Man, AMERICAN CRIME is getting harder and harder to watch. The show is just so bleak with no wins for its protagonists. This most recent episode was perhaps the most devastating yet as we lose another main character, and this one a little more sympathetic than the great manipulator (and murder accomplice) Isaac.
The week for the most part majorly focuses on the Coates family, and specifically the dynamic between husband and wife Nicholas and Clair’s toxic marriage, and how that is effecting the life of Haitian immigrant and nanny Gabrielle. Nicholas thus far has been entirely unlikeable, gruff and irritable because of his failing furniture wholesale business. He continues to be passive aggressive on disgusting levels with his wife Clair but now in front of their friends during an evening out for drinks. He takes shots at her for not being as sharp as she used to be, and being lazy for hiring a nanny. Clair says something to her friend in French about Nicholas which Nicholas can not understand–he just sees the shocked reaction of the friend and wants to get to the bottom of what Clair could have possibly said about him. And just when you think Nicholas is clearly the worse of the two, Clair ends up being a sociopathic insane person.
Clair makes breakfast for herself one morning and in a sort of resistance of her husband does not make a plate for Nicholas. This obviously pisses him off, as he is the one who has to go to work all day while she sits around the house. Nicholas gets no sympathy from Clair though and so he takes it out on her. In turn Clair takes it out on Gabrielle by kicking her out of her bedroom in the house and moving her living quarters to what amounts to a walk in storage closet (it’s actually a sewing room). Clair gives her some excuse about needing that bedroom for an office.
Finally we learn what Clair said to her friend that night. She accused Nicholas of being the reason weren’t able to have a child. Clair really digs into Nicholas, a man already insecure with his value in his business, his family, and the world in general, telling him he was the reason the nine IVF treatments didn’t work. She accuses him of hating their son Nicky because she had to use another man’s sperm. She really goes for the jugular, telling him “The one thing a man is supposed to be able to do… and you couldn’t do it.” Ouch. Nicholas is teary eyed. You have to feel bad for him here. Clair is really turning into the bad guy.
Not only is Clair looking bad for how she treated Nicholas, but it also is appearing as though she is physically abusing Gabrielle. During the episode we see a couple cuts on Gabrielle’s arms and hands, and we hear Clair tell a friend that Garbrielle self-harms. However, when we see Clair put a tea kettle on an open flame, and later we see Gabrielle icing a fresh burn, we can connect the dots. Gabrielle is here trapped with these two crazy people with no hope of escaping: if you’ll remember, she gave Clair her passport to keep in the family safe last episode. Not good.
Speaking of being trapped, Jeanette Hesby isn’t doing much better on her quest to become independent from her husband Carson. She’s still staying at her sister Raelyn’s place while she’s trying to get a job to support herself. Only that’s becoming more and more clearly a problem. Having been a housewife for the last twenty years qualifies Jeanette for exactly nothing that pays higher than minimum wage. In fact she’s only qualified for the food services industry, unless she goes back to school to learn a skill or get a degree, which she has neither the time nor the money for. Raelyn urges her to go back to Carson, as she seems to think he is a good man. Will Jeanette tell her about the fire and the shady business that goes down on the Hesby farm? It seems like that moment is fast approaching. I will be very sad of Jeanette’s attempt to escape her bubble and make a life for herself backfires or just doesn’t work out, but this show does not promise happy endings.
Kimara, one of the only characters who has not strayed from her moral convictions at all this season, is posed with an opportunity to do something good for people, but only by committing some light fraud. Her friend Abby (Sandra Oh) asks Kimara to fudge the numbers at the shelter she works at for troubled teens so that they can receive a higher grant amount. They need more money to help more people. So without inflating the numbers, they’re stuck with the amount of beds and the budget they have, and people go unhelped. Kimara will have to fake hand-written logbooks to make it work. It’s looking as though she is going to do it, but I don’t see her getting away with it, because in this world no good deed goes unpunished.
The most tragic storyline of the night, though, comes with teenage ex-prostitute Shae, who has found lodging in a house for camgirls. She’s forming connections with her regular clients and is visibly pregnant now. One of her regulars has even seen her ultrasound. She’s trying to form genuine connections with people and earning a dollar or two doing it. But when she gets the paycheck from the house boss, she is not happy. This scenario is pretty familiar, echoing Coy on the farm from earlier this season. But things are about to get even worse.
Shae goes into another cam girl’s bedroom to check out the competition and see what she’s doing to be more successful than her. She tries to get into her account and is caught. Tracy believes Shae to be “messing with her stuff” which apparently in Tracy’s world is reason enough to literally stab a person to death with a nail file. Because that’s what she does. To pregnant Shae. I did not see this coming, but I guess with only two episodes left in the season, character storylines have to wrap up. I just didn’t expect something QUITE so tragic, and quite so out of nowhere, for Shae.
Overall, it was a good hour of television, but I find myself missing the storylines of Luis, Coy, and Isaac that seem to have come to an end, and the Coates are just not as likeable, as I have nobody to root for. Hopefully the final two episodes focus less on them and more on Regina King’s Kimara and Felicity Huffman’s Jeanette, the true heroes of the story thus far.
Season 3, Episode 6 (S03E06)
American Crime airs Sunday at 10PM on ABC
Paul co-created and writes for SHOWoff, a game that lets players predict what happens next on their favorite TV shows, earn points for what they get right, and see where they stack up against friends and the world (free in the iOS App store).
Paul Gulyas | Contributor