Screens: ABC

Raised On Promises

American Crime's creator has promised us a 'diverse perspective,' but is that what we're getting?

After publishing my New Show Fact Sheet on American Crime last week, I vowed to approach this week's episode (which I had already screened once) with fresh eyes. You all were interested in the show enough to discuss it at length in the forums, so I wanted to give it the old college try.

But, you guys, I just don't know. Did anything really happen this episode? Matt is still dead; Gwen's still in a coma; Barb is still racist; Russ is still ineffectual; Tony, Hector, and Carter are still locked up for Matt's slaying and Gwen's rape; Eve is still sobbing; Tom's still shouty; Alonzo's still confused; and Aubry's still waaaaay too into magazines. Given the lack of movement and the show's apparent mission to make everyone as unpleasant as possible, it's hard to rank these folks based on who had the best to the worst week. But, like I said, I'm going to try. For you!

  1. Matt Skokie
    Matt's still dead, and unless this show takes a really unexpected turn, he's likely to stay that way. That means he won't have to deal with pesky questions from the cops on why they found an intent-to-distribute amount of drugs in his possession (that were...not stolen during the robbery? okay!), figure out how to protect himself from the "DNA" left in his wife's orifice(s) due to her consensual sexual relationships with multiple partners, or place any more Sunday phone calls to his dad, who appears fundamentally incapable of speech. Every other character on this show should envy Matt his sweet, sweet oblivion..
  2. Gwen Skokie
    Gwen's still in a coma, which, while not as nice as death, means she gets to procrastinate on explaining why the cops found the aforementioned evidence of multiple sexual partners. I'm not slut-shaming Gwen, here; marriage can be complicated and we don't know what kind of arrangement she and Matt had, but it's clear that her dad's going to be a dick about her choices when she wakes up.

    And that's another reason this is a good week for Gwen -- she wasn't raped after all, according to the police officer who speaks to her dad. On this show, learning that you weren't raped is cause for celebration, so, yay, Gwen, you're number 2!

  3. Russ Skokie
    Of course it's horrible that Russ lost his son, his relationship with whom he says saved him "when I was getting through my problems," which the show tells us was an addiction to gambling. Does gambling make you look sweaty and puffy? But this week Russ gets two things that he doesn't seem to have had for a long time: comfort and power. A co-worker of Matt's that Russ visits tells him "you should know [Matt] was all about you, 'Sunday, man, I get on the phone with dad on Sunday.'" While this is weird and not especially plausible, you can tell that this gives Russ some small comfort, which is better than the alternative.

    In terms of power, though dismissed by Barb, Russ is the swing vote regarding the disposition of Matt's remains. Gwen's family wants him buried in Oakland, which is about 80 miles from where they are now, in Modesto. They believe, and I'm inclined to agree, that he should be buried near where Gwen is recuperating, and as her family lives in Oakland, she will be recovering there too. (I will point out that you could do worse than to be buried in Mountain View or Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, the former of which is the final resting place of luminaries including the folks who invented Folger's Coffee and the latter of which is home to notables including Black Panthers founder Huey Newton.) Barb, who has bad memories of Oakland after her single-motherhood there, refuses to consider this option and says she'll get Matt a plot in Simi Valley, which is about six hours from either Oakland or Modesto.

    So, Tom corners Russ and asks him to oppose Barb's Simi Valley play, which might be the first time Russ has had the upper hand over Barb...oh, sorry, Russ, I guess that's a gambling-related idiom. Don't let me trigger you!

    Sadly, none of these brainiacs says, "Hey, let's just cremate Matt and we can take him anywhere!"

  4. Aubry Taylor
    This is actually a pretty great week for Aubry, because she lives in a magical world of fantasy, and I'm not just talking about meth-induced hallucinations. First, she was somehow over the course of a day or two is sentenced to felony probation, which, in California, is something you receive only after you're convicted of a crime (remember, it can take a year or more to go to trial) and the judge determines that you'd be better off serving your sentence in the community than in jail. (There's a great summary of how felony probation works in California here.)

    So, yes, we're talking about a show written by people who either didn't take the 30 seconds I just did to Google how probation works, or didn't think we'd notice. (Do you feel insulted? I do!) Add to that that any cop or prosecutor anywhere would argue that she's a material witness in a high-profile murder and rape (I know, Gwen wasn't raped, but stick with me) case and you'd think that they'd do everything they could to keep her from walking. And yet...

    So what do you do when you miraculously get out of jail? You talk a restaurant staffer into letting you make a collect call from their phone (because no one you meet, anywhere, has a cell phone you could use) and some family member wires you two grand. Then you somehow find a pretty nice hotel that lets you pay in cash and doesn't require a credit card deposit (which basically never happens), even when you show up looking beat as hell.

    So now Aubry's in a suite. Here's what it looks like.

    Screens: ABC

    Screens: ABC

    Pretty nice, huh? There was a shot of her in one of the hotel bathrobes, too, but you get the picture. This is utter ridiculousness.

  5. Eve Carlin
    Here's what Eve does this episode: goes to church, talks about where Matt's body should go, sits by Gwen's bedside, skips the arraignment of her daughter's alleged rapist and killer (yes, I know she wasn't raped, keep sticking with me), seems completely and legitimately confused when her husband tells her that her daughter apparently had consensual sex with two non-Matt guys and wasn't raped after all, then is suddenly all oh, yeah, I knew all about how Gwen was doing that sex stuff.

    If this were a better show, I'd think that she's pretending to know about Gwen;s sex life the way you might pretend to know about some cool band (that is, so you can hang), but this isn't that show, and I think it's just shitty, lazy writing.

  6. Hector Tontz
    Hector, the undocumented Mexican gang member who has a more American-sounding accent than you do, is still recovering from when the cops shot him as he ran from them in the parking lot last week. You'd think that police officers shooting an unarmed Hispanic man in the back in broad daylight might inspire some local Hispanic leaders -- which there is no shortage of in Modesto, a town the population of which is 38% Hispanic, and that's just the folks who respond to the census -- to civil action, but I guess this show's "diverse perspective" (per ABC's press materials) doesn't extend that far. ANYWAY, despite the fact that he's facing (as yet unspecified) charges in this case, and that he's if nothing else a material witness in the murder and rape (keep sticking) case against Carter, Hector's somehow being extradited back to Mexico on a murder warrant.

    I almost feel like I'm wasting all our time as I explain how little sense this makes, or how this isn't how things actually work. But I must! Real talk: though Hector's warrant in Mexico predates the Skokie case, his value as a witness supersedes that warrant, and Mexican authorities would be extremely likely to be cool with this, in the interest of overall California-Mexico cooperation. If for some reason Mexico didn't play ball, the local prosecutor would fight like hell to keep Hector here through the trial, because Hector could make the case against Carter.

    Instead, we get a scene of Hector being placed in a room with Carter, so they will talk about the crime I guess? And a scene where Hector asks his lawyer if they can fight the extradition to Mexico, and his lawyer throwing up his hands. Kind of like I am with this show.

  7. Alonzo Gutiérrez
    Oh, man, this poor guy. Here's what he gets this week: a lawyer for his son who says, "How can you run a business and not know how lawyers work?" Which is funny, because I am dying to ask everyone involved with this show, "How can you make a show and not know how EVERYTHING works?"

    He also has a daughter who calls him a sell-out, and says, "You wish you were white so they’d [white people?] like you better." This is how this show explores race, y'all!

  8. Tony Gutiérrez
    So, Tony, who I again note must be somehow delayed (?), is placed in the Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall. Here's a PDF all about Stanislaus juvie, but, as with almost everything else about which we've talked, real life or laws or whatever have no relationship with what they show us in this episode. Instead of awaiting trial (as an adult or as part of the county's juvenile justice system), he's just there...because he might be charged? Who knows, for the world of American Crime knows neither rhyme nor reason.

    Also, everyone we see so far who's incarcerated in juvie but Tony is white (which, as you are all intelligent people, you know is highly unlikely), so they make fun of him for being Mexican and being named Tony. Anyway, it sucks and he cries and some guy who works at juvie pointlessly questions him about the Skokie case without Tony's guardian or counsel present, then tells him not to worry because "every unit has a night light." Sigh.

  9. Carter Nix
    Here's what Carter's charged with: first-degree felony murder causing death with a firearm with an enhancement of "special circumstances." First-degree robbery, torture, rape, and penetration with an instrument.

    Inexplicably, these charges aren’t announced by prosecutors during his arraignment -- they don't even seem to be in court! Instead, the judge tells him all this, which is weird and (say it with me) isn't how things work. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the judge that the cops don't believe Gwen was raped after all? I'm sure that'll get cleared up at some point in the episode, Okay.

  10. Tom Carlin
    Poor Tom. He appears to have insisted that his wife and he skip Carter's arraignment to go to church, though Barb, in what might be the only sensible thing she says all episode, notes that "You could pray anywhere!" He later admits to Russ that the rose-colored perfect couple story that Barb has been spinning about Matt and Gwen is bullshit, but says "our kids were real," which is actually kind of nice!

    He realizes how real they were when the least sensitive cop ever comes to the hospital with Gwen's rape test results, and leads with "We're not sure how the other two individuals were involved," which freaks Tom the fuck out. He has to tell Eve that Gwen "wasn't assaulted," then that the test was "negative that the man who shot Matt assaulted her," then that "they don't think it was rape anymore. They think it was some kind of consensual sex."

    And then, when (as noted above) Eve is all ohhhhhh yeah riiiight thaaaaat he LOSES IT, gritting that "the very thought of her with other men makes me sick to my stomach."

    And how does the thought of Gwen with non-other men make you feel, dude? WEIRD.

  11. Barb Hanlon
    Christ, Barb. Felicity Huffman Capital-A Acts through all of Barb's thankless moments, which include the whole "bury my son in Simi Valley" thing, telling Russ to "go back to Arizona" when he dares tell her about the drugs the cops found at Matt's house, losing her shit at a non-white cop and making an implied-racist accusation of lie-spreading (because all people of color are on the same side, I guess?), and telling a victims-rights advocate that "if you had three whites and they went into a black's house and murdered him, raped his wife, you would have all these black leaders on Anderson Cooper taking about how it's a hate crime and how there ought to be some special treatment...hate crimes can't happen to white people." (My favorite part about this is "Anderson Cooper," because that way Barb gets in not just some implied racism but some implied homophobia, I think?)

    I know that a lot of you guys love Felicity Huffman, and I do too! But this single-note character is more than even she can rise above. So, while Barb's week isn't, on the surface, as bad as a meth addict's or an accused murderer's, hers is still the worst, because of all the actors on this show, Huffman is the one getting the shortest shrift.

    But you know who has it worse? Us, the audience, for being fed this insultingly inaccurate crap. At least Huffman's getting paid! We're in this one for free.

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