One of the questions that’s been lingering around American Crime during the last two weeks is “Can a man get raped?” Of course, the answer is a firm “yes” (and the writers know this) but within the world of the series, it’s a question that’s been in the background. “Season Two: Episode Three” brings the subtext into the actual text. It adds another layer to Taylor’s trauma: Not only is he still dealing with this traumatic event but he’s also forced to over-explain and relive it, to listen to people disbelieve him (which happens in a majority of rape cases, regardless of gender), and to seek out help on the Internet which just tells him to feel ashamed about it. It’s heartbreaking, the scene in the therapist’s office (another brilliantly framed and claustrophobic scene), during which Taylor talks about how the cops and doctors he’s being dragged around to smirk in response to the news that Taylor, this teenage boy, got sexually assaulted. Maybe he’s imagining it, maybe he’s not — either way, it’s real to him and it’s breaking him down more and more.
“Season Two: Episode Three” brings more people into the main fold. Still, we’re not totally clear on Eric and Kevin’s exact involvement, or the specifics of what happened, which is resulting in a truly compelling mystery. The pieces that are floating around—last week’s reveal that Eric is gay, this week’s questioning of Kevin and Evy about their involvement—are slowly putting together a story, though we’re not sure what’s true and what isn’t.
One of the big developments in this episode is Kevin’s parents finding out that he may or may not have been involved in a sexual assault—first finding out through a news article (the reporter included Kevin’s name in the story because he is the only person involved over 18) and then finding out that the assault victim is another boy. American Crime is doing a decent job of developing Terri (and Regina King is doing great at selling the character) without making her into a total monster. That’s because Terri isn’t a total monster but rather just a stern woman with loads of internal conflicts (who seems to be also be having a crisis about her race—which can come off as internalized racism—as she tries to find a balance between ”expectations” and “entitlement” after firing a fellow black employee at her job; the employee believes that black people have to protect each other while Terri doesn’t). She is fiercely protective of her son, even if that means shooting down his girlfriends, obsessing over him doing not just good but perfect at basketball, and going into immediate damage control mode the second the article comes out.
As for the party details that are revealed this week: Kevin admits to having sex with Val while drunk at the party (a “making the team” ritual for the seniors on the team) but swears that he didn’t touch Taylor. Evy, who is questioned after the cops show up at her school, explains that Taylor was “messed up” and “couldn’t stand” and that his “clothes were half-on.” We also get another important detail: Eric was the one who drove Taylor and Evy home, though he just dropped them off on the curb.
“Season Two: Episode Three” also drops some tidbits about Eric’s background. He’s not one of the rich kids, but instead just at this fancy school—a school that his parents fear is changing him for the worse—and out of place, which means he has more motivation than most to fit in. He’s also starting to get really, really nervous about what went down at the party, especially since Kevin was yanked out of school in the middle of the day.
One thing I keep coming back to are the reactions of Kevin’s parents. Both are in disbelief—his mother can’t even fathom what happened: “Boys don’t get raped. Boys don’t do that to other boys” while his father reacts more with anger, pouncing and yelling. Both are understandable reactions from parents who are in shock, who are concerned for their son, and who are trying to wrap their heads around this pile of news they’re being buried under all of a sudden. Yet both speak volumes about the characters; we’ve never seen Michael anything but calm, cool, and collected but now we’ve found what sends him over the edge. In fact, the whole episode goes over the edge: It ends on the reveal that it’s officially being classified as a rape case.
- I’m still not on board with the way the swears are handled in American Crime. It always catches me off guard and throws me out of the scene for a split second.
- Another scene that I keep thinking about is Kevin confronting his parents that they’re always doing or not doing things because they’re worried about who (white people) is watching. Terri retorts that that isn’t true but “Don’t ever think they’re not keeping score.”
- “Girls, man, they just be tripping.” True.