‘American Gothic’ Season Finale Review: To Catch a Killer

AG 20

First of all, fair warning: it would be pointless to do this review without getting into spoiler territory, so beware those of you who haven’t watched the finale of “American Gothic” yet. If all you’re looking for is whether or not the show was worth watching in the first place, then I’ll go ahead and tell you up front: more or less.

While the finale was vaguely open-ended, it was nonetheless reasonably satisfying, and I was indeed somewhat fooled, though not entirely. Chances are, you will be too, at least partially. When all is said and done, though, I was suitably entertained, and that’s all that really matters, right? So, that said, let’s get right into it…

AG 14

Well, I was HALF right, at least! As those of you who read last week’s column know, the prediction I felt held most water was the likelihood of there being more than one culprit in all that’s going on, and that indeed proved to be the case.

Further, I felt one of the strongest candidates for being one of said perpetrators to be mama Madeline (Virginia Madsen), which proved right on the money. As I mentioned in my last column, she had every reason to be the one behind the murders of the reporter and the gardener and possibly the elderly blind lady as well.

AG 13

Well, two out of three ain’t bad, as it turned out she killed the first two, but not the old woman. Actually, to be more specific, she outright killed the reporter, and talked the gardener into taking his own life, as he had cancer and was going to die soon anyway.

The idea was that he would take the rap as the Silver Bells Killer, with the assurance by Madeline that his wife would be taken care of after his death financially, which wouldn’t have been the case otherwise.

AG 12

Of course, as we know, it didn’t end up doing the trick, not only because the cops suspected foul play, but because Madeline ended up killing the reporter, thus inferring that the SBK was still out there after all.

It wasn’t until last week’s episode that we discovered that the SBK was long gone, having actually been wounded by Tessa (Megan Ketch), of all people, then finished off by Garrett (Antony Starr) when SBK proved not quite as dead as he initially seemed after taking a tumble down the stairs.

AG 6

Instead, as the creepy dollhouse left behind in the Hawthorne’s house indicated, there was another potential killer on the loose, thought by police to have been SBK’s accomplice since back in the day. As we discovered in tonight’s finale, the accomplice had laid dormant since then, having seemingly not killed anyone since the SBK was alive. But why?

As it turned out, there was a good reason for that, as the accomplice had been placated by unexpectedly falling for one of her intended targets- none other than Cam (Justin Chatwin)- thus putting her plans for revenge on hold. Until, that is, Justin unceremoniously dumped her after she couldn’t keep her drug addiction under control.

AG 18

Yep, the accomplice was none other than Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas), Cam’s ex, who didn’t take too kindly to being shoved aside and shut out of her child Jack’s life altogether. Not only that, but as we also discovered, Sophie wasn’t just the SBK’s accomplice- she was, in fact, his daughter!

Formerly Dara Martin, she was John Ray Martin’s daughter, both of whom were left traumatized after John’s wife Bridget died in the hospital of septic shock, which could have easily been prevented, had they had the level of care of the richer clients at the medical facility.

AG 05

As such, the two plotted to get revenge over those they felt were responsible, which were the ones who made up the original SBK murders. Unfortunately for them, things hit an unexpected snag when SBK went inside the Hawthorne’s house to kill Mitchell and Madeline- and never came back out.

Dara went back home, and awaited what she thought was the inevitable- that her father had failed and that the cops would be called and come for her. Only that never happened. Instead, no one ever came, and Dara instead went to live with family friend Ramona (Clare Coulter), aka the blind old lady, whose car, incidentally, Dara and her father used to transport themselves to the killings and drove the night of the incident at the Hawthornes.

AG 03

When the cops uncovered this latter connection, Dara was forced to kill Ramona, despite all she’d done to help her after her father’s untimely death. Before that, she changed her name to Sophie, and, as aforementioned, had plotted to get revenge on the Hawthornes before falling for Cam changed her tune.

Now, with Cam out of the picture, and nothing standing in her way, as well as nothing to lose, Sophie/Dara could get on with her scheme, deciding to pick up where she left off with Madeline in particular. But was there a hidden reason for that beyond the past? As we found out, there was indeed.

AG 08

After Alison (Juliet Rylance) realized that her mother was likely responsible for at least some of these murders- particularly the reporter’s- she confronted her, and sure enough, Madeline fessed up, both to that and her role in the gardener’s death. Unapologetic, she made no bones about doing it to “protect her family,” which didn’t exactly sit well with Alison.

After mulling it over, Alison decided to destroy the evidence that led her to the conclusion in the first place- the box containing the silver bells and the newspaper clippings, which Madeline claimed to have gotten rid of- and allow her mother to get away with it.

AG 10

However, there was one big repercussion: Alison said that she would no longer allow her mother to see her kids anymore, and that they were basically done with one another. As Alison was her obvious favorite of her children, this hit her hard- but not nearly as hard as what happened next.

It seemed that, after her mother’s confession, as she mulled over who could have killed Ramona, and why, assuming her mother was being honest about not killing her, she’d finally put two-and-two together and remembered something she’d forgotten: that inside Cam’s apartment, he had various pictures on display of Sophie, including one in particular with some familiar-looking wallpaper.

AG 02

Finally realizing she’d seen that wallpaper before- at Ramona’s house- and that she’d also been puzzled by why Ramona would have had a program from her father’s funeral, Alison recognized the only reason that could have been: Sophie had to have known Ramona. Also realizing that she must have killed her as well, she put it all together and surmised that Sophie must have been the SBK’s accomplice- and his daughter.

Confronting her about it, instead of turning her in, Alison made Sophie a deal: she’d allow her to go free, and even give her the money to do it, but only on one condition: her revenge had to end with Madeline. After all, Madeline was the only one left on the list of the SBK, or one assumes Sophie would have continued with the killing.

AG 09

Instead, she fell in love and let it slide, especially as Cam had limited interaction with his mother anyway, as she’d basically disowned him because of his drug habit. Then came the discovery of the belt, and it was obviously all downhill from there, culminating in everything else that happened after.

But there was no reason for that anymore, which was why Sophie had decided to take her revenge on all of the Hawthornes. But, as Ali pointed out, there was a way out if she stopped with Madeline and quit while she was ahead. Indeed, Alison promised not to pursue her or even out her to the cops, so long as she kept away from her family.

AG 15

Of course, Alison’s reason was that it got rid of her duplicitous, murderous mother, who had done enough damage as it was. With no telling what she might get up to next, Alison needed her out of the way, least of all with the possibility of her becoming Mayor looming, which did indeed prove to end up being the case. Thanks to Sophie, that particular problem was taken care of.

However, in the meantime, Brady (Elliot Knight) figured out who the SBK’s accomplice/daughter was and headed to the Hawthorne mansion accordingly to try and track her down. Alas, he got there all too late, as she had already killed Madeline and hightailed it out of there by the time Brady arrived.

AG 07

Likewise, despite his best efforts, so did Cam in a sense, as, though he got there before his mother was killed, he was ambushed by Sophie, who handcuffed him to Madeline’s security guard, who Sophie had taken out when he accompanied her up to her son’s room, ostensibly to get some pictures to remember him by before she left town.

In perhaps the most amusing scene in the entire series, a frantic Cam actually dragged the guard’s body out of the room and rode him down the staircase like a sled to the bottom to try and stop his nutty ex from killing his mom! You gotta love it.

AG 06

Grabbing the guard’s gun, Cam was prepared to kill Sophie until Garrett stopped him, saying that he’d never be able to forgive himself and shake what he’d done, which Garrett obviously knew from personal experience. In the ensuing melee, Sophie escaped and that was all she wrote for the erstwhile Dara- to say nothing of Madeline. (In an another amusing bit of business, Madeline actually had an out via the nosy next-door neighbor, but ran her off as per usual, thus sealing her fate.)

That was about it, save a “year later” epilogue, in which it was revealed that Cam had taken up officially with rehab worker April (Bethany Joy Lenz), as enough time had passed for it to be doable; both Brady and Tessa and Garrett and Christina (Catalina Sandino Moreno) had their respective children and were all still very much together; and Alison had taken up with former campaign manager Naomi (Maureen Sebastian) again.

AG 04

We ended with Jack (Gabriel Bateman) clutching his teddy bear and shooting daggers at his happy family, while pining for the return of his mother Sophie, who had left him a message letting him know that she’d “be there soon.” But how soon? And what lengths would she go to, in order to get her son back?

I guess we’ll just have to leave that to the imagination, as it seems unlikely that the show would get a second season, given that it’s hard to imagine there being a good enough reason for it to continue, given all that we already know about this particular family.

AG 21

The creators did say, however, if given the opportunity, they would likely go the “American Horror Story” route and make the new season about a different family, which might allow us to check in with the Hawthornes at some point if a second season materializes. We shall see.

As it stands, though, this was an enjoyable enough summer show, least of all with all the reality crap and the like clogging up the airwaves this season. I’ll take my original programming where I can get it, thank you very much, and for my money, this ultimately delivered.

AG 25

You’ll also note that, I was completely fooled by the revelation of the SBK’s accomplice, as Sophie quite literally wasn’t even on my list of suspects in last week’s column. Indeed, my main suspect, Tom (Dylan Bruce), didn’t even crop up at all in the finale!

There was, however, a reason for that, which I don’t think I mentioned at the time. Being as how I knew Sophie would have been a mere teenager at the time of the SBK affair, and she seemingly didn’t even know the Hawthornes yet- unlike Tom- I just assumed it wasn’t even a possibility. I mean, what kind of adult serial killer has a teenage girl as his accomplice, right? Well, how wrong I was, as this one certainly did.

AG 01

At best, I might have thought she built the dollhouse to mess with the family for shutting her out- after all, we already knew she was crafty, thanks to the project she helped Jack with- but did I even remotely consider that she might be the accomplice, much less his daughter? No, I did not. Well-played, “American Gothic.” Well-played, indeed.

So, despite the fact that I was right about a fair amount of things, I was also completely wrong about a good half of others, which makes this show a win in my book. I can live with that. Better to be somewhat surprised than not surprised at all- looking at you, “Scream: The TV Series.”

AG 24

As such, I wouldn’t at all mind this show returning next summer, especially with an all-new nutty family with secrets to deal with. Could be another fun summer diversion, and I’ll take that over more typical summer offerings any day of the week, I don’t know about you.

What did you think of the season finale of “American Gothic”? Were you also fooled? Or were you half-right, like I was? Would you like to see another season next year, too? What was your favorite moment of the series? How about your least favorite? Do you think Jack is predestined to end up like his crazy mother? Will everyone concerned live happily ever after, or should Cam in particular watch his back- to say nothing of April!

AG 22

Sound off on this and more down below, and thanks for reading!