Monday, May 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'American Crime' - Jeanette Reaches Out to Carson for Financial Help in 'Episode Eight'

ABC's American Crime - Episode 3.08 "Episode Eight"

Kimara advises Dustin to inform the police about the crime that took place in the webcam house, which leads to an unforeseen outcome. Detectives open up a troubling investigation into Clair and Nicholas, who maintain their innocence and contend that Gabrielle is the guilty party. Jeanette must confront and consider the costs and sacrifices of social change.

This has been such a fascinating season of American Crime. Way back in the season premiere, it was established that the show wanted to have a more sprawling narrative this season. That quality was maintained throughout the season. The main characters were only connected for thematic purposes. There wasn't a singular crime that ultimately brought everyone together. Instead, there were many different crimes to show just how varied but still connected the life of the average middle class citizen can be. All of the stories moved at their own pace. Some wrapped up early on in the season. New ones were later introduced. And some were important for the entire season. At only eight episodes, this was the shortest season of this show to date. At times, that brevity was felt in the narrative. I wish the show could have spent more time with a number of characters this season - Luis, Coy, Abby, the Hesby siblings, etc. But the final blend of story was very fascinating and intriguing. This ending brings all of these stories to a resolution with some kind of punishment falling down for all of the crimes. It's interesting to see the varied outcomes in these stories. It highlights the cost of this world. Punishment is just as complicated as the crime. More often than not, it has a wide ranging effect on the rest of the community as well.

It's honestly a little surprising that punishment does come for Clair and Nicolas in the finale. They deserve it for how awful and abusive they've been this season. But it felt like Gabrielle was going to be punished for all of their shortcomings while they got away clean because they are wealthy and white. This season has examined servitude in a number of profound ways. It shows how crushing that reality can be for the people trapped in it. It's a vicious cycle that has no easy way out. Gabrielle needed to work in order to provide for her own family - even though that made her an absent parent as well. She wanted to do good and help people. Instead, she found herself in a horrible situation. She came to American not knowing what to expect. She leaves truly caring for what happens to Nicky. Kidnapping him was a major mistake that could have had serious consequences for her. And yet, all of that goes away as soon as the police learn the truth about was going on inside the Coates house.

It's a powerful reveal when it's learned that Clair was the one who was physically hurting Gabrielle. She has stuck to her story of Gabrielle hurting herself for so long. She wanted to believe that so badly. She wanted to continue to live in her perfect and happy life. And yet, she had a twisted perversion for hurting others. At least, she's willing to face the consequences. That isn't always the case. The police have all the evidence they need to convict her. But Nicholas says that they have the money to make all of these charges go away. It once again proves just how horrible he really is. He's so entitled that he doesn't see this as the horrifying thing that it is. Instead, he's trying to think of a way out of it. It's also a fitting twist that he is now forced to care for the son he never wanted in the first place and doesn't love. It's going to be a terrible future for Nicky. The young boy deserves better than the father he has. And yet, Nicholas also steps up to do the right thing instead of abandoning his child in the foster care system. That's a hopeful note even though it's likely that Nicky will grow up to be just like his father. That's a depressing thought to think about.

Elsewhere, it's understandable why Jeanette returns to Carson now. She is tasked with raising Raelyn's two daughters. She could live the life that Raelyn was living. Working two jobs for minimal wage. Earning just enough to get by. When Jeanette first left Carson, she did it out of ideals. She wanted a better future for herself. One where she could make a difference in the world. It's clear that she still wants that. And yet, that needs to be less important than caring for the girls. They need to be her priority now. Raelyn is probably going to jail for awhile. And there's no guarantee that she'll return as a better person. She's still making these mistakes and doing a lot of harm to her family. She does so knowing that her girls will have a better future with Jeanette. And yet, that all depends on her going back to Carson. She left for good, virtuous reasons. She's only returning because she needs financial support now. That's abundantly clear to everyone involved. Jeanette has to set aside her morals to do right by her family. It's horrifying that it needs to be a choice like that. And yet, that's oftentimes the reality of the world.

It's fascinating to see how Carson reacts to all of this as well. He was deeply hurt by Jeanette leaving. He felt he did nothing wrong. His inability to understand what Jeanette was feeling was part of the problem. Nothing has really changed either. He's still really mad at her. However, bringing his family back together is what he wants more than anything else. Sure, he's cruel when he says that raising Raelyn's kids isn't the same as having biological children. But he still stands up for Jeanette when it comes to confronting Laurie Ann. It's crazy that Jeanette needs to ask for Laurie Ann's permission to return to this family with the girls. It makes it so she has to pay a price for trying to do the right thing earlier in the season regarding the workers. But it's also triumphant to see Carson stand up for his wife to his sister. He's always been positioned as doing whatever Laurie Ann told him to do. She claims she's protecting him from the harsh realities of this business. But it's clear she loves having this power and will do whatever is legally required and nothing more. Carson stands up for Jeanette. It's surprising and shows that there may be hope for them after all - even though it's clear Jeanette is still trapped in a world she doesn't fully support.

And finally, it's fantastic that Kimara learns what happened to Shae. It was such a tragedy but it had the potential to be completely covered up. Dustin knew what had happened. But it was unclear if he would be able to share the information with Kimara. Fortunately, he does. He tells the police about what happened in the webcam house. He does so to get the burden off of his chest. And yet, it only adds to his problems. He isn't able to escape punishment simply because he did the right thing and came forward. The police still want to arrest him for being an accessory after the fact. They do so because the webcam house has been cleared out. They have descriptions for the people actually responsible for this crime and cover-up. But right now, Dustin is the only person they actually have. They know exactly where he is. And thus, they can charge him in order for there to be some kind of victory in this case. It's horrifying and depraved. But that's the way the legal system works sometimes. Kimara lost one of her kids. And now, she's trying to do right by another. Dustin deserves to catch a break. But there's only so much that Kimara can do. She can confirm that it is Shae's body that was pulled out of the river. She can wait to give her a proper burial. But that's about it.

So, things end horribly for Dustin. However, this whole experience helps Kimara decide what she wants in her life right now. Everything that has happened with Shae and Dustin has been very tough. She's struggled to get through it knowing that there's nothing better waiting for her elsewhere. She could take a vacation to get her head on straight. Or she could use this as an opportunity to finally get what she's worth. It's a thankless job being a social worker. It's worn her down. She hasn't been appreciated for it. Nor has she been rewarded for it. The justice system is working against her and her clients while her friend is manipulating the law just to provide the same kind of care. She chooses to take a job working for Abby. But she makes sure she is paid well. She needs to know that people value her and she's not just the middleman in a financial scam. She feels confident about herself and wants others to know it. It may still be delusional for her to think she can get pregnant. But she's still going to try. She's going to persevere. That's all that anyone can do in this world where every choice seems bad, complicated and too unbearable to make. But people need to find some way to survive regardless.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Episode Eight" was written by Julie Hébert and directed by Jessica Yu.
  • Its surprising that Gabrielle's son, Yves, shows up at the hospital. It reveals she does have some support in this difficult world. But it also brings all of their issues to the surface as well. They want to do better but it's simply very difficult to do so. 
  • It's revealed that Raelyn actually stole a lot of money from the Hesby siblings. It was actually $25,000. That's a suspicious amount of money. And yet, it's never actually revealed what she used it all for. 
  • I'm not quite sure what to make of that final scene with all the characters in the same courtroom. It plays as the show building to a reveal of how they are connected. They all ended up in court on this day. But it's also a more melodramatic plot beat that wasn't all that necessary as well. 
  • Looking back on this season as a whole, it's still unclear what Coy was doing in any of it. He wasn't nearly as important as he seemed to be at the start. His story ended quickly and quietly never to be mentioned again.
  • There were so many terrific performances this season. Perennial nominees Felicity Huffman and Regina King deserve Emmy nominations once more. But Lili Taylor, Timothy Hutton, Ana Mulvoy-Ten, Benito Martinez and Mickaëlle X. Bizet were just as good.
  • This season was so strong. And yet, it needs to be mentioned that the ratings weren't great. If this is the end of the show, at least it goes out on a high. But I would really like it to return. It has a voice that is necessary and needed on broadcast television.