American Gothic: e09 – Resurrector

Not very sisterly…

Now I am confused.

Some of this is down to the fug of several days with a cold, too much Blackcurrant Lemsip and overdosing on Fox’s Glacier Fruits, which left me unenthusiastic about an episode of American Gothic when my powers of concentration are pretty minimal. But most of it is that, after commenting last week about the wholesale change to the credits, we were back to the original theme. Which tells me this DVD is not laid out in production order, and I’m not watching the season arc the way it should be. If this is in broadcast order, then it’s going to make the rest of the season a bit of a fuck-up.

In my zeal to avoid spoilers, I’ve not looked ahead on the remaining episodes until now, but a quick check reveals that at least in one respect the DVD isn’t running everything in its true order. Though Channel 4 broadcast all twenty-two episodes of American Gothic, four were ‘lost’ in America, and never shown: these four are tagged onto the end of Disc 3, after the show’s finale.

One of these should already have been featured according to imdb, another is the one I’m most eager to see again. So come the New Year, I’m going to have to start a bit of jiggling around to slot these episodes, as best I can, into what may be the proper running order.

Meanwhile, ‘Resurrector’ consisted of two almost completely detached stories, one of which I recalled in its closing sequence. The first, which occupied the time of Sheriff Buck, Deputy Nick and the seductive Selena, was a one-off about corruption and temptation, involving guests Mel and Gloria (Greg Travis and Irene Ziegler), a husband-and-wife radio talk show team.

The second was Caleb, growing concerned at how Merly has left him alone for a week (which might well hark back to the end of ‘Strong Arm of the Law’), taking advice from Loris Holt (the boardinghouse owner who is his temporary guardian) on dealing with ghosts, and in particular on providing Merly with a second funeral, to enable her to move on, though Caleb doesn’t want that. This story has a cameo from Dr Matt, but no place for Gail, who just doesn’t appear this episode.

We start with Mel, seeking Sheriff Buck’s patronage to get him and Gloria onto the local TV network. They’ve tried themselves, but been turned down for not being ‘telegenic’. It’s a reasonable call: they’re both good middle-aged people, but they’re not pretty enough for TV, especially Mel. Unfortunately, Buck refuses to use his considerable influence to assist the ambitious Mel, because Mel’s got no viable quid pro quo. Frustrated, Mel threatens the Sheriff, which is not the way to go about things in Trinity.

And when Deputy Ben is forced to put a bullet into the hip of a crazed, gun-totin’ man who owes money to Sheriff Lucas, Mel sees his opportunity for leverage. Selena slinks around Ben, keeping him preoccupied whilst Buck offers Mel a deal. He’ll get him on TV, but only by himself, without Gloria. Mel’s been married to Gloria for seventeen years. He still loves her, as she does him. But if Mel wants his TV shot, it has to be alone, and if he doesn’t want Gloria dragging him down with divorce…

Mel’s appalled. But in the end, not appalled enough. He can’t do it, but when the chance presents itself by accident, Gloria falling out of a boat in the middle of a late-night date on the lake, he ensures his downfall by rowing off and abandoning her. A fair exchange is made, one refusal to thoroughly investigate a dodgy claim for one cassette of dodgy words from Ben.

Then it’s off to the studios with sultry Selena to massage those shoulders, until Mel’s had just enough to drink to blurt it out. On video-tape, for the cameras. Enter Gloria, who didn’t believe Sheriff Buck when he told her what Mel planned, but who agreed to ‘test the waters’: she’s a very good swimmer. I remembered nothing of this nasty little tale of greed until that very late scene, when it became obvious that Gloria wasn’t going to be dead, and then I remembered whole images of it. Funny thing, memory, isn’t it?

That part was at least simple. Caleb’s story was another matter. Lucas Black, the boy actor, is brilliant in this series. His conviction, his utter straightforwardness as Caleb, carries the show almost as much as Gary Cole’s ruthlessness, and helps us believe in the two weird scenes that resulted from his attempts to lay Merly’s ghost for her own benefit (which he never really seemed to see might not be for his benefit).

First, at night, he burns a map, an invitation and two of her favourite foods on a charcoal brazier, with Boone to assist. Nothing happens, but when Boone leaves, the fire springs up in a sudden blaze that contains a vortex. Merly is trapped inside. She’s corporeal enough to seize Caleb by the throat, for a time.

This scares Caleb but makes him determined to try harder. To do the job properly, he needs brimstone, or sulphur to be scientific. In the one moment of crossover between the two stories, Sheriff Buck manifests himself in the garden shed to seize and smash the glass of sulphur, to keep Caleb away from harm, but fails to foresee that the determined boy could scoop up a double handful of it from the floor and sprinkle it on the brazier.

Caleb then reluctantly sacrifices the locket that holds the only photo of his mother. Instead of burning, the locket wriggles below the ashy surface. A column of smoke erupts, in which Merly appears. On her breast is the locket. Somewhat sadly, she says, “Thy will be done, Caleb,” and then she repeats those words, but this time in a deep, bass, slowed-down drawl of the kind usually used to indicate the presence of a demon…

Smash cut into the credits and a very big Oh Shit all round.

The next episode on the DVD seems to follow directly on from this one, as it does in imdb, so we’ll have that next, but then I’m going to have to start looking more carefully at those ‘lost’ episodes, of which at least one needs to be viewed sooner rather than later.

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