Review: ‘American Crime’ Finale Brings Sobering Close to Brilliant Second Season (SPOILERS)

'American Crime' Finale Brings Sobering Close
Courtesy of ABC

Hitting the reset button on an acclaimed series can go in different directions, as evidenced by the second seasons of “Fargo” (terrific) and “True Detective” (not). ABC’s “American Crime” fell squarely into the former camp, buoyed by sensational performances and a twisty narrative, even if the finale didn’t quite measure up to all that preceded it.

Series creator John Ridley’s grim, spare and sobering series certainly possesses a premium-cable feel, and the ratings, frankly, have reflected those limitations. Although the template for using what amounts to a repertory of actors has been established in FX’s “American Horror Story,” the different roles for key players should only heighten appreciation of their talents, with season two producing an abundance of Emmy-worthy work.

In a way, the connective tissue for “American Crime’s” two runs – even more than a tragic series of events, steadily escalating situation and outwardly sedate suburban surface that hides explosive secrets – is the lengths to which parents will go on behalf of their children. If ABC once climbed the ratings heights with “Desperate Housewives,” think of this as “Desperate Parents.”

At the core of it all this time was the alleged rape of a high-school student, Taylor (Connor Jessup, in a stunningly nuanced turn), by Eric (Joey Pollari), a member of the school’s basketball team. Complicating the investigation was the fact that the two had exchanged flirty messages before the assault and that the revelations exposed their previously hidden sexuality.

As with the first season, a single event also laid bare rifts regarding class and race, and shattered illusions about some of these perfect, privileged children, who were, among other things, sexually predatory and dealing drugs. That led to the confused Taylor finally getting his hands on a gun, committing an act of violence that would end one young life and destroy another.

So much had already happened, frankly, that the finale (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) was hard-pressed to adequately process and advance it. Beyond Taylor’s fate, the story (written by Diana Son, and directed by Nicole Kassell) raced around to deal with the fate and future of various adults drawn into the case, including the resourceful principal (Felicity Huffman), who somehow, cat-like, landed on her feet; the over-his-head basketball coach (Timothy Hutton); a caring teacher (Elvis Nolasco) at the nearby public school; and Taylor’s blue-collar mom (Lily Taylor) and the team captain’s mother (Regina King), all of whom paid a price, in one form or another.

Yet while it played a key role in the plot, the additional story of a computer hacker (Richard Cabral), who pilfered information from the Leyland Academy’s servers, felt a trifle half-baked and conveniently tacked on. And efforts to provide elements of closure for all of the aforementioned characters made the final hour somewhat rushed, which perhaps just seems more acute given how methodically — indeed, almost hypnotically — the series unfolded through the preceding hours.

Those are quibbles, however, in the broader context of a show that has been so consistently raw and real. Moreover, programs that oscillate between high-school-age and adult characters seldom do such a splendid job of capturing both groups, without turning the kids into precocious snots or their elders into the equivalent of Charlie Brown parents.

Appropriately, “Crime” ended by cutting back and forth between Taylor and Eric, whose tragic encounter set everything into motion. “Do you accept or reject that which has been presented to you?” the judge asked the former, referring to the plea bargain to which he had agreed, although the question lingered for both of them.

The hour ended without providing concrete answers. But by then, even taking into account the finale’s minor flaws, “American Crime” had quite eloquently made its case, once again, that a broadcaster can still lay claim to one of the best hours on television.

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  1. The 1st season of American Crime was riveting, but this 2nd season was astonishingly brilliant and heartbreaking! The established, returning pros kept the Spitfire in the fast lane and the new, supporting cast kept the Pirelli tires screwed on tight while burning rubber on the road to glory.

    Special mention goes to the young actors playing the tortured gay characters. Strong stuff!

  2. HM says:

    Such an intelligent & nuanced show. The acting by the entire cast was superb. It is refreshing when show writers respect the audience’s intelligence so much that it rises above and abandons the gimmick of neatly wrapping up incredibly complicated stories. BRAVO TO THE ENTIRE CAST, CREW AND PRODUCTION TEAM FOR THE BEST SEASON ON NETWORK TELEVISION IN YEARS IF NOT DECADES! ABC please renew!

  3. Rob says:

    Ending was really disappointing for me. Kept thinking as the hour progressed- how are they were going to include all the things I was hoping for. In the end, they didn’t.

  4. Very good season, but not perfect. The finale left way too many loose ends; it still isn’t clear to me exactly what went down at that fateful party. Also, the entire subplot about the poorer school and its black principal was underwhelming and felt tacked on.

    • misery chick says:

      I felt the same way, too many loose ends!!
      I just read Variety’s interview with John Ridley, and it answered some questions and gave me a shift in perspective. I highly recommend it 👍

  5. Jacques Strappe says:

    Exceptional television that I hope miraculously returns for more seasons. That final scene of the open car door for Eric was haunting.

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