To be fair to American Crime, I suppose 10 episodes might not be long enough to tell such a complex and convoluted story that weaves in multiple characters, narratives, and dueling arguments. This isn‘t to say that season two of American Crime wasn’t a success because it definitely put out some of the best episodes of television this season but the finale felt a little lacking, or like a failure to tie up loose ends that I desperately wanted the show to tie up.
Granted, this isn’t exactly the point of American Crime. It’s not an open-and-shut case, a criminal procedural that figures out who is at fault and swiftly locks them up. Instead, it’s a series that prefers to take a more nuanced look at one singular crime and the effects that ripple throughout the victim’s/accuser’s family, friends, and community. This season of American Crime wasn’t so concerned with exposing the hard truth about what went down with Eric and Taylor at the party but instead wanted to explore the varying truths that vary from person to person. We still don’t definitively know if Taylor was raped — though everything points to “Yes” and it seems like Eric just honestly doesn’t view it as a rape, which is another story (and one that I wish this season had delved into a bit) — and we still don’t know the outcomes of the teammates who attacked Taylor.
“Season Two: Episode Ten” does provide us with a few new developments, however, such as more private emails and texts being leaked — this time incriminating the LaCroix parents and Becca Sullivan — resulting in Terri LaCroix being offered either a severance package or a relocated job and Becca getting arrested for selling drugs to Taylor, making her tangentially involved in a homicide. Over at Marshall High, Chris Dixon is offered $75,000 if he resigns. He goes back and forth on the decision until he’s swayed to take it during a talk with Evy, where she heartbreakingly compares her being touched to Taylor’s being raped (and how she didn’t want to talk about it) but also hints at taking the money that Leyland offered her. (One really fucked-up thing she brought up that I hadn’t thought about is how the Leyland administration are the only people who actually helped her.)
As for Sebastian’s whole hacking endeavor, that’s an example of another plot that didn’t fully pan out because it didn’t have enough time devoted to it. What we saw of it was pretty great — I loved his slow introduction into the series and how he inserted himself into Anne’s life (and Taylor’s defense) only to find himself on the wrong end of the Internet’s ire. But there wasn’t much conclusion there, just another angry tech guy hacking into Sebastian’s computers until Sebastian drives back home.
One definitive development tonight was Headmaster Leslie finally getting the boot. Dan, through the help of Sebastian, made it public that it was Leslie who got and published Anne’s medical records, officially making her a terrible person to represent Leyland High. But even this is up in the air: Did she leak the records? Or did Dan make it up (Leslie points out that Dan is married to a woman who “manipulates images for a living” so they could’ve created the records, shredded them to look like Leslie shred them, and then put them back together)? Either way (and it was definitely Dan, right?), Leslie is out.
So that brings us to the most important elements of the episode. After the emails go public and Kevin gives his statement, the rest of the team is brought in for questioning. The montage of the boys telling their stories is, as we’ve come to expect from American Crime, beautifully shot. It frames only the boys, focusing closely on their faces and reactions — most of them trying to act tough and antagonistic, but sort of just putting on airs. Eric has the most important interview, explaining that if he didn’t arrange the meeting for Taylor, then it would’ve been Eric who would’ve gotten attacked (“Any fag will do,” he says, dryly). Mostly this scene sticks because of Eric’s frustration with the whole situation, angry that Taylor still “gets to be the victim” even though Taylor lied (allegedly) about Eric and then killed Wes. “Somebody screams rape and nobody cares what really happened. How does he get to own the night? How does he get to own me,” Eric wonders out loud, but the series doesn’t make any of them in the right: As Eric’s words ring out, the camera shows an anxious Taylor in jail, cuffed and staring into the distance.
As for Taylor’s fate, he talks with his lawyer about the different ways his trial can go. If Eric testifies about the attack, then it’s likely the judge will go easier on Taylor because of the extenuating circumstances that led to the school shooting. However, Taylor balks at the idea of his rapist testifying on his behalf and keeps emphasizing that he doesn’t want to keep playing the victim nor does he want his “future to depend on the guy who raped me.” In a sincere and tragic admission, Taylor speaks about the shooting and says that when he heard the gun go off, it was the first time since the party he “stopped feeling like a victim.” This ongoing feeling of being a victim, of being useless or helpless or endless guilty — these are all natural feelings for rape victims and most spend forever trying to learn how to get rid of those feelings. For Taylor, the idea of take a plea deal instead of going through trial is more appealing; he doesn’t have to rely on his rapist’s testimony, and he doesn’t have to keep feeling victimized while on the stand.
Where the season leaves us is with uncertainty. The final shots — scored by Leyland’s replacement Headmaster’s speech — contrast Taylor and Eric. Taylor stands up in court, asked by a judge how he pleads but we’re never sure what his response is; Eric stands on a nearly-deserted street, eyeing the open car door of the man he met on the Internet, wondering whether or not he should go in. It’s both a satisfying and torturous ending. After spending 10 weeks with these two boys, we’re desperate to know more about what happened, but we know that this is how reality works: there are no clean endings, no right answers, and no resolution.
- Thus ends my weekly nightmare of filing American Crime Story every Tuesday and thinking “Wait, shit, maybe today is American Crime?!” and vice versa.
- If we’re being totally and completely honest? I’m not sure how I feel about this finale. It’s something that I need to watch again and really mull it over, but I know that I’m drained.