Back off of a strong and engaging first season, the hits continue to roll as director John Ridley pushes the emotional envelope further.
I wasn’t planning on watching the second season of American Crime. It was honestly an accident that it came on and I had nothing else to do. That’s not a knock on the show – it flew under my radar with limited movie/TV series viewings that I can review weekly. Upon further viewing however, I quickly noticed how well crafted this show is. The realistic dialogue doesn’t make you feel like you’re watching a bunch of whiny teenagers on the CW. There’a real weight and consequence to so many of their words. And the stories are gripping. This season focuses on a sexual assault between two men and it has begun to rattle the cages of several issues.
The beginning was nothing short of a knockout. We see who the major players are, what the primary conflict will center around and then we are off to the races. Ridley is able to effectively introduce an ensemble cast in 40-45 minutes of screen time, while also dealing with some pretty heavy subject matter and establishing the feeling of this anthology. There’s no time wasted wondering what happened, now it’s just a matter of how far this thing goes. The story is centers on a sexual assault to a male victim, Taylor, by another male on the school basketball team. Three episodes in, we are given at least two potential assailants, the two team captains, Eric and Kevin. Using a male-on-male dynamic has opened a bunch of doors for this season and has allowed Ridley to ask a laundry list of tough questions. The two that have been touched on are the misconceptions around male-on-male rape and the difficulties in prosecuting sexual assaults.
It’s going to make you uncomfortable talking or even thinking about the situation. Everyday people have their lives turned upside down in an instant and it’s not reserved to only a male aggressor against a female victim. Sexual assault is blind and can affect people and communities in a multitude of ways. It reaches across all demographics, and that has incited phenomenal reactions to the progression of the season thus far. Taylor’s mother, Anne (Lili Taylor), has already gone through various stages of disbelief as she tries to figure out what has happened to her son. After she accepts the situation, she begins to seek justice for her son and though she doesn’t run into closed doors at every turn, she is facing fire for inconsistencies more than she is receiving help for her son – all within in the first episode. With only 10 episodes for Ridley to work with, every moment has to have purpose or meaning. There’s no time for sub par scenes or else the entire thing could derail.
On top of tackling the horrible stereotypes of sexual assault, Ridley has shown us a battle between rich and poor families; older generation black to new generation black; sexual exploration; bureaucratic nightmares between school boards and the state; privilege of all sorts. The conversations are so well written that we don’t have to spend too much time to communicate an idea. Where some writers drag on and can’t figure how wrap up the easiest of dialogue, Ridley is handling this one like an old hat.
Regina King is amazing. I’m not sure why she hasn’t received more opportunities when we see the portrayal of her fierce intensity. If you thought playing mother to one of the boys was easy, guess again. She fully dominates in this role and makes every second of her time on screen that more powerful. She can display some very hell-bent attitudes towards her son in regards to his life decisions. Because of the bombshell news they received last episode, I can only suspect that we will get more opportunities to hear her takeover a room. We also get solid performances from Timothy Hutton, the genuinely concerned coach trying to protect his guys from themselves, and Felicia Hoffman, as the private school’s head administer who immediately goes into damage control with Anne . It works well. The moments between Anne and Leslie serve to show early on how hard Anne’s fight is going to be.
I’ve since gone back and watched the first season as I wait for next episodes to drop – certainly a wise time investment – eager to catch up on all that I’ve missed. The remaining episodes are plenty to get you hooked into a head-turning season two.