The Season 3 premiere of American Crime was almost overstuffed as an episode, because it had a ton of characters and storylines to introduce. The second episode scaled back just enough that it felt less rushed, while still picking up many of the threads started in the premiere, so that was nice. But the episode also didn’t feel quite as sharp to me, which is weird. But I did really dig the A plot of the week.
The main focus this week was on the Hesby family, Jeanette specifically. A fire at one of the trailers where the farm workers live kills 15 out of the 21 people residing inside, and it starts a tiny little nugget of an idea growing in Jeanette’s brain about just what may be allowing her to purchase a custom-made dining set that presumably costs thousands of dollars.
It’s a fascinating episode in that regard because if you live in the world and have any sense of social justice at all, you are already wise to things like this and hopefully doing what you can to fight whatever injustices you can.
But a woman like Jeanette has happily bopped along, assuming everything is fine -- the farms are great, the workers are treated really well because my husband and his family would never do otherwise, there aren’t bad things in the world, everything’s fine!
And the way it plays out on Felicity Huffman’s face is nothing short of amazing. It cannot be overstated the quality of acting American Crime has in its ensemble, and Huffman is one of the best of the bunch.
What’s interesting is that in addition to Jeanette’s horror at discovering the workers’ living conditions and the fact that no local news is covering the deaths of 15 people (which actually I find hard to believe, but I’ll get to that in a minute), there is quite the contrast in reactions from the three Hesby siblings.
JD is clearly the soft heart of the group, as he seems quite upset but also not surprised about the fire. Carson seems mildly bothered, but more because of what an inconvenience the fire is to the family business. And Laurie Ann ... hoo boy.
Look, she’s the oldest and she has probably shouldered a lot more farm responsibility than her two younger brothers, so something like this is probably old hat for her. But her answer to Jeanette at the party is so telling about Laurie Ann’s attitude (and probably the attitude of the so far unseen patriarch).
“Sometimes people confuse doin’ something good with having done something wrong. These folks have our prayers and Lord knows you been ‘round the farm long enough to know that they’re strong,” says Laurie Ann.
That is some top-notch spin—and also kudos to the writers for that line, which so perfectly encapsulates a distinct part of American rural communities.
It’s all just a really well crafted peek into the Hesby family and I’m excited to watch the various ways they deal with their problems over the course of the season.
In other plots, it is revealed that Luis actually speaks English and is in North Carolina to track down his son, who left to work there a while back and then stopped contacting his parents. Considering the nature of this show, I have a pit in my stomach for the fate of Teo—the body in the river in the opening scene of the premiere?
Meanwhile, Kimara is paying Shay extra attention at work because the DA desperately wants to go after Shay’s pimp for sex trafficking of a minor (since Shay is underage). This storyline continues to be super depressing—Shay is pregnant, for the second time, and she’s been put in a group home where she can get her GED and then get a job. We don’t yet know for sure what she’s going to do with the baby, but I do have a guess (more on that later).
But the group home probably seems more like a prison to Shay, since chapel is mandatory every morning, there are no electronic devices allowed and you cannot leave the premises without permission, so it’s probably only a matter of time before she runs. The question that’s really weighing on me regarding Shay is how she’s going to fit into the other plots of the season. Every other thread at least somewhat ties into Hesby farms, but how do Kimara and Shay fit in there? Maybe they never will? Hmm.
Finally, Coy has decided he isn’t too good to work the fields, so Isaac gets him a job and he’s trying his best. It’s fairly uneventful for them, but including them does make me wonder if they’ll become entangled with Luis’ search for his son.
Overall, it was more of a quiet episode than the premiere and at times, it lagged a bit for me. But there are still some fertile storylines in play and American Crime is nothing if not a slow burn, so I’m still in with this season.
- The lack of local media coverage of the fire and the 15 deaths rings false to me. As someone who grew up (and now lives back in) a small city in Iowa, that’s the kind of story local news is all over. So here’s my question -- is the fire being covered up by Laurie Ann? That’s the only reason I can think of that a local paper or news station wouldn’t report on it.
- But speaking of that, the scene between Huffman and Dallas Roberts as she looks around online for coverage was masterfully done, easily my favorite scene of the episode. It was so spot-on of conveying their different mindsets and also what their marriage is like, him taking a pot-shot at her about Raelyn to deflect away from his own feelings of guilt. Great scene.
- Do you guys get the feeling that there could be something there between Coy and Isaac? The way Isaac is so protective of Coy and Coy’s genuineness about wanting to try gives off the faintest vibe of perhaps being interested in each other to me. Am I totally pulling that out of nowhere?
- Along those same lines, I also got the slightest sense that JD may harbor some feelings for Jeanette. I don’t think it’s a two-way street, but in their conversation at the party, the way he asked her if she was staying and she responded by saying “we’re staying” made me have a slight inkling that JD cares for her as more than a sister-in-law. Not that I expect this to suddenly turn into a soap opera (that would be awful), but it certainly would be interesting if Jeanette enlists JD in her quest for social justice and he goes along with it for more than the reason of simply agreeing with her point of view. It could make things messy in an interesting way, as long as it’s not over done.
- Then again, I may be imagining that as well. So I’m curious if anyone else got those kind of vibes from either Coy/Isaac or Jeanette/JD.
- Kimara wanting a baby is a storyline I’m struggling with. On the one hand, I totally understand and respect how a 40-year-old single woman would decide to do it on her own and also that she would ask a close friend (who she used to date, which creates a wrinkle) to be the sperm donor. But on the other hand, from a writing/pacing standpoint, it feels like an unnecessary storyline in a season already stuffed with storylines. Sure, Kimara’s personal struggle with bringing a child into a world whose horribleness she witnesses first hand could be an interesting thing to explore, but that also feels like it would be diverging away from the main plots. I’m very torn so far -- more Regina King is never a bad thing, she’s the other really shining star on this show alongside Huffman, but I’m just not super engaged with the plot yet. It also feels very obvious now that Shay’s baby will end up with Kimara, right? So that also kind of takes away from the stakes. What do you guys think?