And so we finally come to the original sin. Nine episodes into the show’s heartrending 11-installment arc, after so many dead-ends and red herrings, false accusations and travesties of justice, dashed hopes and characters’ terrible decisions, we are granted an admission of guilt—a maximum mea culpa—for the central crime at the heart of American Crime.
Until now, this crime has remained impossible to pin down: many different things to so many people. It has been, to be sure, a death sentence (for Matt Skokie), a literal mind eraser for Gwen (still stricken with aphasia) and a new lease on life (for Hector, who lands himself in the witness protection program, reunited with his estranged girlfriend in from Sinaloa and 4-year-old daughter). It has also managed to somewhat mend sibling fences between Aliyah and Carter and foster a tenuous reconciliation between Barb and Russ (who legitimately fears his ex might commit suicide with her newly bought snub-nose revolver if Carter goes free). But as well, the crime exploded with the force of a cluster bomb, tearing asunder three families who will never be the same going forward.
Alonzo plods through daily existence looking like he’s been cold-cocked with a two-by-four now that Jenny moved into Uncle Oscar’s house and Tony is back in juvie facing sentencing as an adult for his viciously pipe attack on Joaquim; Tony’s overwhelmed public defender attempting to pass the buck to an expensive private lawyer. Eve and Tom seem on the verge of spiritual collapse after swallowing the bitter pill that Gwen will require adult diapers—on the heels of Tom’s continuing struggle to register his daughter was a “slut” at the time she was attacked.
And thanks to Audry’s shocking Episode Seven accusation that Brian ritually and habitually sexually abused her, his life is being turned upside down by police investigation while Audry’s foster father—the softee of the family—has withdrawn all support for her. Ruth takes matters into her own hands by confronting Carter in prison to say: “Please help save her” by walking away from the woman he calls his savior.
It is through Ruth’s efforts that Carter realizes the tired “It’s the world against Aubry and me” narrative holds no real hope for either of them. So he accepts a plea deal with the DA to shoulder a minimum 15-year sentence capital murder. But first, Carter communicates his decision wordlessly, via a gesture that sends Aubry into paroxysms of anguish. With Brother Timothy functioning as their intermediary, he sends her a magazine photograph of an inter-racial couple kicking back in paradise ripped into two pieces. It’s the aspirational image that sustained Aubry and Carter through so many junkie days of opiates and squalor as the beacon for a gleaming future just out of reach, now a visual metaphor that their fever dream of love on the run is over.
Which is what prompts Aubry to finally and formally claim responsibility for Carter’s alleged crimes.
Which is what shines a spotlight on the act of violence and retribution that sealed this disparate group of characters’ inter-locking fates.
NEXT: The truth comes out