By episode 204 of American Crime and its second season the series is clearly tackling deeper issues than a sexual assault at a school party. Show creator John Ridley looks at the educational system in America. Private versus public and in this instance alone, American Crime‘s season two could be called “A Tale of Two Schools.” This iteration of the series, however, is not so clear cut or simple.
Season two peels the layers back from the life of so called “privileged” students and their families. It also looks at the “lower” classed families with their struggles to survive a less elite scholastic system. In the case of Taylor Blaine (Connor Jessup) and his mother Anne (Lili Taylor) their attempt to better themselves meets with bullying from Taylor’s schoolmates and indifference from the school board to the boy’s mother and her charges of misconduct.
This return to the world of American Crime looks at much more than a social and monetary discord between classes and races. As Coach Dan Sullivan (Timothy Hutton) points out, an allegation of misconduct these days means that the accused will carry the stigma forever, via the auspices of Google.
Other characters realize, it is not just Google which allows their suspected crimes to be made public on the Internet. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, et al, all allow a sort of “name and shame” infamy to exist. Based upon accusations alone, a “suspect” can be scrutinized, bullied and judged all on the world wide web.
Through the storyline, the show also proves that online version’s of newspapers have a much farther reach than the old fashioned printed ones. Like many other issues looked at and questioned in the second season, the electronic media is looked at and found to be almost too powerful.
Even without taking the net into consideration, there is the question of the school’s staff protecting all the students equally and fairly. In the case of Taylor’s private school, Leyland, the system fails. Headmaster Leslie Graham (Felicity Huffman) immediately circles the wagons for the “rich” kids of her school while downplaying out the “poor” boy’s plight.
Headmaster Graham also takes sides against the victim’s mother in an attempt to bully her into dropping her allegations.
By the time the truth becomes more apparent, there are still deep seated issues, including a closing of the ranks and an attempt to pervert the course of justice by the main school board members at Leyland.
Coach Sullivan is upset and judging by the way he interacts with his cheerleader daughter, full of potential guilt.
By the time episode four of American Crime season two ends, issues of culpability, social status, private schools, rich privileged kids and their parents are all looked at. On top of these scrutinized problems, the series looks at racism, real and perceived and a lack of harmony between faculty members who all have personal agendas.
While Leyland struggles more to protect its reputation, the public school principle Chris Dixon (Elvis Nolasco) works to meet expectations from several civic groups and to keep the students from interacting negatively.
This season of American Crime looks at sexual identity, gender roles, elitist schools, public schools, community, parents and how all these factions and issues intertwine. Sometimes these mergers are difficult, accusatory and full of a deep sense of irony.
Episode 204 also holds the first note of discord. A finger snapping rhetoric session where the audience respond with a clicking of the fingers is far too indicative of the old poetry coffee house readings “back in the day…”
Regardless of this one jarring note, the series continues to have the same tightly written and expertly crafted storyline. Season one of the American Crime won four awards, twice winning the Best Ensemble Satellite Award.
With the same high calibre acting from last season’s stars, Hutton and Huffman along with the new cast members, Jessup, Taylor, Joey Pollari, Hope Davis, Nolasco and the rest of what looks to be a winning ensemble cast, there should be some serious gongs handed out to season two come award time.
The characters are in-depth, realistic and many are not very “nice.” Huffman’s Leslie Graham, is a cold calculating woman who is not above bending the truth or lying outright to protect the school under her charge. Regina King as Terri LaCroix; mother of one team captain from the Leyland Knights, is particularly harsh, even with her own son.
Out of the school faculty, the one most easy to empathize with is Hutton’s Coach Sullivan who really wants what is best for his “boys” and tries to keep his growing daughter from straying into trouble.
This is quality drama with rich, flawed and all too human characters who are thrown into turmoil by an alleged assault at a school party. The ripples of this “offense” reach out across families, schools and a legal system that is reluctant to get involved. The second season gives us evidence that, just as in cases of bullying, the system punishes the victim and not the instigators.
There is much to be found in this return to the American Crime verse. A quality, tightly woven storyline which will captivate and already has at least one addicted viewer. Tune in to this second season, the premiere airs Jan 3 on ABC. Miss this one and miss out on what looks to be one of the best returning shows on television in 2016.