When ABC sent out screeners for American Crime, the network only sent the first four episodes and now it’s clear why: ”Season Two: Episode Four” is the best of the season so far, and it ends in a way that leaves you dying for more information. I’m not sure if I would classify American Crime as a “binge-able” series because it can be so sad and devoid of humor that watching 10 episodes in a row could sink you into a funk. But it does sometimes work well in chunks (as I learned in the first season), especially when there is an episode as edge-of-your-seat powerful as this one.

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Last week, we learned that the police were going ahead with the case after the lab discovered evidence of blood and semen on Taylor. This week is the immediate aftermath that hints at the stress and turmoil that multiple characters will endure as things move forward. It seems like the whole school is on edge but especially the basketball team, headmaster Leslie, and coach Dan are starting to go into panic mode. Leslie confronts Dan about his team, who in turn confronts the actual team. Tensions are high: a fight breaks out during the meeting where Dan explains that the police are going to start “making arrests and taking samples” (one boy is particularly worried about what this means for his future in college) but the most important reaction is from Eric, who sits in a back chair, head against the wall but with intense worry in his eyes. There is something that he’s not ‘fessing up to, something that he’s turning over and over in his mind—and that something must be incriminating.

But before we get to that, let’s talk about the parents. Both Eric’s and Kevin’s parents are struggling with figuring out how exactly to deal with each of their son’s possible involvement in Taylor’s assault and the comparisons of the two families heavily remarks on the difference money/class makes in a situation like this. Kevin, who comes from a wealthy, well-known family who are buddies with police officers (remember that bait-and-switch scene when a cop rolls up to Kevin? Or how Terri used her clout in the second episode?), has plenty of help, including a good lawyer who coaches the family on how to approach this. He’s told not to take a polygraph test or volunteer evidence; he gives a statement in which he succinctly, calmly explains what he knows (whether or not he’s withdrawing information is unclear): he has ever intention of cooperating, he saw Taylor passed out on the floor and saw players taking photos, he tried to get them to stop, etc.

Eric, on the other hand, doesn’t have anything resembling Kevin’s finances. He’s on a basketball scholarship at the school (his younger brother attends the other main school in American Crime, along with Evy and, returning there in this episode, Taylor) and his family can’t give him the sort of lawyer that Kevin has. They have no idea what to do or how they can afford to get him any help that he might need.

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American Crime, from its first season, has been intent on exploring race and class.So far, this season is doing a pretty stellar job at keeping that up in the midst of a rape case. Even aside from the explicit economic differences between Kevin and Eric, there is also the exploration of race relations in the town’s public school. What’s interesting is that American Crime doesn’t go for the blacks v. whites tensions, but instead blacks v. Hispanics—and Evy seems to be in the middle (although she is dating a white boy). Still, I’m not totally sure where this storyline is going (tonight’s episode featured a fight broken up by Principal Dixon and Evy casually saying “boys be tusslin’ over me”) or how it will blend in with the main storyline—though I suspect it might inch there soon considering Taylor is now back at that school, bringing him directly into Evy’s world.

For now, though, the focus is zooming in on Eric. A suicide attempt—booze and his father’s Ativan—lands him in the hospital confessing to his worried coach what may have gone down at the party:

Coach: Did you assault that boy?
Eric: He wanted it.
Coach: Geez, you sound like a rapist.
Eric: I didn’t rape him. He wanted it. He wanted to hook up.

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And that’s where, according to Eric, the narrative changes from “rape” to something more like “consensual meet-up gone wrong.” Eric says that he and Taylor were planning to meet up—he has proof on his phone: texts, emails—and the reason he didn’t admit this to the police is because he didn’t want people to know that he’s gay. There is a whole lot there to unpack, but it’s something that the show needs to delve into further before we can really nitpick at it. Right now, the big question is how much of what Eric is saying is true? The emails and texts are there—a furious Anne races into the house and finds them on her Taylor’s phone—but what’s the story behind them? Is Taylor also gay? Did he consent, and then withdraw that consent (meaning: Eric still raped him)? Or what?

Stray observations

  • Uh, I’m not entirely sure what to say about that slam poetry opening. What did you guys make of it?
  • “Nobody is trying to hurt your boys. We’re trying to protect them,” “He-said/he-sad, for lack of a better phrase,” “It’s naive to think this school is going to get a fair hearing.” Leslie comes off both as an ice queen and as remarkably self-aware about damage control and the ways in which this assault will be framed.
  • There was some interesting backstory explored about Anne and Taylor, but it failed to capture my attention as much as what’s happening int he present.

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