Over the course of the season, nearly every “American Crime” character has committed some sort of transgression.
In the finale, the proverbial chickens come home to roost.
One can be careful, crafty or even well-intentioned and apologetic, but at the end of the day, he cannot outrun his fate. He cannot escape his truth. The universe ensures all actions have consequences; the only variables are the dignity and strength with which one accepts those consequences.
Granted, fate is accelerated for the “American Crime” characters.
Wednesday’s finale opens with another cyber attack on the Leland School. This time, however, the leak focuses not simply on institutional corruption and indiscretion but on the private lives and conversations of the students and families associated with that institution.
A treasure trove of secrets emerges. Seemingly no event or thought — from the beatdown that precipitated Taylor’s crime, to Becca’s drug business, to Terri’s perspective on race relations — remains hidden, which means none can go without consequence. And the cycle of justice does not end there; characters react to the initial outcomes, and those reactions produce additional ramifications.
The severity of the consequences varies from character to character; some even find opportunities for improvement and happiness in the outcomes they are dealt. All, however, feel some impact of the cycle of events that began with the party and rape allegation at Leland and racial tension at Marshall. All are left with the reminder of the inevitable, unavoidable link between action and consequence.
That theme is the clear focus – the clear centerpiece – of Wednesday’s “American Crime” finale.
Not simply important in its own right, the topic allows the finale to explore the psychology associated with accepting one’s fate.
In one case, a character – arrogantly believing himself/herself to have walked away scot-free – refuses to extend assistance to a less fortunate individual. In another case, a character ponders the value in protecting oneself if doing so would simultaneously protect someone who committed a wrong. Another character argues that there is power in accepting punishment, especially if the alternative involves accepting help from — and thus ceding control to — an impure source.
“American Crime” is far more of an inquiry into humanity than it is a conventional crime or suspense series, and Wednesday’s finale embraces that construct. Achieving the aforementioned thematic objective is far more important than providing details or answering questions related to the specific cases and characters.
We never, for instance, witness exactly what happened at the Captains’ party. Unless the episode issued to critics was cut to prevent spoilers, two key arcs end on what could technically be described as “cliffhangers” — ones, given the show’s anthology nature (and uncertain future), we know will never be addressed.
That is not to say that the finale is unsatisfying from a storytelling perspective. The finale may not offer complete, decisive resolutions in every case, but it provides each character and each arc with a suitable end point.
Life, after all, will continue for these characters. The impact of their decisions and the confrontations with their emotional truths will persist. Mindful of this reality, “American Crime” does not embark on the futile quest of trying to tell the entire story. Its goal is to tell a compelling, honest story.
Between the the January 6 season premiere and the March 9 season finale, it has absolutely done so.
With a clear thematic focus, a powerful storytelling voice, and a cast rich with talented, nuanced performers, season two of “American Crime” has developed an undeniably interesting, engaging atmosphere. Not simply vivid, the characters, environments, scenarios, and fallouts feel organic. They feel real.
The immersive nature of the series renders the narrative’s consequences and lessons infinitely more meaningful. We have not simply been watching scenarios unfold; we have been watching real people react, learn and grow (or regress) within each of those scenarios. The scenarios were not always realistic or commonplace, but the humanity of the behavior and sincerity of the emotion ensured they were nearly always resonant.
Throughout the season, the screen never popped more notably than it did when it featured Regina King’s Terri, Felicity Huffman’s Leslie, and Lili Taylor’s Anne. The same is ultimately true of the finale; the actresses command the screen with grounded, yet loud and unforgettable performances until the screen fades to black
But the truth is that the entire ensemble contributed immensely to the series — and does so again in the finale. It is the actors’ and actresses’ utter immersion in their characters that made the season so engrossing; it is that same immersion that makes Wednesday’s finale so interesting.
The episode is not rich with loud shocks, twists, or enthralling plot developments; thanks to the authentic performances and carefully constructed thematic framework, it is, however, rich with meaning.
ABC’s season two “American Crime” finale airs at 10PM ET on Wednesday, March 9