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.