American Crime’s second season ends the way it began: with Eric, Taylor, and an ambiguous future. Taylor stands before a judge as she asks him to accept or reject a plea deal. Eric stands on a dusty road, texting what is presumably another random hookup. Neither boys know what to do or how to proceed. The episode ends with little resolution and very little fulfillment. Considering American Crime’s foggy nature, I suppose that’s as to be expected, albeit a little disappointing.
The season finale focused on the truth. How to tell it, how to hide it, and what happens when it inevitably comes out. Anne (Lili Taylor) even insists as she visits Taylor in the hospital: “it’s the truth. It’s about the truth.”
The episode opens on Sebastian (Richard Cabral) furiously scrolling through more hacked emails. Someone has leaked Leyland emails and texts, and it wasn’t him. Among the many leaked messages are ones sent by Becca (Sky Azure Van Vliet) confirming that she is a drug dealer. To the dismay of Dan (Timothy Hutton), she is quickly suspended and taken to the police. She admits to selling the drugs, and although her mother tries to take the blame for having owned the weed, the detective grimly tells her that selling drugs is a felony, and she is almost sure to serve time. As Dan walks out angrily, he sees the entire basketball team in the police station, quietly awaiting their interviews.
Kevin (Trevor Jackson) is particularly primed for his talk with the detectives, having prepared a statement with his parents and lawyer. However, emails involving Kevin’s father Michael (Andre L. Benjamin) and their lawyer about Anne—and trying to dig up any incriminating information on her—were leaked. Therefore, the lawyer withheld Kevin’s statement, and by default made him look guilty. Terri (Regina King), insists that Kevin tell the whole truth.
And he does. He and Eric both provide complete stories of the night the basketball team attacked Taylor, in what is later determined by the detective as a hate crime. Eric notes that he was coerced into calling Taylor, as he felt threatened himself. The detectives later tell him that, should he testify for Taylor’s case, there is a better chance of protecting himself. Eric, however, isn’t tempted. He reacts angrily, blaming Taylor for acting like a victim, but in reality being a liar. “How does he get to own that night?” Eric asks. “How does he get to own me?”
Dan, desperate, approaches Headmaster Graham (Felicity Huffman) about speaking to Becca’s character in hopes of getting a lighter sentence. Graham, however, hasn’t forgotten Dan’s harsh words after the original email leak. She coldly rebuffs him. Angrily, Dan contacts Sebastian and shows him shredded documents that he’d gathered from Graham’s office—Anne’s medical records. Dan and Sebastian leak the shredded and pieced together files, accusing Graham of leaking them to make Anne appear unstable as she filed a suit against Leyland. Graham is fired, and has one final confrontation with Dan. As the two of them talk, the origin of the documents becomes unclear—did Graham leak them, or did Dan and his wife (a skilled photographer) simply manipulate the documents? It is yet another plot left up to ambiguity. Left clear, however, is Graham’s fate—she is fired, and last seen grimly packing her belongings.
Terri faces a similarly dark future. After her racially charged emails are leaked, she is forced to transfer to St. Louis. Although the lateral move is intended as a punishment, it does give her and her family a chance to start fresh. The LaCroix family story both ends and begins in this episode, with Kevin and Terri sitting somberly on their porch together.
Principal Dixon (Elvis Nolasco) gets a similarly unsatisfying conclusion. He is removed from his job, but walks away from the position with $75,000. He tries to apologize to Evy (Angelique Rivera), who angrily rebuffs him. No one, she explains, ever thought of her and the abuse she endured.
And finally, we circle back to Taylor. During a heated discussion with his mother, Taylor insists that he wants to take a plea deal and not face a trial. Throughout the ordeal, Taylor has been a victim. He was raped. He was assaulted. He was eventually a murderer. To rid himself of the victim mentality, Taylor wants to go to jail. For ten years, to be precise.
However, when the plea deal is presented to him, Taylor’s eyes well with tears. Tears of fear and regret. As he stands on the cusp of his future, so too does Eric, wondering whether he should continue in his cycle of destructive behavior. And with that, the season ends.
There are certainly problems with American Crime. It tackled too many social issues, it strived to be a show about everything. In doing so, they lost a valuable opportunity to make a truly powerful statement about anything. The shooting subplot detracted from the original rape story. And in doing so, American Crime lost a valuable opportunity to explore the subtleties of one boy’s word against another, and the delicate balance between consent and rape. So yes, the show was not perfect. However, this episode closes what is still a sober, dark, and beautifully filmed and superbly acted show. There is not another show like this on television, and we’re lucky to have it. Until next time, American Crime.