I like American Crime. I do. I think the direction is great, it offers up some of the most striking cinematography on television today, and the acting is superb. However, I was always a little irked by…something. I could never quite put my finger on it. Wednesday’s episode finally allowed me to realize what exactly is slightly off about the show—its pacing. It takes three episodes to say what could be effectively communicated in one. Many of the same themes are often repeated, and the same frustrated phrases are exclaimed again and again, with just slightly too little new information in each new episode. The feel of the show should be swift, not sluggish.
While this episode introduced little new information, it gave us nuggets of knowledge. Episode five opens with the two very different accounts of the basketball party. Taylor insists that his drink was drugged, and that although he had gone there to hook up with Eric, the eventual interaction wasn’t consensual. Eric, however, claims that Taylor wanted a rough encounter—and has the texts and emails to back up his statement. Furthermore, Eric insists that Taylor only began to claim he was raped after Eric was no longer interested in him. The scenes are beautifully shot—American Crime has a fondness for close–ups that border on intrusive, and that add so much depth to such personal revelations.
Both Eric and Taylor’s sexuality are questioned throughout the episode. Taylor’s sexuality remains fluid, but Eric maintains he is gay—much to the confused support of his father, and to the frustration and disappointment of his mother and brother.
Also coming into question is Kevin’s involvement in the basketball party, and in the rape itself. While Kevin was not present for the assault, it is unclear if Kevin drugged Taylor. When Kevin meets with the basketball team, the boys made a pact to tell the police nothing. As such, the audience is told nothing as well.
However, while Kevin is not officially charged with any crime, he is still considered a suspect in the pending case. And although that frustrates his parents, it frustrates Lili all the more. Taylor begs her to give up on the case, humiliated on behalf of his mother. And eventually, Lili relents. The policemen are unable to define the encounter as a rape, and seem set on closing the investigation. However, at the end of the episode, she is encouraged by a parent (one whose daughter was sexually abused by a Leyland teacher) to continue her pursuit. Apparently, Lili isn’t the only parent neglected by the private school administrators.
It is these same private school administrators who so happily sit in the audience of a lavish theater, watching their students perform interpretive dance (set to some truly powerful music, courtesy of Mark Isham). The sheer excess of the scene is a wonderful contrast to the challenges faced by Thurgood Marshall principal Chris Dixon (Elvis Nlasco), whose school is being ripped apart by racist outbursts from students. After a particularly brutal fight and the suspension of the instigators, several Hispanic students form a protest outside the school. Thurgood Marshall remains an excellent balance to the lavish wealth of Leyland, and provides some needed commentary on race and fiscal imbalance within the community.