Monday, April 10, 2017

REVIEW: 'American Crime' - Jeanette and Shae Make Big Decisions While Kimara Helps a New Girl in 'Episode Five'

ABC's American Crime - Episode 3.05 "Episode Five"

Shae contemplates having another abortion while Dustin introduces her to the world of online sex work. Jeanette makes a decision that results in a disheartening situation, as she struggles to accept the value of her self-worth. Kimara tries to help another troubled girl. Nicholas and Clair's troubles worsen. Gabriella experiences an unsettling incident that makes her realize her new life isn't exactly what she hoped it would be.

"Episode Five" builds off of the emotional devastation of the previous episode. It forces a number of characters to make vital choices about their lives. Do they continue to be a part of their current circumstances? Or do they leave for something that may potentially be better? Or more importantly, do they even have these choices at all or are they just desperate enough to believe that they do? It's difficult ideas to articulate into storytelling. And yet, this episode does such a wonderful job with those concepts as it pushes the characters even further apart. At the start of the season, it was unclear how these characters would ultimately connect to one another. Their stories were vastly different. They built together for an overwhelming sense of the despair and difficulties of the modern day working class. And now, it's seeming more and more likely that these characters will never ultimately meet for some grander purpose. It's just important that the actions of one inadvertently affect the others. Isaac's murder on the Hesby farm affects Shae's case against her former pimp because it is no longer a priority for the D.A. That's an interesting approach to this story.

Of course, some characters do meet for the first time in this episode. Nicholas and Clair appeared for the first time in last week's episode. It was a whole new story for the show. They felt a part of the same world as the Hesbys. They too have a business that is facing new hardships because of global economics. They are struggling to compete with foreign workers that can get the job done cheaper than they can. This hour further highlights the difficulties in Nicholas and Clair's marriage. It's clear they have such different views of the world. Clair is a housewife who enjoys going to fundraisers and donating money for worthy causes. Meanwhile, Nicholas just stands on the sidelines complaining about his own problems. It's absolutely horrifying that he compares his issues to that of modern-day slavery and sex trafficking. It's brutal to listen to him and another guy dismiss the myth of white male privilege. Yes, the issues they face in their businesses are legitimate and important. But their attitudes on the subject are just as telling. This interaction reveals that Nicholas really doesn't care about anyone else. He largely just cares about what will affect his bottom line. A concern that is growing with each passing day. And yet, this story seems to be highlighting his ignorance and how it may impact his family.

And yet, Clair isn't a saint either. She's entitled and oblivious to the realities of the world as well. She has a run in with Kimara as she gives a presentation for this foundation that tries to deal with human trafficking. The audience knows how important this issue is to Kimara. She's passionate about her job even though it has very few rewarding moments. And yet, she's still an advocate for the kids she helps. That's true when she's working with them and when she's talking about. She understands the lack of choices they have. Clair simply believes that people always have choices. They can choose between being rich or poor. It's all just an attitude. That's simply not true at all. Kimara attempts to inform her of how difficult these situations can be. It does move Clair into making a donation. But it really doesn't change her behavior at all. It's fascinating to see Nicholas and Clair's story also have a take on modern day servitude. Clair believes she's doing this wonderful thing for Gabriella. She believes she's doing right by her son by getting him a French-speaking nanny. And yet, she has no clue how her actions come across. When it comes to the passport, Clair thinks she's doing the right thing by keeping it secure in the safe. But to Gabriella, it could be seen as her losing her freedom. She sees it as needing to do whatever Clair asks no matter what otherwise she'll never get it back. It shows the divide between people even when the intentions are honest and pure.

Meanwhile, Kimara is seemingly doing everything right by Shae and it's still not good enough. She's been an advocate for her as she's gone through all of the bureaucracy of trying to get an abortion. All of the red tape to delay the procedure actually works though. Listening to the heartbeat, looking at the sonogram and seeing the protesters gets Shae to change her mind. It could be a frustrating moment for Kimara. It could also serve as a remainder that everyone else seems to be getting their miracle baby except her. But it also shows that Shae is trying to be more independent. She escaped a bad situation thanks to Kimara. But now, she sees a potentially better opportunity in becoming a web cam performer. And so, she decides to pursue it. She just leaves. Kimara continues to passionately fight for her. A missing girl is her priority. And yet, there is still very little she can do. It's just a part of this profession. She can only help when the minors want it. She just has to move on to the next case not knowing what's happened to Shae. It could be depressing and heartbreaking. And yet, it's also thrilling to see Kimara pull another girl out of a terrible situation. Perhaps this one will have a better ending. Perhaps this time Kimara will actually be able to help this girl. Perhaps this time will reward Kimara for her devotion to this work. That's the hope that keeps Kimara doing this job. But it has to be draining on her as well.

And finally, Jeanette leaves Carson. It's a decision that this story seemed to heading to. But the show truly digs into the complexities of the situations as well. A separation isn't going to be easy for Jeanette. This season has revealed a completely new side to Carson. One that she didn't know existed. She was filled with so much compassion for the workers on the farm after learning about their working conditions. She wanted to make a difference and the family completely shut her down. It's cruel for Carson to blame their current problems with the murder investigation on her and her good intentions. But that also highlights just how toxic this relationship is. Jeanette wants to escape to figure things out. She has to decide if this is still the life she wants to be living. She needs to find a way to cope with it if that's the case. She just needs the space to do so. Getting that will be a huge problem. She has nothing that is distinctly her own. Carson sees that as a privilege. It's him doing his job and providing for his wife. He doesn't see the problem. He thinks Jeanette is making a big deal out of nothing. But it's not nothing. It's a huge deal. The fact that he can't see that only makes things worse. And yet, getting a divorce won't be easy. Nor will getting any money from Carson. Jeanette doesn't have many options because she's been a housewife for over twenty years. She's lived a happy life but has very little to actually show for it. So now, she's at her sister's house asking for a place to stay even though Raelyn has been described as the problematic one in the family. Hopefully, it will be a safe place for Jeanette to get her life together. But there's just no way of telling where this story is going to go next. That unpredictability is really satisfying and intense though.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Episode Five" was written by Keith Huff and directed by Tanya Hamilton.
  • Diego is seemingly exposing the truth about every illegal thing going on at the Hesby farm. After the death of his brother, that makes sense. And yet, it's also difficult to see him as being the virtuous whistleblower when he's done so many of those illegal things as well. It shows just how toxic that world can be.
  • It really does seem like Luis is gone after getting away with murder. Of course, not much of the police investigation is actually seen. It's just something that a number of characters talk about. And yet, it's effects on this community could be widespread and very interesting to watch.
  • Clair used to work in the furniture business as well. She was the accountant for Nicholas. She left to have her baby. And now, she's really clueless as to what's going on in the business. She doesn't know the difficult decisions Nicholas is being forced to make. He has to layoff a number of workers because the finances just don't work anymore.
  • It's also so devastating to know that Nicky has a father who just didn't want him at all. Clair wanted a baby more than anything. She's similar to Kimara in that respect. And yet, she was successful in having a baby. She had the money to keep trying. But now, she's a stay-at-home mom with a nanny and a frustrated husband who just doesn't understand that.
  • No mention of Coy at all this week. He managed to escape the hardships from the farm by overdosing once more. Was he actually able to reunite with his family and pull himself out of addiction? Those questions remain unclear.
  • It feels like something bad is going to happen to Shae soon. She lies about being 18. That's how she is able to get this job and a place to stay. Things could take a devastating turn once she reaches the point of no return with the pregnancy. That could bring her back into Kimara's orbit. Or it could not. It could show that she messed up a good thing and can't get it back.