American Crime 1×03 ‘Episode Three’ : All in the family

crime ep 3 2

American Crime is  moving right along with that same formula of writing difficult subject matter, but making it too good to look away from. The pilot was about the crime itself, while episode two focused on the immediate aftermath of the arrests. This week, we’ve got a bit of a time jump, allowing us to see how the characters are doing after being stuck in this nightmare for a month. Hint, they’re not doing awesome.

This episode was almost entirely about character. Yeah, we learn a bit more about Gwen and the state of her marriage, but beyond that, there’s not much about the attack or the victims. Instead, we’re forced to watch the families of everyone involved clash more than ever.

Weeks later, Jenny is barely speaking to her father. When her uncle comes to town, it only widens the rift between them, Tony doesn’t even want to see his father, despite being stuck in a fairly hellish existence. Oh, and daddy Gutierrez pulls a page from Barb’s book when he tells a camera crew about the illegal, killer Mexicans giving his good, God-fearing Mexican family a bad name.

Honestly, neither Barb nor Gutierrez should be allowed to give interviews. Like, ever.

Meanwhile, Russ and Gwen’s parents are still in a war with Barb over what to do about Matt’s body. In some ways, this is the saddest thing about the episode. Not because there aren’t worse things happening, but because of how petty it is. The husband is dead, the wife’s in a coma, and instead of pulling together, their loved ones are arguing over a corpse. It’s quite frustrating to watch.

But, can we talk about Penelope Ann Miller for a second, and her portrayal of Gwen’s mother? Now, I first saw her in Kindergarten Cop, back in that far off time when VHS was still a thing. And though I liked her in that movie, it’s about as far away from American Crime as you can get. After that, I’d catch her in the occasional Lifetime movie. And let’s be honest, Lifetime movies rarely make anyone involved with them look good. So, having caught a couple of those unfortunate films, I’d pretty much written Miller off. Here’s the thing though…given the right material, she’s damn good. I started noticing this last week, in the scenes where she squares off against her husband, but it’s definitely clear now. She can play difficult, dramatic stuff and really make you feel it. I don’t necessarily agree with all of her character’s choices, but she can definitely play the hell out of that character. These latest scenes of her arguing with her husband, they’re gold. I hope that whenever this show ends, Miller’s able to move on to something better than TV movies. She deserves it.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

Speaking of great performances. I have a theory that Regina King can play anything. She’s done the comedy stuff plenty of times, but she kills it in drama as well. So, I’ve been waiting to see what she’d do here. Hint, she kills it as Carter’s estranged sister. Or rather, those two actors kill it together, because they’re great at playing off each other. King’s Aliyah character is a Muslim, but that doesn’t stop her from harboring the kind of prejudices that plague everyone on this show. She’s not a fan of Carter’s relationship with Aubrey. Understandable, seeing as they’re complete poison to each other. Except Aliyah’s more worried about Aubrey’s skin color than her drug habit. Guess religion can’t trump racism.

Her whole dynamic with Carter was really interesting, and I want to know more of their backstory. Like, now.

Aubrey. Sigh. I still don’t like Aubrey. Not that any of these characters are overly likeable, but Aubrey, I could live without. She had more to do this week, it’s just that none of that material did anything to make me care about her. She’s such a hot mess that I can’t even understand why she does what she does. Almost everyone else, they make questionable decisions, but I can at least see where they’re coming from. With some of them, I really have to squint, but still.

I’m not writing her off. I can absolutely see the writers doing something in a few episodes that at least gives me some sympathy for her, but that definitely hasn’t happened yet.

Not much to say about Hector, he had almost nothing to do this time, so I assume he’ll be given something more substantial next week.

We’ve still got a good show on our hands, despite (because of) the very flawed, very human characters. Great performances, multiple, nuanced perspectives, and thought-provoking material. Not much to complain about here, not much at all.

 

Nicolette Schneider

is a lit geek, a comic geek, and a certified TV fanatic. She often prefers fictional people over real ones. When she does make friends with regular humans, she likes the ones who give her access to their Netflix accounts. She loves words and hopes to one day make money stringing them together. Until then, read those words for free on
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