Monday, April 3, 2017

REVIEW: 'American Crime' - Luis Finds Justice for His Son While Shae Faces the Bureaucracy in 'Episode Four'

ABC's American Crime - Episode 3.04 "Episode Four"

Luis learns about the fate of his son. Coy devises a plan to get himself off the farm. Jeanette tries to plead her case about the working conditions in the fields to Laurie Ann. Shae comes to a decision that will affect the rest of her life. Business owner Nicholas Coates struggles with making a profit in a market that continuously demands lower prices while his wife, Clair, decides to hire and provide a working visa for a Haitian woman, Gabrielle, to be their son's nanny.

Last week's episode of American Crime didn't name the person who dragged away Teo in the fields. And yet, the "Previously on" segment of this week's episode has Isaac being named as that person. It's a bit surprising and confusing. Isaac is capable of being cruel and violent. Him beating up Coy right in front of Luis proved that. And yet, it seemed more likely that Diego was the one who roughed Teo up in a similar way simply because that episode revolved around him being a manipulative jerk on the farm. The reveal that it was Isaac makes it more personal and devastating because he seemed to have more humanity and complexity to him. He's had a fascinating dynamic with Coy where he's cruel to him while also showing him special attention and treatment. Perhaps he had that same kind of dynamic with Teo. And that's what led to their fatal encounter out at the river. This episode lives in the ambiguity of that moment while also building to a devastation conclusion of personal vengeance.

This hour confirms that Teo was the body floating in the river at the start of the season. It was foolish to be hopeful that Teo and Luis would one day reunite and return to Mexico and their family. It's fascinating to see how far Luis is willing to go to avenge his son's death. He doesn't know all of the details. He just knows Isaac took him out of the fields and his body was discovered in the river. That's all the information he needs to know before pointing a gun at Isaac. He wants to kill him for taking his boy away. And yet, it's equally devastating to hear Luis struggle to tell his wife what is happening in America. This news will completely change her world. He wants to protect her from that. And yet, it's hard. He struggles with it. He can't break her heart yet. He has to get justice first. It's surprising that Luis shoots and kills Isaac in the final act. It's a shocking moment because it's been one of the most engaging stories of the season so far. Isaac's death now leaves behind a ton of untapped potential. He was a mysterious character where more was going on than it initially seemed. He was definitely close with a couple of workers. The flashes of what happened to Teo show that things may have been more complicated there as well. And yet, Luis still sees Isaac as responsible for Teo's death. He kills him and promptly returns to Mexico having gotten away with murder. It should be interesting to see if this is the end of his story this season.

Just as one story reaches its conclusion, another one appears to add new complications to the narrative. This season has already been juggling a lot of plot. Some episodes have handled it better than others. It's done a fascinating job in building a community of characters who don't immediately connect with each other by are each affected by the decline of the middle class. This episode brings Timothy Hutton and Lili Taylor into the story. They are both veterans of this franchise. And yet, their story is purely in setup mode now with no indication of how it connects to any of the other characters. It can feel random too. It comes out of left field. One moment a Haitian woman who only speaks French gets off a plane and meets up with a family she'll become a nanny for. It shows the plight of the immigrant in this country. For Luis, he came as an undocumented worker seeking answers about his son. For Gabrielle, she comes in the hopes of obtaining a work visa by being a nanny for this family. Hutton's Nicholas fits into the overall themes of the narrative about the struggles of businesses in 2017 where everything needs to be made as cheaply as possible without lowering the standards of the final product. And yet, this season has required a lot of patience from the audience. Adding this new story to the mix only increases that feeling. It may pay off eventually. Or it may not.

Kimara and Shae's story is disconnected from the rest of the narrative as well. And yet, it has the benefit of time and a sense of story that is really powerful. This week's plot focuses on how difficult it is to get an abortion in some states. Shae is baffled by all the hassle and red tape she has to go through for a procedure that was so easy the first time she did it. That was in D.C. and now she's in North Carolina where the laws are different. She has to plead her case for why she can't contact her mother for permission to get this procedure. She has to explain that she was selling her body and is now going to testify against her pimp. Her upbringing forced her into that life. So, there's no reasonable explanation for her to want to go back there. All of this seems to work out for her in the end though. She has to get an ultrasound to confirm the baby isn't more than 20 weeks along. But fortunately, it's only at 14 weeks. She's forced to listen to the heartbeat too. And yet, her opinion doesn't change. She is committed to this choice despite how much the system tries to tell her no. But it's also fascinating to see all of this from Kimara's perspective. She's supporting Shae throughout all of this. She's simply presenting the law and everything Shae has to do to get an abortion. It's simply the reality of the situation. But it's also devastating watching her listen to the heartbeat knowing that she may never get pregnant despite how much she desperately wants that.

And finally, Jeanette continues to struggle in her efforts to do more in the family business. She went to the worker's rally to hear their concerns. And yet, it didn't ultimately change anything. Laurie Ann and Carson are still the ones controlling this business. They are able to slyly put an end to anything that Jeanette and JD are doing. With JD, it's easy. They can easily label him as a drunk to silence him. With Jeanette, it's more difficult because she's becoming aware of the realities of the situation. It's in that moment where Laurie Ann reveals himself to be a cruel woman. She vilifies Jeanette for wanting to have a say in how this family acts when they could easily do the same thing to her about her sister's problems. It's a cruel tactic for the sake of silencing her. But it's equally devastating to note that not even her husband is on her side. He simply thinks she's doing all of this just to feel good. He's reacting to make sure she doesn't do something that comes back to hurt the business. That's certainly a quality of why Jeanette is doing all of this now. She feels guilty for being ignorant for so long. She wants to make up for it now. But it's more than that too. She wants to stand up and do the right thing in the face of adversity. The longer she stays with this family the more unlikely it seems she'll be successful in that endeavor though.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Episode Four" was written by Sonay Hoffman and directed by Steph Green.
  • Coy overdoses once more. He is prescribed drugs again after he collapses in the fields. He pleads for Diego and Isaac to take the pills away but they don't. When he finally leaves at Luis' urging, he just sits on the side of the road and takes all of them. And yet, he somehow survives. An ambulance arrives to save his life.
  • It also seems like Coy is about to get away from life on the fields. Most of this hour plays as him being trapped there for awhile. Even though he was attacked, he still owes the farm so much money. On top of that, his family is unwilling to help him because he has a pattern of only hurting them in the past. But again, things seem to be looking up for him.
  • There aren't any subtitles for the characters speaking French. That's certainly a stylistic choice. It also means the actors have to do a better job at expressing the reality of their situation through the emotions they share.
  • Even though she doesn't have a sperm donor, Kimara is still moving forward with another round of IBF treatments. Of course, she's also worried that she won't get a refund if she fails to get pregnant again. This dream of hers may ultimately be costing her too much.
  • Shae talks with another kid from her group home. He never shares during group therapy sessions. He's also the kid who saw her steal the phone. He seemingly has one too. And yet, she barely has time for him. She'd rather just take beautiful pictures and get lost in them.
  • Luis is on a bus planning on going home. His family knows that he's coming. However, there's still the potential for things to go wrong for him before he reaches home. It could include his murder of Luis or it could not. He still faces a lot of danger simply for being an illegal immigrant.