for it. We also learned in the flashback that Tom once had political inclinations himself once upon a time, as he once ran for class president, only to lose. Then Alison obviously picked up the ball and ran with it, as we see in the present. Could Tom resent her for that still as well?

He did go behind her back and buy her father’s company, in a brazen attempt to usurp some power for himself, so he obviously still has some resentment for his wife’s own success in a field he didn’t quite make it in himself, and likely also resents her being the breadwinner in the marriage as well. Finally, as he’s been involved with Alison since they were teenagers, he would have readily had access to the family’s alarm codes, both then and now.

ODDS: For me, this is the most obvious culprit, but, at the same time, it may also be so obvious that it might be wrong. Still, the show has largely kept Tom in the shadows and what we do know is pretty sketchy, so he’s the odds-on favorite as far as I’m concerned.

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Mayor Bill Conley: It would be a shame if Veronica Mars’ former daddy Enrico Colantoni turned out to be the killer, but it’s also pretty plausible as well. After all, he has at least one cop on his payroll that we know of- Brady’s detective partner, Linda Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy)- which gives him inside access to the Hawthorne’s personal information, and we also know he has it out for Alison in particular, being as how she’s challenging him for the Mayoral position.

That said, he’s already been a suspect of wrongdoings, including the reporter’s murder, and essentially cleared of only playing dirty pool in politics, so that doesn’t necessarily make him a killer. But it doesn’t exactly clear him, either, so he’s still in the mix as far as I’m concerned.

ODDS: I’d say around 50/50, at best. If it were him I wouldn’t be THAT surprised, but as he’s been a suspect before, it would be more of a letdown than Tom, and that’s with my suspecting Tom more as it is, so hopefully it’s not him.

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Detective Linda Cutter: Speaking of Cutter, she’s always had it out for the Hawthornes, hasn’t she? Since we met her, she’s constantly been pointing the finger at them, and it seems like a longstanding, personal thing for her. Yes, we now know she was also working for Conley, but I’m not sure that entirely clears her, either.

What if she has some hidden, as yet uncovered motive for hating the Hawthornes? Maybe one of the SBK victims was related to her. Or one of the family members slighted her or a member of her family somehow. I may not know her motives, but I know for sure she hates the family, and there has to be a real reason for that, right? As a detective, she would also know how to cover her tracks, so there’s that as well.

ODDS: About 25/50. Not knowing her motives beyond helping the Mayor makes this a tricky one, and she did crumble like a cookie when confronted about it, so it seems somewhat unlikely, but not out of the question either.

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Naomi Flynn: Alison’s former campaign manager may not be too happy about being let go, much less dismissed so coldly by her lover. But would she go so far as to kill the reporter to frame her for it? I’d also point out that she wouldn’t have known about the blind lady, but there’s another possibility insofar as that goes, which we’ll get into soon enough, so we’ll let that one go. (Ditto the gardener.)

ODDS: Also 25/50. Her motives for going after the Hawthornes and especially for framing Alison for it are pretty solid, but the rest doesn’t hold water unless someone else was responsible- but that’s a distinct possibility, too.

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Lila, aka Madeline’s mother: We haven’t seen hide nor hair of her since Madeline paid her a visit, and she’s already threatened to expose Madeline’s humble beginnings- but that may well be because Madeline took her out altogether. I certainly wouldn’t put it past her. But would Lila have the means, much less the drive to kill people to frame her own daughter, no matter how much she resents her? Seems dubious.

ODDS: About 1/50 at best, IMHO, if that. I find it hard to believe she’d be able to overpower the reporter, for one thing. The blind lady, sure, and with some help, maybe the gardener, but why make that look like a suicide if she were trying to frame her daughter? Like I said, she’s more likely dead than guilty.

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Alison Hawthorne: Alison wasn’t present when all the shenanigans were happening at Casa De Hawthorne. Where was she that night? She’d certainly have had access to the alarm code, and she might well have been in on it with Tom to boot. They’re into some crazy, kinky shiz and neither one is above playing dirty in politics, so why not otherwise?

But would Alison really try and kill members of her own family? That seems dubious, thus making Tom in it alone much more plausible. Unless, of course, she has a hidden motive, and her real target was a SPECIFIC member of her family, such as her mother.

She might also resent all the attention Tessa got growing up, or have had something personal against her father- could he have abused her, which is why she’s so twisted now? Lest we forget, she wasn’t exactly on great terms with the family, either, when the show began. As for now, she certainly had motive to kill the reporter, but not so much the others.

ODDS: 20-to-1. I’d say she’s just a smidge more suspect than Naomi or Cutter, but not by much. Her jealous, resentful hubby is a much better bet.

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Madeline Hawthorne: She’s killed before, I wouldn’t put it past her to do it again- or to threaten her family to throw suspicion off herself. Lest we forget, she threatened as much with Garrett when he was hospitalized. She had motive to kill the gardener, the reporter, and the blind lady as well, which is more than I can say for a lot of people on this list. She’d also seemingly do anything to “protect” her family- even kill one of them off.

ODDS: 90% possible she’s guilty. The only one I’d rank higher than her would be Tom, but there’s one big problem with this theory- she was inside when we know the accomplice was outside the night of the SBK invasion/killing. Also, we see her tied up in the preview, further evidence she might be the target, not the culprit. But that leads me to one last possibility…

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A Mixed Bag: Who’s to say it’s just one person responsible? What if, Agatha Christie or “Scream”-style, there were more than one killer? Think about it. Madeline could be in on it with someone else, or maybe her daughter killed the reporter and she handled the old lady and they handled the gardener together, to throw suspicion off their family.

Another possibility- Tom and Madeline were the accomplices in the past, and they’re still working together now, taking out anyone who threatens them and their well-being. They laid relatively low after the Morales killing, perhaps worried it was a warning someone was on to them, coupled with the disappearance of their own accomplice.

Or else they took it on the road, going out of town to take care of their murderous whims, “Natural Born Killers”-style. All was well until the belt was found, at which point they began taking measures to protect themselves and their family.

As for Alison’s motives for betraying her family in the past, maybe she was abused, or knew her mother was cheating on her father and planned to take her out before her plans were foiled. But when things went south the night of, she abandoned her intentions, worried her mother might be on to her. But now killing mom might be her current endgame.

It could also be any combination of the above suspects, also working together, such as the Mayor and Cutter, for instance. Making things more complex than we might guess would be a clever way of throwing off the viewers in terms of getting it right as well.

ODDS: Even money. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if it’s this one, barring Tom working solo, who remains my odds-on favorite.

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What say you? Make your predictions down below and join me next week when we’ll finally find out the truth!