Monday, April 24, 2017

REVIEW: 'American Crime' - Gabrielle, Jeanette and Kimara Try to Escape Their Current Situations in 'Episode Seven'

ABC's American Crime - Episode 3.07 "Episode Seven"

In the days following a fatal altercation in the webcam house, Dustin reaches out to Kimara for help, realizing he is no longer safe. Kimara struggles with the burden of a difficult moral choice and decides to take time off of work at her shelter. Nicholas and Clair's volatile marriage continues to unravel, which in turn makes Gabrielle commit an ill-conceived act based on fear for her life. Jeanette becomes alarmed when Raelyn overreacts to a random drug test request.

This season of American Crime has done a fantastic job in showcasing the crushing realities of the modern-day working class. It's a constant struggle where even the tiniest glimmer of hope can soon become corrupted. Last week's episode proved just how bleak this world is capable of being. It killed Shae in a random act of violence. And now, the tension only escalates more in this week's episode. It's elevated throughout all of these stories. It's clear that the status quo simply isn't sustainable for anyone. Everyone is doing their best just to get by in this world. They all have ideas of what they would like to be doing. Kimara wants to help kids one-on-one and have a baby. Clair wants a happy family. Nicholas wants a successful furniture business. Raelyn wants to be a good mother who can provide for her children. Jeanette wants a purpose that can fulfill her life. These are the ambitions these characters have had this season. Some of them may ultimately be rewarded in the end because they are genuinely good people. But the narrative has also highlighted just how destructive and corrupt this world can be. It's seemingly a system set up to constantly kick people when they are down. Some horrible people are still rewarded as Kimara points out. But the slog to actually get anywhere remotely rewarding is a long and arduous journey that may not ultimately be worth the effort.

In separate instances, both Kimara and Jeanette suggest taking a vacation in order to escape these grim realities of their lives. They are struggling to provide and make a difference in the world. Kimara commits fraud in order to help Abby get new funding for the homeless shelter. Jeanette still hasn't found a job that actually makes her feel good. They are both faced with uncertain futures. They want things to be easier like they were previously in their lives. They have simply been beaten down by life as of late. They believe that taking a vacation will allow them to recharge. It's a break that will give them renewed energy to focus on what needs to happen moving forward. It's a mentality they both believe is possible. And yet, neither one of them seems destined to actually go on vacation. Life keeps getting in the way. All it takes is one twist to completely change their plans. All it takes is one wrong action to completely change their lives moving forward. It may ultimately be rewarding. But it's been increasingly clear this season that any moment of happiness for these characters is largely short-lived.

With Jeanette, devastation comes when Raelyn fails a random drug test. It's a shocking and surprising moment for both Jeanette and the audience. She believed her sister had got her life together. Raelyn's working two jobs in order to provide for her daughters. Jeanette thought Raelyn was taking control of her life and making something of it again. And yet, Jeanette's presence may have inadvertently lead to this drug relapse for Raelyn. That's not to say that Jeanette is so annoying or tiring as person that Raelyn needs drugs to cope with having her in her life on a daily basis. Instead, Jeanette is a new resource for Raelyn. She's someone she can now depend on to watch the girls. Someone who knows her past and wants to know more even though they aren't entirely forthcoming with each other. It's the tiniest amount of new freedom she has. It proves that addiction is a crushing disease that can force people to act irrationally. Raelyn is destroying everything she cares about in order to get high. She doesn't want to lose her girls. And yet, she still tests positive for drugs. She knew it was coming too and wanted Jeanette to prepare for it. Now, Jeanette has the newfound responsibility of caring for these two girls full-time. She doesn't know what to do. This action may force her to reunite with Carson. It's not what she wants but it will probably be necessary in order to provide a meaningful life for them. That could bring her purpose. But it seemingly condemns her to a way of life that she may not even want as well.

With Kimara, her potential glimpse of hopefulness comes when she agrees to take on one last case for the Assistant District Attorney. Up to that point, she was unsure about her career. She is committed to this work. But this season has shown just how much it has dragged her down. It's become routine for her. She has a rehearsed speech she tells the new kids she meets. Some listen to her and want more but most of them do not. She never gets to see if she makes a difference in someone's life. Yes, she's helped people get out of bad situations. But that hasn't substantially improved her life. This job is always going to be so defeating because the people in it simply don't have the resources to do a whole lot of good. The money is only coming in after something terrible has happened. It's white guilt paying the bills after a major disaster. It shouldn't take something horrible happening in order for people to care. And yet, other people are dealing with their own personal problems as well and can't always donate even when they really want to. But again, there's the hope at the end of this hour that Kimara will actually find some justice for Shae. It's miraculous that Dustin and Kimara meet. He knows how Shae's story ends. He just has to be willing to talk to Kimara about it. That may be more difficult than it seems though. He doesn't know Kimara and her own connection to Shae. So, all of this could ultimately be two ships passing in the night completely unaware of each other's presence and importance.

And finally, the Coates family drama hits its climatic beats as well. This has been such an abusive and destructive storyline this season. It blows up the facade of peaceful tranquility in an upper class world. Both Nicholas and Clair have been dealing with their own issues. And yet, they are incredibly selfish people who take their frustrations out on others when they don't get what they want. It's behavior that has probably always been present. Now, it's just taking a much darker turn because the stakes are so high. Nicholas needs his business to succeed again while Clair needs there to be more meaning in having a happy family. They've strived for perfection but it's simply not obtainable. They've passed the point of no return. They've created an unsafe environment for their son, Nicky. It's gotten so bad that Gabrielle fears that one of them will do something horrible to their child. But in the end, Gabrielle is the one who ultimately pays the price. The show condemns her to a horrible fate simply because she wasn't prepared for the darkness of this suburbia.

Of course, it was very unlikely that Gabrielle would get very far when she decides to run away from this family. She no longer has her passport. Clair took it out of protection but now it traps Gabrielle in this world. She is willing to run without that security because this environment is so toxic. It's no longer a safe place for her to be. And yet, most of her problems come from the decision to take Nicky with her. In the moment, she truly believes she's doing the right thing. She's saving this young boy from a horrifying family. Perhaps she's projecting her own family difficulties onto the situation as well. But right now, she needs to do something good because she's the only savior this boy has. And yet, she's immediately caught because she wants to help Nicky. She wants to be a good person who simply got caught in a bad situation. But the police are siding with the Coates in this drama because they are well-respected Americans while Gabrielle is a black nanny who doesn't speak English. It's isolating and horrifying to see her all alone in the hospital room. She's no longer in control of her own life which is absolutely devastating. It's the show once again showing just how difficult the plight of the immigrant is in 2017. It's a path that can lead to misunderstandings and trauma in so many different ways.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Episode Seven" was written by Kirk A. Moore and directed by John Krokidas.
  • In trying to help Raelyn, Jeanette reaches out to J.D. because he's the only person from the Hesby family she believes will actually help her. And yet, he's falling on his own sword and taking responsibility for the fire that killed many workers. It's him trying to make things right while also doing something that Laurie Ann approves of.
  • Will the need to take care of two children be the thing that gets Jeanette to return to Carson? Or will it serve as motivation for her to accept whatever job she can find? It's a question of how independent she wants to be. Will she choose freedom but a ton of hard work? Or the luxury of privilege but a sense of feeling trapped?
  • The new benefactor of Abby's homeless shelter is planning on being more hands on with the non-profit as well. Kimara took a huge risk in forging notes to get more money. But now, things look more precarious because this is a guy who is going to be sticking around for awhile.
  • Gabrielle continues to reveal more extensive wounds on her body. Clair continues to insist that it's her hurting herself. It's the rationalization she has for the darkness surrounding Gabrielle's actions. The wounds are there for the audience to see. And yet, the motivation for it all is still shrouded in some secrecy. Perhaps it just shows that you never know what's really going on with another person.
  • Nicholas and Clair's marriage has officially ended. That's been a long time coming. Both of them have been so cruel to each other. In that final scene, Nicholas is especially mean because he won't even say Nicky's name. Clair wants a family so badly that she's willing to keep this dysfunctional one together. But she says a number of hurtful things about the business as well and how it's destined to fail because of this new deal Nicholas has made.