american-gothic-posterI like getting absorbed in a good whodunit every now and again. Not necessarily a great mystery but something fun and mindless that I can enjoy after a long day at work. How To Get Away With Murder scratched that itch for me for a while and then it got a bit too carried away for my tastes. But we’re not here to talk about Ms. Keatinge’s life or students, we’re here to talk about American Gothic, which as you may have guessed, falls into the whondunit mystery genre.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the idea behind this show is a family with a secret. A DARK secret… (aren’t they all??) and the lengths that the family will go to in order to keep those secrets. DUN DUN DUN. But really, the plot followed an all-American family. Working class citizens who built their fortune with their hands, blah blah blah. While their father is in the hospital, two of the children within the family make a horrifying discover that leads them to believe that someone within their family is a wanted serial killer. Before any answers can be provided, the man willing to blow the whistle dies and from there, no one is safe. Not in the sense that a killer is after them but rather their time BEING the killer is coming to an end.

The show isn’t necessarily bad but it quite honestly isn’t very good either. I’ve always found Virginia Madsen to be a bit of an over-actor and there’s no exception for her in American Gothic. Madsen isn’t the only one at fault though; the rest of the cast don’t really do stellar jobs of bringing their characters to life either. I’m not entirely sure if it’s because they’re bad or if the script and direction didn’t give them much to work with. I can’t say that I’m familiar with pretty much anyone else in the show (except that dude from Orphan Black) so it’s hard to judge there.

Speaking of Orphan Black, let’s talk about Toronto and avoid that sort of not great segue. I swear it had relevance and that relevance is this: Orphan Black is filmed in Toronto. Unlike most movies and TV shows that use my city as a disguise for New York City, Chicago and other places that are not Toronto, Orphan Black actually is set within it. This is not the case with American Gothic. It’s bizarre seeing places that you frequent on a daily basis put into a show that’s constantly telling you it’s set in Boston. This doesn’t necessarily take me out of the show or anything, it’s just bizarre. I also feel like my father who, when we watched movies, would always point out scenes that were filmed around the city and tell me his story about that particular area. I can’t turn that part of my brain off now either. But I digress. Aside from momentarily being distracted, I love seeing bits of city within pop culture. It’s weirdly exciting for me. However, having been to Boston, I don’t really think Toronto is a good substitute for it. New York, yes. Boston, not so much. That’s a silly nitpick though.

Back to the show itself…

While I really wanted to enjoy the show as a whole, it was hard to get into. I like smart shows that give you clues and let you try to organically figure the story out. I don’t particularly enjoy the storytelling method where they just make you think it’s everyone to distract you from the real killer. Subtly is an art that American Gothic did not master.

Still, whodunnits can be rewarding to watch, especially when the reveal happens and thankfully by the end of the season, you do know what happens.

Is it worth it? Kind of. It’s satisfying to not be left hanging but the ending wasn’t a big jump and fist pump into the air “HELL YEAH!” kind of wrap up. I’m not going to spoil it for you or anything but I was left wanting more. I mean, I don’t really want to WATCH more of American Gothic, I just wanted to feel more fulfilled after spending a significant amount of time watching the series.

It’s like being really hungry and wanting to go to a nice ramen place for dinner. You get excited for a nice hearty bowl and what they bring you is a package of Mr. Noodles and a kettle filled with boiling water and then charge you $15 and still strongly hint that you should leave a tip (NOTE: this is not a true story, although this is definitely something that would happen to me). You’ll eat the noodles and be less hungry but they’re not particularly good for you and you’ll be hungry again within the hour. That’s all I’m saying.

The special features included with the American Gothic Season 1 DVD are:

  • American Gothic at Comic-Con
  • American Gothic First Look
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Gag Reel

Pass on it… at least as far as owning it goes. The show is better than some stuff out there but I don’t know, it just wasn’t my particular cup of ramen noodles, especially when I have a lineup of a million other AMAZING things that I could’ve spent my time watching instead. I know that doesn’t seem very open-minded for a reviewer and the show didn’t disappoint because there are better things out there. It disappointed because at best the show was mediocre to begin with.

Stephanie Cooke
Stephanie is a Toronto based writer and editor. She's a comic book fan, avid gamer, movie watcher, lover of music, and sarcasm. She is a purveyor of too many projects and has done work for Talking Comics,, Agents of Geek, Word of the Nerd, C&G Magazine, Dork Shelf, and more. Her writing credits include "Home Sweet Huck" (Mark Millar's Millarworld Annual 2017), "Lungarella (Secret Loves of Geek Girls, 2016), "Behind Enemy Linens" (BLOCKED Anthology, 2017), "Home and Country" (Toronto Comics Anthology, 2017) and more to come. You can read more about her shenanigans over on her <a href="">personal web site</a>.

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