blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

American Gothic (1995) s01e09 – To Hell and Back

To Hell and Back aired out of order; way out of order. It was one of the infamous summer burn-off episodes, airing about nine months later than it should have. No one tried to kill serialized seasonal narratives like the networks.

The episode’s all about Jake Weber, starting with a flashback to when he killed his wife and daughter in a car accident. He was drunk. The show’s been teasing the details since the pilot, but now it’s the anniversary, and he’s got a very similar case going on in the present day. Town-drunk Robert C. Treveiler went out after a party—a hospital fundraiser, no less—and got in a wreck. He walked away; wife Laura Robbins wasn’t so lucky; plus, she and Weber had a star-crossed meet cute at the fundraiser, so it’s even worse. Weber then starts imagining his wife (played by Andi Carnick) in her place, the added stress pushing him towards drinking.

Sheriff Gary Cole—perhaps demonically aware of Weber’s, well, particular demons—does whatever he can to make things more difficult for Weber. When Weber’s off trying to suss through his shitty day-and-a-half at the local blues club, Brenda Bakke puts the moves on him. Or something approximating them. It’s never clear why Bakke’s tempting him, but then Weber leaves and finds Cole waiting for a bottle and a deal.

Sleep-deprived Weber seems very aware Cole’s got something supernatural (and evil) going on; will he give in?

And here’s the funny thing—it doesn’t matter. I mean, it does matter, and Weber’s got a significant character development and reveal arc going on, but the way they leave things… it doesn’t matter. Either Weber’s leaving, or he’s staying. The finish, which emphasizes his character arc, doesn’t resolve it.

Good thing the network pushed the episode out of order so far. It’d be terrible to know what was happening with the show’s first protagonist.

The B plot involves Lucas Black spying on weird old neighbor William Morgan Sheppard and his cousin, Paige Turco, getting upset he’s becoming such a gossip. It’s an excellent arc for Black, though it duplicates another episode’s arc… meaning he didn’t learn anything the last time. I think it also involved his friends, Evan Rachel Wood and Christopher Fennell, teasing him into some behavior.

Excellent script—credit to Judi Ann Mason and Robert Palm—with barely okay even for 1995 TV drama direction courtesy Oz Scott. Scott at least gives the actors time but still manages to work against them with some of the gimmicks.

Even with Scott fumbling, the episode is successful, a testament to the writers and, especially, the actors. It’s a terrific showcase for Weber while also giving Bakke and Black decent spotlights. Turco and Cole—despite having a lot to do—are just supporting their plots’ protagonists.

Outstanding stuff.

Leave a Reply

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: