American Gothic – First Impressions

American Gothic premiered last night on CBS, and after seeing a bit about it I decided to give it a shot. I’ve been watching Parks and Rec and Archer on Netflix a lot lately, and wanted something fresh. It looked intriguing, and so I figured, why not? The worst part would be the commercials, since I haven’t watched a show play live on TV in ages.

American Gothic centers on the well-to-do Hawthorne family, and begins its introduction to the family members in the midst of getting ready for the eldest sister’s family portrait and interview. She is running for office, and is already an established and well-liked city councilor. As the youngest sister, Tess, and her husband are heading to the family home, part of a tunnel collapses behind them on top of a car. As we are introduced to the other family members, we see that in the debris of the tunnel a belt is found, which it is discovered is linked to a notorious serial killer. The Silver Bell Killer, who was never apprehended and who left behind no evidence, except for a silver hand bell, strangled his victims, and it is believed the belt may have been a murder weapon. It is found in concrete supplied by the Hawthorne family.

Things quickly become more intricate from here, as the family members begin to question their family’s possible involvement in the Silver Bell killings, spurred on by their father’s sudden heart attack after the news, their eldest brother’s return from self-imposed (or so we think?) exile after almost fifteen years, and finding a box full of silver hand bells in their tool shed, accompanied by an article on the killings. So far the creepy drama has everything; a messed up family hiding secrets, a very creepy kid obsessed with death, a set of twins that can definitely be used for creepy scare tactics à la The Shining later, an odd, cold, and suspicious older brother who’s been gone for years, a mother intent on keeping secrets quiet  to protect the family no matter the cost… A fantastic set up for the drama.

Honestly I wasn’t sure what to anticipate from the show. I watched this for fun and had little expectations. The beginning felt like a classic week night melodrama, but as things began to unravel and become exposed, it really picked up the pace and intrigued me. There are plenty of different ways they could take the show, and even though they set of it up with some common suspense tropes, I hope that they will set the audience up with a sense of predictability just to surprise them by flipping those tropes on their heads. At the moment we relate the most to the youngest sister; she’s young, naive, a teacher married to a man who just made detective, and it is obvious that we will be set up to relate to her as our protagonist. There is a lot of suspicion to be thrown around on all of the other family members, through things that were revealed and also things that were hidden in the premiere, and yet none of those suspicions point to her. A part of me is hoping for an unreliable narrator with her, that maybe they will use the “Mary Sue” archetype just to lull us into a false confidence only to reveal she knows more than we thought. A writer can dream, right?

Overall I’d recommend checking it out. If anything it seems to be a fun summer suspenseful drama, while a lot of other shows are coming to their ends for the season. Mystery and a creepy big house full of a family all hiding terrible secrets? Perfect viewing for a Wednesday night!

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