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Justice for Taylor seemed liked it was on the horizon during the last two episodes of American Crime, with the police officers moving forward with the case and starting to take Taylor’s claims a bit more seriously. Still, anyone could have predicted that there were rough waters ahead—especially after the reveal that Eric and Taylor had been texting/sexting each other about meeting up at the party. Tonight, hope for justice flew out of the window as “Season Two: Episode Five” went deeper into the texts and each boy’s sexuality.

Taylor doesn’t deny sending the texts, nor does he deny being into the kinks that he expressed in them—rough sex, being choked, and other fantasies—but he continues to allege that he was raped. Yes, Taylor willingly went to the party with the intention of seeing Eric and yes, he then continued to text Eric after the assault (”I needed to see him. I needed him to admit what he did”) but none of that matters here. As Taylor succinctly put it, “I never got to say yes.” Taylor was unable to consent. It becomes Taylor’s word against Eric’s in “Episode Five,” more so than ever before. Eric, meanwhile, is adamant that it was all 100% consensual, and that Taylor was even talking Eric through it. Eric’s story is that Taylor started crying afterward, then got completely wasted—that’s where the photos come in—and that’s when Eric intervened and drove both Taylor and Evy home. But, who to believe?

One of the reasons I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this season of American Crime so much is because, I realized tonight, the vast majority of rape narratives on television that I’m familiar with are on Law & Order: SVU and therefore rushed through. It’s an entire story distilled down to one hour (with commercials), often going from assault to investigation to trial to verdict. There are many, many exceptions but that’s the basic gist. It’s rare to see a case left open-ended; it’s especially rare to follow-up with any of the case-of-the-week survivors or rapists later on in the series. SVU doesn’t have the time to really get into the super gritty aspects of a rape case like American Crime is currently doing: the he-said/he-said back-and-forth spans episodes rather than scenes, the ups and downs, starts and stops of the investigation are explored in greater detail, and Taylor grows more developed and intriguing in every new episode. American Crime has the time to stick with one character and follow him from beginning to end, and it’s doing such a fantastic job.

American Crime also doesn’t just focus on the survivor/assailant dynamic but pulls in so many other people into the fold. You get to see Anne’s reactions — the discomfort, the clutching of her own arm — when Taylor reveals that he was with another male prior to Eric, and you get Taylor’s constant worrying about his mother (the way she’s being treated, the fear that she’ll walk out now that she knows the truth that he’s gay). You get to witness Evy’s tough exterior and her shaky insecurity when she confronts Taylor, and the realization of why Taylor liked to give Evy beer and ask her to hard-grind on him. You see the effects Taylor’s allegations has on Kevin and his family, on the entire basketball team, and the school’s administration — particularly Leslie. You even get to see how it’s straining Dan and Steph’s marriage. The devotion of an entire series to one rape case gives it room to breathe and develop, to disgust and haunt.

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There were plenty of haunting scenes in tonight’s episode: the focus on Eric’s face as he practically scoffed about Taylor, referring to him as “some bitch who’s sorry he got turned out” when explaining his side; Taylor admitting that he feels lonelier now than he did prior to speaking up; when Evy asks “How many people have to say it’s rape before you care?” to the detectives; Leslie’s not-so-subtle nudging to Dan’s wife about getting the players to lie to police; and so on. And, of course, there was the powerful dance performance toward the end (a performance we’ve already gotten glimpses of) that featured some pretty obvious parallels. It also featured great choices from the director, the most memorable being the camera gliding over the dancers to pan across the front row (Leslie, Terri and Michael, Dan and Steph) and their expressions before bringing focus back to the dance performance all in one smooth take.

American Crime gets halfway through its second season before throwing two other curveballs at the audience. First, and somewhat expected, Anne is informed that the County Prosecutor is not bringing chargers to Taylor’s case (“at this time,” a phrase that fails to put Kevin’s parents at ease), unless something major happens. Second, a stranger shows up at Anne’s job and reveals that his daughter was once verbally harassed by a teacher at Leyland and that they took a settlement, but that he hopes Anne is the one who will finally take them down.

Stray observations

  • Q2C means “quick to come” in teen sexting speak. Who knew!
  • “I put him into a car with the kid who raped him.”
  • Two Taylor-related things I didn’t get to: His relief that the case is seemingly go away, and his strange bathroom encounter.
  • Racial tensions are heating up at not-Leyland, with Hispanic students protesting outside.
  • The sound design in the dance scene!

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