by BIBI AJAYI
American Crime “Episode Two” gets extremely gritty as the episode delves deeper into the backgrounds of the characters. I must admit, I wasn’t necessary hooked in episode one, but episode two has a completely different focus. The pace of this episode is drastically slower than the first episode, perhaps to shed light on the importance of the characters and their backgrounds.
“Episode Two” focuses on how each character processes the events leading up to Matt’s death. We get a glimpse into the emotional turmoil that has rocked each character as they try to hold their lives together. Aubrey, for instance, is released from jail only to realize she has nowhere to go and no one to turn to. She resorts to calling her father in hopes that he will give her money to survive.
Most of the scenes with Aubrey in this episode show her wandering around or in a fit of anger over her situation, perhaps to mirror her addict nature and the constant air of hopelessness that follows her everywhere she goes. Although the scenes with Aubrey are without dialogue, the quietness is the most haunting part of her scenes, watching her as she struggles to find her place in the world.
In this aspect “Episode Two” does a lot of distinctive things in terms of pace, spacing, and dialogue. During the arraignment scene where Carter is denied bail, Barb and Russ are seated on different sides of the aisle, not able to face each other in the wake of their son’s death. Between coping with the death of their son and the obvious tension of their failed relationship, Barb and Russ can’t seem to find a space where they are able to come together.
Later on in the episode, Barb and Russ meet with Gwen’s parents Tom and Eve to discuss their apparent absence at the arraignment and to discuss where Matt will be buried. This does not go over so well because Barb will not budge on the idea that Matt should be buried in Oakland, which upsets Russ, Tom, and Eve.
In the first episode it was unclear whether some of the more racially charged moments were a true reflection of the characters makeup, or a commentary on the shows theme. But in “Episode Two” these moments seemed more natural and true to how the characters truly felt. Especially during the scenes where Barb was fueled by the overwhelming emotion of her son’s death, the inability to cope logically, and detectives telling her that her son somehow contributed to his own death.
In the most emotional moments of the episode, Barb’s true racist nature comes to light. We see this in the moment where Barb is taken aback by the presence of the black detective telling her that her son was involved in drugs. She harshly asks around for another detective (maybe in the hopes that he won’t be a minority?). Barb also comments on how the media can’t possibly fathom the idea that her son’s death could be a hate crime because it’s impossible for hate crimes to be committed against non-minorities.
For some reason, Barb’s unsympathetic statement “some illegal” from episode one is still ringing in my head. Like her moments in episode one, Barb’s scenes in “Episode Two” aren’t meant to stir up sympathy, but to state her version of the truth (I’m assuming this is a editing/writing choice).
Like his father, Tony faces isolation as he struggles to adjust to his new surrounding in a juvenile detention facility. Detectives question Tony again, which ultimately implicates him as being an accessory to Matt’s murder. Alonzo becomes increasing frustrated as a lawyer explains the seriousness of Tony’s case, if indicted for murder, Tony could be facing life in prison.
Alonzo is visibly upset by this news, especially when the lawyer wonders why Alonzo never told Tony to ask for a lawyer. “The second he asks for a lawyer, everything stops.” Alonzo embarrassingly whispers, “I didn’t know.” Jenny doesn’t take this very well because when they get home all hell breaks loose.
Jenny angrily tells her father that he is a coward because he hardly stood up for Tony during questioning. Jenny goes as far as to tell him that he hates himself and his family because they are not white. Alonzo, stunned by Jenny’s admission slumps into a chair.
Tony finally meets with his parole officer and reveals that white people will only see him as “just a Mexican.” Tony then admits that “its not about being better, its about being better than them.” Tony then reveals that he is sort of happy that he did something to piss his father off.
With the end of the episode rapidly approaching, Barb finally finds an ally in an activist group leader named Nancy (Lili Taylor). Barb ultimately opens up about her true feelings and reveals, “I shouldn’t be saying this,” sarcastically stating “hate crimes can’t happen to white people.”
As the episode ends, Barb tells Nancy “there is nothing I won’t do for my child.” Barb’s statement not only relates to her current situation, but also to other parents willing to do anything for their children. Alonzo is a father willing to do whatever it takes to get his son out of jail. Tom and Eve are constantly looking for ways to bring her daughter back. Aubrey’s father helps her out even though he knows where she will eventually end up. Although each character in the show is drastically different, they all are connected through one crime. They are able to relate in terms of grief and justice.
Tune in to ABC next Thursday at 10 p.m. for the next episode of this fascinating show!