Things are finally getting interesting on this show.
Well, perhaps "interesting" is slightly too strong a word. At the very least, American Gothic Season 1 Episode 3 introduces several promising developments.
Garrett's plot throughout this installment was easily the strongest of the bunch, and that ending twist opens up some potentially great story territory.
On the flip side, Alison's was semi-interesting, but ultimately went in the cliched direction that I imagined it would. Cam, Jack, and Sophie are a bunch of walking caricatures, and Tessa is far too bland to be enjoyable at this point.
We opened on Garrett stalking a young woman at a diner, which he'd apparently been doing for days, given his little notebook full of details about her comings and goings. But before we found out who this woman was, he had an unexpected run-in with his ex, Molly.
Earlier in the season, Tessa mentioned Molly – she remarked that the Garrett of fourteen years ago was a sweetheart who was set to marry his girlfriend, Molly, before he up and left. As we found out, Molly never quite got over him.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Lara Jean Chorostecki as Molly, having recognized her as Freddie Lounds from the TV adaptation of Hannibal. She was great on that series, so it gave me hope that they could potentially go in an interesting direction with Garrett's ex.
Then again, the note that their all-too-briefly rekindled romance ended on in "Nighthawks" seemed to imply that Molly was done with Garrett.
I can't really blame her. They got all hot and heavy over memories of cashew chicken (with extra cashews!) and Molly's realization that Garrett had saved his pictures of her – only for it to come to a screeching halt when Molly noted the new scars on Garrett's back mid-makeout and pushed him to reveal how he'd gotten them.
Garrett's scars are clearly a clue that will become relevant. Where did he get them? Why did he react so violently when Molly brought them up? Do they have to do with the identity of the SBK?
The fact that Madeline orchestrated the ultimately unsuccessful reunion between Molly and Garrett was unexpected. I enjoy the fact that her motivations in doing so could have been to legitimately help her son out or to control him. Or some combination of the two.
Madeline is easily one of the most complicated characters on the show so far; I can't fully fathom her motivations, so she's keeping me interested for sure.
After the failed Molly-Garrett reunion, Madeline warned Garrett to essentially get over whatever happened right before he left home fourteen years earlier, cautioning him against wrecking their lives.
Garrett couldn't commit to "getting over it," so instead he gouged a gash in his hand (making up a lie about hurting himself cutting carrots) in order to get facetime with the young woman he was stalking earlier – a young emergency clinic nurse, who is also the daughter of Joel Morales, the SBK's final victim/subject of Brady's investigation. As you do.
I definitely did not see anything like that coming. Is he keeping an eye on her because of guilt he feels over contributing to the SBK cover-up? Or is he just morbidly fascinated by her because he's like his sociopathic nephew Jack?
I'm eager to see where they'll go with this relationship. It would be creepy if it took a romantic turn, given that Garrett was clearly stalking her and also given that he or one of his family members might have actually killed her father.
Meanwhile, Cam and Sophie continued to be sketchy junkie stereotypes, but they at least managed to make time to set Jack up with a therapy appointment after the entire family caught him red-handed trying to seriously injure or maim one of the virtually invisible twin cousins.
Jack's antics are so over the top at this point. I'm quickly losing interest. I'm not sure how many more ways the show can demonstrate that he's a messed up little kid, or why they insist on repeatedly drilling down on that point. We get it already.
In "Nighthawks" alone, he set that trap for Harper, and then, he broke into Phyllis' house. I actually expected him to maim the cat some more, but instead, he stole Phyllis' dentures and used them in a puppet made out of Harper's doll.
My son just got fired by his therapist.Cam
Since we didn't actually see the puppet when Jack showed it to his therapist, I thought for a horrifying second that he had made a puppet out of poor Caramel's dead cat body. I honestly felt relieved when he revealed the denture-wearing puppet to Cam later on. Cam obviously did not share my sense of relief.
Of course, Cam had his own issues to worry about. While Jack was busy breaking into Phyllis' house, Cam was breaking into the therapist's office, to destroy the old footage of his own therapy sessions as a teenager.
Teen Cam was drugged out of his mind on most of the tapes, but in a particularly lucid moment, he mentioned wanting to talk about a body. Cam destroyed the tape before we could learn more, but that certainly looks bad for Cam.
Unfortunately for Cam, he was also caught on camera breaking into the office. Mayor Conley, Alison's mayoral opponent – played by the wonderful Enrico Colantoni, a.k.a. Keith Mars! – had a tail on Cam, which was actually pretty smart. He wanted to dig up potential dirt on Alison's family, and where better to look than at her former drug addict brother?
Alison deciding to give in to Conley's blackmail, turning over a local football hero's endorsement to Conley in exchange for his silence about Cam's breaking and entering, was the first likeable action she's taken.
Based on how she's been portrayed thus far, I fully expected her to allow Conley to turn Cam in. It was a pleasant surprise that she put family first, potentially at the expense of her campaign.
Alas, that was where the Alison-centric pleasant surprises ended.
I love you, Alie, but I'm done being your lackey. Consider this my officially tendered resignation.Tom
After her husband Tom revealed that he'd directly defied her "order" to remain her househusband campaign lackey and had purchased Hawthorne Cement for himself through a Russian shell company, she went straight to her campaign manager Naomi for commiserating and wine and, eventually, heavy making out.
Alison and Naomi certainly have great chemistry, I won't deny that – but I still can't stand this storyline. It's just so played out. But if they're going there, I'll at least hold out hope for them to make it interesting.
Two other major developments rounded out the third installment of the season.
One was Brady's betrayal of Tessa. After Cam refused to turn over a DNA sample to clear him as a suspect, Brady stole his wife's hair in order to test that instead.
Tessa's DNA sample wasn't a match for the DNA on the belt (the DNA of the presumed Silver Bells Killer), suggesting that the killer isn't any member of the Hawthorne family.
That was all fine and dandy, except Brady hugely violated Tessa's trust. She refused to go home with him and now they're on the outs. Her behavior made perfect sense, but I still don't particularly enjoy her character. Her naivety and insistence that no one she knows could possibly be the SBK is starting to become tiresome.
Because we're only three hours into this season, it's clearly not that simple. I'm guessing that Tessa will be revealed to not be a biological member of the Hawthorne family, explaining why her DNA would not match the blood on the belt. That way, they leave open the possibility that a family member could be the killer.
This could also potentially be the reason that Tessa is so good and pure and whatever, despite her family's bad behavior. It could also be the reason Garrett left home – he may have discovered that Tessa was not a biological Hawthorne, clashing with his parents over it.
The second major development was the introduction of a brand-new Silver Bells Killer suspect – and his immediate demise. That would be Gunther, the Hawthornes' groundskeeper.
Madeline didn't even blink before pointing the finger at Gunther, once Brady revealed that Tessa's DNA wasn't a match to the belt DNA. She'd set it up perfectly, too, apparently having given the belt to Gunther to dispose of years earlier. Pairing that with Gunther's general creepiness and his violent killing of that poor raccoon, he certainly looked like a viable suspect.
Plus, the final moments reveal Gunther's hanging body and an apparent suicide note reading "I'm sorry"!
Obviously, I don't for a second believe that Gunther actually was the SBK. He may have killed himself, but the "I'm sorry" could have been a reference to his assistance with the real SBK cover-up. Alternatively, he may have been murdered.
As a third option, he honestly might have just taken Madeline firing him really badly and killed himself because of that.
But Gunther as the SBK? Nah.
- It was a clever move to simultaneously show Cam and Jack breaking and entering (Cam at the therapist's office, Jack at Phyllis' house). Like father, like son.
- Alison's husband Tom actually did something! Finally! On top of that, it was a pretty interesting development. Now that Tom and Alison are actively at odds, how will that animosity factor in to the larger SBK storyline?
- Forensics Dana is a little weird, but I kind of love her already. That "You know what else is one letter off from 'Dana'? DNA!" line was so hilariously corny.
- Sophie is a terrible influence on Cam. I'm wondering when this will blow up in his face.
Who is the Silver Bells Killer? Cam is looking real suspicious, though I suspect that's still too obvious an answer. For now, I'm gonna go with drug-abusing teen Cam, because no one else is looking more guilty.
What did you think of "Nighthawks"? Leave me a comment with your thoughts below and remember to watch American Gothic online here at TV Fanatic to catch up on anything you might have missed!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.