American Crime: Season Two Episode 10 – All Fall Down (Review)

American Crime had its second season finale, with episode 10 taking everyone down and two high school students take a fall.

TIMOTHY HUTTON, FELICITY HUFFMAN

American Crime had its second season finale, with episode 10 taking everyone down and two high school students take a fall. Taylor Blaine goes for the plea bargain and oxy-selling Becca gets done for a felony.  These two are not the only denizens of this small mid-America town to be destroyed by an assault at a teenage party set up for girls to have sex with the basketball team players.

Series creator John Ridley has given us a nightmare scenario where our kids are not protected by the system but ignored by it. A boy is raped by another boy; a basketball star on the team of private school Leyland. This event destroys the lives of all it touches. Like malevolent ripples in a stagnant pond, the darkness of the act and the even darker ministrations of the Leyland faculty to cover the crime, spread to affect parents, staff and even reaches over to another school.  

Jobs are lost, a boy is murdered and a family is broken. Ridley has brought back many of the actors who helped bring the first season of American Crime a number of awards. Timothy Hutton played Coach Dan Sullivan. A man of principles who loves his students and resents Leslie Graham’s stand on the rape issue.

Felicity Huffman plays Graham as a focussed and, at times, very cold headmaster of a private school.  A woman who is top-notch at raising money and who puts Leyland’s reputation above the needs of a raped boy who was attacked at a school sanctioned party.

Lili Taylor acted her little cotton socks off as Anne Blaine, mother of Taylor, and it is her dogged pursuit of justice for her son that makes the show and its result so heartrending.  Desperate to keep Taylor out of prison for the rest of his life, Anne takes hacker Sebastian (Richard Cabral) up on his offer to help.

Sebastian floods the Internet with school memos and emails to show the school’s real reaction to Taylor’s attack. Another hacker pulls private emails from players in the drama and these result in arrests, accusations and repercussions.  Sullivan, after Leslie refuses to help Becca (Sky Azure Van Vliet),  turns to Sebastian to incriminate Graham.

Eric  (Joey Pollari) attempts to come to grips with his life.  Anne tells Taylor that Eric can testify and help his case.  The boy decides to go with a plea bargain because, as he tell his mother, he does not want to look like a victim any longer. Taylor also does not want the boy who raped him to save him.

American Crime, season two has been a harrowing vision of destruction.  It could not be called a roller coaster ride of a series as the episodes have been speeding to the ground with dizzying intensity. Another reviewer has stated that we feel Taylor’s pain and we do.

We also feel the horror when Taylor tells his mother that it “felt good” to kill Wes.  Ridley shows the pain behind the violence just as he shows us the disparity in the educational system.  Other issues include the schools firing those in-charge to escape negative publicity.

Graham is unceremoniously dumped by the interim school board, that she put in place, after Dan’s accusation that Leslie leaked Anne’s medical records.  Chris Dixon (Elvis Nolasco) is also shoved out the door, with a $75K kiss off at his school where as principal he reacted poorly to two Hispanic students beating up a black lad.

Sebastian attempts to stop the other hacker who then hacks Sebastian. Evy (Angelique Rivera) gets a payout from Leyland to keep her mouth shut about what happened at the party where Taylor was raped. The young Latina learns that “you have to look out for yourself.”

Kevin’s mother Terri LaCroix (Regina King) loses her job after “racist” emails she sent out are publicized.

The list of devastation continues. American Crime starts with an alleged rape and finishes on an open ended  and very unsatisfying note; like life. There are no happy endings here. No one wins;  Dan Sullivan may have gotten his revenge on Leslie, the LaCroix family may have kept their son out of prison but no one has escaped unscathed.

Ridley gives us an unflinching look at how authorities deal with crimes against teens. Rape, bullying, sexual assault and, while not a crime, peer pressure and biases that include homophobia are all part of the academic world of our kids.  It is a bleak look at the system as it stands.

By the end of the finale, Graham is out, Dan Sullivan and his wife Steph (Hope Davis) watch as Becca is lead away in handcuffs after her trial and Eric appears to be continuing his lifestyle and despite all that has happened Leyland continues as an institution of privilege with an new headmaster.

Taylor is asked, poignantly, whether he accepts or rejects that which has been presented to him. The episode ends as the two lads whose fates are so closely intertwined each consider their next move.

American Crime should garner another group of Emmys come award time.  This harsh and often difficult to watch drama contained powerhouse performances, a storyline that was impossible not to get caught up in and an ending that aped real life perfectly.

Quality television of the finest sort.  And John Ridley as well as the  ABC, another season of American Crime if you please.

American Crime: Season 2 Episode 9 – Circling the Wagons (Review)

American Crime in episode 9 manages to move the players along nicely as season two moves to its end. Leslie Grantham circles the wagons after the school’s server is attacked.

CONNOR JESSUP

American Crime in episode 9 manages to move the players along nicely as season two moves to its end. Leslie Grantham circles the wagons after the school’s server is attacked. Dan Sullivan learns that his team is falling apart and that Eric cannot see beyond his own issues, or at the very least, has no ability to feel empathy for someone else and is disturbed by the fact.

The coach is shocked and dismayed at the boy’s decision to leave the team after another player calls him “gay-boy.” Kevin is angry at the other players who beat Taylor Blaine as he believes this led to Blaine shooting his teammate dead in front of Leyland.

Sebastian hacks the school’s server and posts Leyland faculty email and internal memos online. His actions cause the school headmaster to take charge. She turns the table on the school board that clamored for her resignation and emerges victorious. At a meeting she forces the board to resign.

American Crime‘s second season, with its high school setting, a homosexual rape, racial tensions, homophobia, drug use, and two distinct tiers of educational facilities culminated in a school shooting.  This can be seen as brave and/or inflammatory which is, no doubt, the reason that the show aired conversations with Columbine survivors and various real people who faced bullying for their sexuality.

(In one case the parent of a boy who killed himself because of homophobic bullying.)

This cold dash of realism adds to the poignancy and drama of the storyline. This season saw a shift from its  tale of a male student’s sexual identity and rape and the reaction of the community, both the school system’s hierarchy and law enforcement to the incident.

As Taylor Blaine’s mother struggled for  justice and to learn what really happened the two schools suffered meltdowns in student relations as well as faculty problems. The ramifications of the alleged rape have led to Eric being ostracized by his own mother, Kevin standing accused of abetting the assault and the death of a student by shooting.

Taylor has a champion in Sebastian (Richard Cabral) who appears to have his own reasons and agenda for helping.  Grantham has moved from shock, depression and lethargy to emerge stronger than ever while Coach Sullivan has moved from attack mode to circling his own wagons after learning that Becca sold Taylor drugs before the shooting.

Show creator John Ridley has taken the theme of high school as microscopic society and exploded it. The entire landscape of the American scholastic institution is shown to be biased, homophobic, stressed, income based and hypocritical.  This does not just cover the students, but the faculty, school board and to a huge degree the parents. 

This is upper middle class versus lower class at its ugliest. Ridley has chosen to show what goes behind creating a Columbine situation. In essence this scenario, the rape of Taylor Blaine the authorities reaction to the crime and all the various players who have also reacted badly to the incident have created a “perfect storm.”

Before the end credits, Dixon is out, Grantham is triumphant and Dan Sullivan’s wife has pleaded with, initially, and then attempted to blackmail Anne Blaine into protecting Becca Sullivan (Sky Azure Van Vliet) from drugs charges.

Sebastian amps up his attack on the school and it seems that with one episode left, that Taylor may still be the single victim who will never find closure.  It will be interesting to see how the series will proceed after the shooting, meant to be Grantham and not a student, and the dissolution of the school board at Leyland.

American Crime, by episode nine, shows that parents will do anything to protect their children, or in Anne Blaine’s case, get justice for as well as keep a child from going to prison for murder.

Kudos to Timothy Hutton for making his Coach Sullivan a man who believes in the principles that he preached to his players. The Oscar winning actor also makes the character real, in other words,  flawed and human. There is truth in his Dan Sullivan with his  reactions to all that has happened thus far.

Also worthy of high praise is Felicity Huffman who has managed to make her high-salaried headmaster run a range of emotions and in so doing elicited several types of reactions from the viewer. Truly a masterful performance.

American Crime has delivered a tale that is, at times, hard to watch. Yet for all the misery, pain and heartbreaking things that have transpired as a result of  that initial crime, the show is nigh on impossible not to watch.

Episode 10 airs March 8.  Tune in to see the outcome of this new American crime.

 

American Crime: Episode 206 – A Tale of Two Schools (Review)

In episode six of season two, American Crime deals with a lot of issues. In essence, however, it really is turning into a tale of two schools.

TIMOTHY HUTTON, FELICITY HUFFMAN

In episode six of season two, American Crime deals with a lot of issues. In essence, however, it really is turning into a tale of two schools. Each of the educational institutes has issues, one with race, the other with sexuality. While Leyland is at the forefront, with the rape causing ripples that are turning into tsunamis, Thurgood Marshall and its beleaguered principle are fighting to keep things from getting worse.

The title of this episode could be called confrontation as that is the key theme throughout. The Hispanic students are confronting the entire school system at Thurgood Marshall, Taylor is confronting his issues, Terri LaCroix (Regina Kingconfronts Anne Blaine, Taylor’s mother and Michael LaCroix wants his cop buddy to confront Anne as well.

Meanwhile, Eric is feeling the brunt of Leslie Graham’s theme of misdirection, meant to protect the school, and Coach Sullivan is forced to confront, there is that word again, his own feelings about what Leslie is trying to do, which is avoid the truth.

In some instances, the whole Eric debacle proves that in high school sports and the minefield that is teen America, homophobia is alive and well. While Kevin LaCroix is willing to accept Eric’s gayness, his teammates are not so ready to live with his coming out.  Granted they all agree to attack Taylor, for being a little “b*tch” but that feels very similar to Leslie Graham’s ploy of misdirection.

After watching the basketball game, it is clear that if not for Coach Sullivan’s guidance the players would have little problem beating the hell out of Eric.  Although it may well be that all this hostility has more to do with Eric’s total lack of personality than his sexuality.

Anne Blaine  (Lili Taylor) has shifted her direction and wearing her angry mother-bear hat wants the school and Graham to suffer publicly for their handling of her son’s attack.  As Leslie herself admits, Blaine wants the school to bleed.  It is easy to side with Anne, after all, Graham went from marginally supportive at the beginning to threatening when Blaine refused to drop it.

Terri LaCroix has proven that money cannot buy everything, although it did keep her from getting arrested when she confronted Anne Blaine at her workplace and called her underage son a “whore.”  LaCroix, who seems to be unable to understand that her 18 year-old adult son is no longer a child, would never allow this type of behavior from the mother of another child.

REGINA KING
Terri LaCroix goes after Anne Blaine at work.

Over at Thurgood Marshall, Dixon has to confront angry parents who question his own motives for having their protesting children declared truant.  To give the principal credit, he is attempting to address the problem unlike Graham over at Leyland.

Watching the headmaster’s behavior, disregarding the woman’s  compulsive hand washing after each meeting where she continues her misdirection attack of the Blaine/Tanner issue,  it is pretty clear that this manipulative woman is heading for a meltdown.

What is also apparent is that she may take Dan Sullivan (Timothy Hutton) down with her. As all the adults struggle to deal with the issues at hand; rape, sexual identity, questions of responsibility, racism and refusal to address the real problem, the kids are also having trouble dealing with events.

Taylor (Connor Jessup) seems to be vacillating between “telling the truth” (whatever that really is) and confronting his own personal demons. The boy appears to be saying that he was not assaulted by Eric (Joey Pollariand that the whole thing is about his mother and what she is going through. Like Leslie Graham’s line of defense, however, this avenue feels like Taylor is using misdirection as well.

At the end of the episode, Taylor is being chased by Eric’s teammates through the recreation center car park and Michael LaCroix appears more than ready to cross a line. Anne Blaine, who may not be without sin herself, is now a target as she changes her attack from one of justice to revenge.

One gets the feeling that Taylor’s mother does indeed want a public letting of blood, but not from the school.  Anne is going after Leslie Graham, but she had better hurry as it does look like the headmaster is heading for a fall all on her own.

Graham’s plan to put the focus on Eric’s “coming out” has disastrously backfired with even Tanner reacting badly. The interview with the writer where Eric uses the word “fa**ot” in front of the openly gay man questioning him, causes Graham to panic.

Earlier in the episode Leslie tells the legal rep in front of her that Blaine does not want to settle and that she will, herself, not consider it. After the basketball game where Eric and his teammates have gay slurs shouted at them, and the interview, Graham rings up the lawyer and instructs him to settle.

American Crime‘s sixth episode ends with the feeling that both Taylor and his mother are in danger.  Out of the two schools and their problems, Leyland may well end up with an attempted murder charge to follow the first one of rape and Principal Dixon may solve his problems despite wanting to avoid confrontation.

JOEY POLLARI
Joey Pollari as Eric Tanner, infinitely unlikable…

The actors in this drama all acquit themselves impeccably.  The young performers all convince and Pollari comes across as genuinely unlikable.  Hutton’s character looks to be as doomed as Graham, mainly through that “guilt by association” drill that captures so many in its net.

In terms of doomed characters, it also seems that the Blaine family are not going to get out of this unscathed full stop.

This second series of an award winning series airs Wednesdays on ABC. Tune in and catch the escalating events in American Crime as they unfold.

 

American Crime: Season Two Episode One (Recap/Review)

American Crime, season two, episode one begins with a 911 phone call. A woman’s voice (Lili Taylor) tells the operator that she wants to report a rape.

CONNOR JESSUP

American Crime, season two, episode one begins with a 911 phone call. A woman’s voice (Lili Taylor) tells the operator that she wants to report a rape. The episode then begins to  show the backstory leading up to that call. Everything begins, after the 911 call,  and the first installment of season two starts by  focussing on Taylor Blaine (Connor Jessup). 

The teen student is speaking, apparently, with a school counselor at the private school he attends, Leyland.  Taylor talks about his chances at college and what he sees as potential problems.  Later the boy is seen watching the basketball team practice under the tutelage of Coach Dan Sullivan (Timothy Hutton).

As he looks on, Taylor starts receiving  pictures on his cell phone, photos that show him partially dressed and obviously intoxicated.  These images are shared on the net and with the entire school This  begins a chain of events that will turn this private school upside down.

Initially, the school’s officials react against Taylor Blaine by  suspending youngster for inappropriate conduct  that goes against the school’s guidelines. Even when Anne Blaine come in, the reaction by the school is to punish Taylor, regardless of the facts.

Anne Blaine (Taylor) is called in for the suspension and, after Dean Henderson refuses to show her the pictures, leaves with her son.  She is angry and upset, Taylor refuses to get into the car. As the episode progresses, Anne learns about a basketball “Captain’s” party that Taylor was invited to with his girlfriend. She also sees the pictures.

The players in this season of American Crime includes Anne and her son, with all their emotional baggage and pending backstory.  The Headmaster of Leyland Leslie Graham (Felicity Huffman), Coach Sullivan (Hutton) who worries about his winning team members and his daughter, Terri and Michael Lacroix (Regina King and André Benjamin) and their basketball captain son Trevor (Trevor Jackson)and another team captain Eric Lupton (Joey Pollari) appears to be involved as well.

FELICITY HUFFMAN
Leslie Graham self promoter and protector of Leyland

When Anne Blaine comes in to see the headmaster, Graham mixes her message to the mother.  The school head wants to lay the blame on Taylor and protect the school’s reputation.  Afterward Graham asks Sullivan to speak to his team and find out what happened.

This request upsets the coach, who feels he has a special rapport  with his players and he resents being put in the position of “bad guy.” For Sullivan it is all about trust, the same way he sees raising his 17 year-old cheerleader daughter Becca (Sky Azure Van Vliet) and the coach is annoyed and upset. 

Graham comes across as the ultimate self promoter. The headmaster is adept that telling parents, the school board, and the faculty what they want to hear.  She also puts the school’s reputation above the student’s needs, as evidenced by her reaction to Anne Blaine’s second trip to the school.

When Anne raises concerns that the school seems to be doing little about her son’s rape, Graham becomes threatening to the upset mother.  The headmaster bullies the woman which then results in Anne  making the 911 call heard at the start of the episode.

Season two of American Crime looks to be another award winning effort.  Show creator John Ridley has given us a cast of characters who look to be as intense as the storyline itself.   The boy Taylor and his mother have some sort of dysfunctional backstory judging by their interaction, or lack of it and the family of Dan Sullivan has an interesting dynamic.

Dan’s wife Steph (Hope Davis) is worried about their daughter, but the pot smoking mother insists that her husband speak to Becca.  She also accuses Dan of becoming too serious because he will not join her smoking weed because of Leyland’s drug tests for staff.

TIMOTHY HUTTON
Dan Sullivan, the coach’s crown weighs heavy…

On the school side, Huffman’s character is focussed on her career above all else and bent on protecting it by keeping the school’s reputation spotless. Hutton’s character is weighted down by all the responsibility and concerns that the headmaster is trying to make him “dig the dirt.”

Peripherally, we are introduced to the Lacroix family and from the outset, father Michael is the “cool one’ and mother Terri is an unpleasant woman who pushes her son Kevin to do better. We also meet Taylor’s girlfriend Evy (Angelique Rivera) who tells Anne about the basketball party.

American Crime is gripping  with its second season storyline. Dealing with a private school and all its peccadilloes. The tendency to hide the “dirt,” punish the victim and sweep all that unsightly mess under the scholastic rug is one theme in the series this time around.

It also deals with sexuality and  preconceived paradigms being challenged by not only the youth of today but the effects of the Internet on our children and us. American Crime airs Wednesdays on ABC. Tune in and get caught up in an intense storyline and high quality acting.

American Crime Season Two: Tackling Deeper Issues

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.

FELICITY HUFFMAN

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.

TIMOTHY HUTTON
Timothy Hutton as Coach Dan Sullivan

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.

CONNOR JESSUP
Connor Jessup as Taylor Blaine

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.

REGINA KING, ANDRE BENJAMIN
Regina King and Andre Benjamin as Terri and Michael LaCroix

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.