ABC’s Powerful Drama ‘American Crime’

by BIBI AJAYI

American Crime is a new cable drama on ABC, created by John Ridley, the mastermind behind the film 12 Years a Slave. The series follows the aftermath of a horrendous crime that devastates a small community, leaving everyone affected. The show follows the lives of families in the community and their connection to the crime. It touches on topics of race, ethics,  and morality and I can only imagine how else the writers are going to explore these themes throughout the season.

Let’s break it down:

The show opens up with Russ Skokie (Timothy Hutton), a man recovering from a gambling addiction, getting the news that his son, Matt Skokie has been brutally murdered in his apartment, and his wife, Gwen (Kira Pozehl) attacked. Mr. Skokie has a slight meltdown in the bathroom, as any grieving father would have. We also learn that Russ and Barb (Felicity Huffman), his ex-wife, have a strained relationship. Barb appears bitter because the divorce didn’t turn out in her favor and she is forced to live among people who she claims made her life a living hell. Their strained relationship is cemented because instead of grieving their son together, they point blame at one another (no wonder 50 % of marriages end in divorce. What is a more appropriate opportunity to argue than while grieving your recently murdered son).

Courtesy: ABC
Courtesy: ABC

Next, we get familiar with Alonzo Gutiérrez, (Benito Martinez) a Mexican-American garage owner, a strict father, who strives to keep his family from getting mixed up with undocumented immigrants. Alonzo strives to protect his family at all cost as he attempts to achieve his American dream.

Then we are introduced to Hector (Richard Cabral), a Mexican immigrant trying to make it any way he can, which includes getting mixed up in the local gang. He’s a pretty sketchy character, if you ask me. We then learn that Hector is mixed in with some even sketchier guys. This is clearly becoming a competition on who can be sketchier, but that is beside the point. Hector buys headphones with Matt Skokie’s credit card (I wonder how he got that? Hmmm.) and sells them to his neighborhood gangster, but by the looks of it, that’s not all he does.

The next scene shows Aubry (Caitlin Gerard), a white, drug addicted prostitute and her black, addict boyfriend, Carter (Elvis Nolasco), who seems to be holding it together by a thread.

Courtesy: ABC
Courtesy: ABC

Tony, Alonzo’s son, (Johnny Ortiz) is pulled over and gets taken down to the police station. He is then asked if “He can be asked a couple of questions?” We all know this is never good! The detectives continue to pester Tony with question that they already seem to know the answers to. Poor Tony, it isn’t looking too good.

Bouncing back to Aubrey and Carter, who are casually drinking at a bar and are getting stared down by a creepy dude in the booth. This is when it all starts to makes sense, Aubrey goes over to him and uhh….well….attempts to service him, but gets interrupted as Carter pulls her away. This moment cements their bond, despite their sex and drug fueled relationship.

Barb and Russ meet another grieving family at the hospital and when asked about her sons death Barb’s true prejudice comes to light as she calls her sons killer, a Mexican murder suspect as “some illegal,” sheepishly stating: “My son goes off to another country to fight, then he comes home to America and he gets killed by somebody from another country.” I have a feeling this is going to be an underlying theme throughout the season, especially in the Skokie family. It seems this family has a hard time with dealing with perception and reality. Especially in the final scene when Russ finds out that his son could possibly be behind a huge drug operation that contributed to his death.

Courtesy:ABC
Courtesy:ABC

Poor Tony. The kid can’t seem to catch a break. His father and the cop somehow seem to get the truth out of Tony, who unbeknownst to him was getting mixed up in a gang that is connected to the murder of Matt Skokie. In one of the last scenes of the episode, Tony is dragged away by cops as his father watches helplessly from afar. This particular scene is one of the most crippling in the first episode because it shows a family being torn apart and how the dynamics of a family can change with just one mistake.

You can literally see the layers peeling as each character is faced with difficult situations throughout the episode. I’m sure this will only  get more riveting throughout the season. American Crime aims to expose the deeply rooted affects of stereotypes, racial tension, and its affects on how a community deals with crime. Matt’s mother argues that his murder should be tried as a hate crime because it just can’t be limited to other races. Tony’s father blames his son’s arrest on illegal Mexicans that are coming into the country ruining the good name of people who work. Carter’s sister divulges to other Muslims that white privilege and greed is corrupting their community, and it is up to Carter to start making a difference.

Although the concept of the show is truly great, I can’t say I’m hooked from the first episode. But I would definitely give it another chance next week! I’m curious to see how it will all play out. Catch it on March 12th, 2015 on ABC.

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