American Crime recap: Episode 8
No matter how dark things have become in the aftermath of Taylor Blaine’s decision to shoot — and kill — one of his Leyland attackers, the truly compelling moments in tonight’s episode of American Crime were reserved for the true stories that were interspersed throughout the hour.
While the fictional narrative did continue, the episode, which was directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry), also featured interviews with teachers from Columbine High School, and with parents and victims of LGBT bullying.
Take the Columbine faculty member who, more than a decade after the horrifying events of the 1999 Colorado school shooting, says she still “loves” Dylan Klebold, one of the two gunmen. The same woman also noted on the subject of mass trauma: “If you haven’t been through it, there’s really no way to adequately describe it.”
Then there’s Sheryl Moore, who recounted the last conversation she ever had with her son before he took his own life: “I’m pretty sure it’s not okay to be gay anywhere,” he told her.
That last observation resonates with American Crime, because it’s one of the predominant themes of the entire season: It doesn’t matter if your name is Taylor Blaine or Eric Tanner — in this Indianapolis community, it is absolutely not okay to be gay.
These real-life interviews are imperative to this season’s story line, because they are the only thing reminding the audience that hate toward homosexuality (and, to an extent, people who aren’t affluent) is the underlying reason for all of the criminal activity that’s gone down on American Crime. Now that Wes Baxter is dead, everyone involved in this case has forgotten what brought Taylor to such a destructive place: He was bullied for being gay and poor.
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None of that is covered in the American Crime story line, because now Leyland is far more concerned with the outpouring of grief over Wes’ death, and Anne Blaine is preoccupied with trying to exonerate her son.
Ironically, Taylor barely appears in tonight’s episode, showing up for a single scene where Anne visits him in prison. She is determined to protect her child, promising Taylor that she and the lawyer will work everything out. But even from this scene, we know that it’s not going to be as simple as Anne thinks. Taylor confesses that the four names he wrote in his notebook, which he left behind on the Leyland campus, was indeed a kill list. But it doesn’t matter that Taylor, as Anne sees it, was acting in “self-defense,” and that he was just confronting the people who hurt him and his mother. (This perspective isn’t wrong, just good luck getting that to stand up in court, Anne.) The indisputable facts here are that Taylor, while high on drugs, brought a stolen gun to a high school and premeditated the murders of four people. It’s no wonder the prosecutor wants to try him as an adult. Anne’s argument that Taylor is just “a child, he made a mistake” is not going to fly here, so the Blaine family lawyer is strongly advising that they take the plea-bargain route.
NEXT: “Change the narrative”
But Anne, sick of her son’s voice being silenced, as well as watching all of the Leyland students who hurt him avoid punishment, refuses. So other than accept a plea deal, the lawyer’s only advice to Anne at this point is to find a way to “change the narrative.”
Well, she may have succeeded in that task tonight, because Anne’s cyberspace white knight has arrived in Indianapolis. Sebastian de la Torre, who, despite Anne’s initial cold shoulder, has continued to follow the Blaine family’s story in the news. Refusing to remain on the sidelines any longer now that Taylor is in prison for what he believes to be a provoked act, Sebastian has packed up his two little girls for a road trip from Milwaukee to Indianapolis. He and Anne finally meet, and if there’s anyone who can help her “change the narrative,” it’s this guy.
Digital geek Sebastian explains to Anne that the decision to put her medical records online was a deliberate attack. To him, that means “if you do something online, there’s gotta be consequences.” Calling himself an activist, Sebastian offers, with Anne’s permission, to find things out about Leyland. He pretty much says he’s all she’s got because the police don’t care:
“If you’re going to stand up for what’s right, sometimes you’ve got to stand apart.”
With nowhere else to turn, and determined to prove her son’s violent behavior was provoked by bullies supported by the Leyland School, Anne accepts Sebastian’s olive branch.
At this point, whatever Sebastian is able to dig up probably shouldn’t be as difficult as it was before, because following Wes’ murder, everyone at Leyland has been falling apart. The big, angst-laden assembly that Coach Dan Sullivan leads feels like a borderline farce to American Crime viewers, because while Wes didn’t deserve to die, he’s far from an innocent victim. That and it’s not like Dan was going to bat for the students who really needed his help, like Taylor or even Eric. But here he is, extolling the virtues of peace, love, and understanding: “If we don’t love each other, I mean, really love each other, this is what happens,” he tells the gathered students.
However, it’s not so much the assembly that’s important here; it’s the scenes intercut with Dan’s speech, something that the Leyland community doesn’t see. The person who should be front and center at this event is Leslie Graham, not Dan, but the Leyland headmaster is instead hiding out at home, actively avoiding her responsibilities. The normally put-together Leslie is now a disheveled mess having learned she too was on Taylor’s list of intended targets.
This makes Leslie’s decision to return to work prematurely all the more flagrant, because everyone, from the audience to her assistant, Grace, can see how fragile she is — especially after Grace informs her Taylor waited for more than an hour to empty a bullet into her. But it doesn’t matter that she’s so willing to move forward, because now there is a substantial call for her resignation, and Dan Sullivan is spearheading the campaign.
NEXT: “This family is sick”
No longer forced to keep his opinions of his boss silent, Dan unleashes a torrent of complaints regarding Leslie’s mismanagement to one of the school-board members, criticizing the headmaster’s form of leadership from the moment Anne and Taylor brought their allegations forward.
“All she’s done is make choices that have hurt my players, hurt this school,” says Dan. “And then she did everything she can to protect herself and make sure her ass was covered. And the one time that the school really needs her, needs her to stand front and center and be a leader? Nothing.”
Leslie may have been able to spin this entire case to her advantage from the start, but now that a student has been killed under her watch? She can vehemently deny Dan’s allegations of manipulation and self-protection all she wants. You can’t argue with a dead body — or with mounting evidence that everyone but Leslie got hurt in this situation.
“And you wonder why Taylor stole a gun and came her looking for you,” sneers Dan before walking away.
If I were Leslie, I’d resign with whatever shred of dignity I had left, and escape to New York, where her boyfriend is. After all, Henry Francis does have a sterling record of helping women who need a fresh start.
- As if the Tanner family’s home life couldn’t get any worse, Lilah’s disgust over the homosexuality disease that has infected her loved ones reaches alarming proportions tonight. Since she’s gotten it into her head that her ex-husband, Curt, inappropriately touched Eric, which therefore turned him gay, she decided to sell all of her possessions and take off with Peter in tow. On the one hand, the further Lilah gets away from Eric, the better off he’ll be. But at the same time, the brainwashing she’s already begun on Peter is about to get far worse: “This family is sick,” she tells her son before they leave town.
- One thing is for certain about the Indianapolis police department on this show, which is they are equally unhelpful no matter what the case. When Curt reports his son missing, he’s given the brush-off. Since Curt and Lilah have shared custody, this is not a kidnapping, but merely “custodial interference.”
- Whatever healing process Dan had hoped to begin with the Leyland assembly blew up in his face later that day when Becca confessed her role in Taylor’s deadly actions to her father. The teenager tells Dan everything: She sold Taylor drugs the same day he shot Wes, and that most of her supply came straight out of Steph’s medicine cabinet. Dan responds by flushing all of his wife’s drugs and by destroying Becca’s phone, but it’s unlikely that will do much to cover up his daughter’s involvement — the phone company has records of her texts with Taylor. The Sullivans can stay silent all they want, but that is no guarantee that the truth won’t come out somehow, especially if there’s a digital record of Becca’s exchange with Taylor out there.