TV Review - American Crime: Season 3

The series starts with a dead body floating in the water. By the fourth episode, that dead body is identified and the murderer is also identified. The crime as it were is solved, which is more than can be said about Season 2. However, the point last season as in this season isn't necessarily about the individual crime, but instead the point is everything around that crime, the circumstances and situations that led to that crime, spotlighting those things as the show tries to get at the systemic problems plaguing American culture and society. Last season, the spotlight was on school bullying and homophobia. This season, the spotlight seems to be on immigration, the plight of undocumented workers and in a sense, xenophobia.

Unlike with the previous two seasons, there doesn't seem to be one central character. The show has always been an ensemble, but it's even more so now. The story is centered on a particular place and a particular group, but no one person is the protagonist. There are five people that get the majority of the focus. Four of whom are actors from the previous season. Two additional people, played by Lili Taylor and Timothy Hutton, also appear but not until midway through the fourth episode.

Regina King (The Boondocks and The Leftovers) stars as Kimara Walters, a social worker in North Carolina. She mainly counsels teenagers who are orphans or runaways. Specifically, she counsels teens who have been arrested for prostitution. Meanwhile, she's single but is trying to have a baby. Her only option is in vitro, which is expensive and she doesn't really have the money for it.

Benito Martinez (The Shield and How to Get Away with Murder) co-stars as Luis Salazar, an accountant from Mexico who has a wife and children. He discovers that his eldest son, Teo, illegally crossed the desert into the United States and started working on a farm somewhere, but eventually disappeared. Luis crosses the same way in order to find his son.

Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives and Sports Night) also stars as Jeanette Hesby, a woman who married into a family that runs a huge farm where migrant workers pick fruits and vegetables under unbearable conditions. When some of them end up dead, she becomes obsessed with doing something to change the conditions, but the family resists changing.

Connor Jessup (Falling Skies and Closet Monster) plays Coy Henson, a young man who is a drug addict, a runaway in need of money. He's recruited to work on the farm, but he can't handle it. He has family, a brother but they've written him off.

Ana Mulvoy Ten (House of Anubis) plays Shae, a runaway who comes from an abusive home. She turns to prostitution. Eventually, she's arrested and is taken under the wing of Kimara. The steps needed to get her life back on track aren't easy and sometimes Shae would rather go back to prostitution. She does seem to have an interest in photography.

When it comes to Shae, this show seems like it's trying to explore another facet of this grander idea of human trafficking or this notion of people being reduced as commodities or products for business. Prostitution is the selling of one's body for sexual purposes. This series, created by John Ridley (12 Years a Slave and Red Tails), is using that as a metaphor for his attack on how people are sold in a myriad of ways in this country and how it actually devalues humanity.

For Ridley, the corruption starts with businesses, big or small, that require cheap labor, or at least they think they require cheap labor. Ultimately, it's exploitation. Businesses take the most advantage and get the most out of workers with giving the least back, as well as not caring if the workers are suffering or are being treated unfairly, even cruelly.

The show doesn't draw political lines. It doesn't paint one kind of people with a broad brush. One might assume the people running the businesses that are doing the exploiting are the villains but they're not. This show allows those people to be fully fleshed out and fully realized human beings whom can be understood and with whom can be empathized.

Given the way the series is filmed, with its constant use of close-ups and focus on people's faces, the point is to get us inside people's heads and empathize. Wide-shots are used rarely but purposefully, and always with maximum impact.

Rated TV-14-LSD.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Sundays at 10PM on ABC.


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