Tragedy strikes, and no one saw it coming.
Whatever faint glimmer of hope Kimara’s late-night sex-trafficking rescue gave us last week is now a distant memory after tonight’s episode of American Crime.
The bleakness has reached critical levels, once again raising the same question posed at the start of the season: Is this series just too disturbing to make it worthwhile? As much as American Crime and John Ridley should be praised for turning the spotlight onto the sad truths about human exploitation, I’ll admit that even I am starting to reach my breaking point with this show. To that end, I’m glad that season three is an abbreviated one (there are only two episodes left), because I don’t think I can handle much more of this.
For all our wondering about what would become of Shae and her baby — was she going to give it to Kimara? Was this child going to grow up in an online sex den? — well, it turns out that was all a red herring. The answer turns out to be far, far more tragic than anything we could have ever imagined. In the final minutes of this episode, Shae became the latest victim to vanish into the ether, à la Teo. With her realization that she was barely making enough money to support herself, let alone the life in her growing belly, Shae got into a heated altercation with a more successful “colleague.” And this fellow sex worker, Tracy, decided that Shae poking around in her room and aggressively shoving her was worthy of a knife to the back of the neck.
Shae’s grisly death — accelerated by her idiot friend Dustin, who, in a panic, pulls the knife out of her neck, causing a geyser-like overflow of blood — isn’t even the most upsetting moment of her now-concluded story line. Nope; since Everett, the guy who runs the online sex house, still has a business to run, Dustin is given his orders: Make Shae disappear. Her clothes, her personal items, and ultimately her own body are disposed of (Dustin has a tearful moment over her single sonogram photo — I’m not even going to get into the tragedy of Shae’s unborn baby). And where does her body end up? In that same deadly river where Teo met his fate.
Not that any of us wanted this to be the eventual outcome for Shae, but from a storytelling point of view, as callous as it sounds, this probably was the best route to take. The way the ominous story line is building between Gabrielle, Clair, and Nicholas, it’s going to be nearly impossible for viewers to devote much energy to any of the other characters anymore. Even now, the Jeanette and Kimara subplots are taking a back seat to the Coates family drama.
In short, Jeanette is still directionless and having no luck seeking purpose in her life. Now she just has to do it with no money, living in constricting quarters with her single-mom sister, Raelyn. Raelyn, who is struggling to make ends meet at a minimum-wage job (unable to do better for herself due to a prior conviction), thinks Jeanette should swallow her pride and return to her comfortable marriage. According to her, as long as Carson isn’t abusing Jeanette, then what’s the problem? Obviously we know it’s more complicated than that, though going back to her upscale lifestyle may be Jeanette’s only choice at this point. Upon meeting with a career counselor, Felicity Huffman’s character learns that having spent more than two decades as a housewife only leaves her qualified to work as a waitress or in the fast-food industry (any career-related courses cost money and time she doesn’t have). While Jeanette’s story line is hardly as depressing as the ones concerning the other main characters, you do feel for her; she’s paying way too high a price for the simple act of doing the right thing.
Speaking of doing the right thing, in Kimara’s case this week, it appears the only way that can happen is if you commit a little fraud.
After an awkward visit from a potential benefactor, Kimara discovers her colleague, Abby, who runs a home for exploited teens, has been padding the numbers when it comes to how many kids the social worker has been placing at the shelter. Now Kimara is put into a serious moral quandary, one that really makes her consider joining Abby in her deception — the intent, after all, is for the greater good of the kids in question (and Kimara’s career).
Basically, if Abby can provide high enough numbers (even if they’re phony), she will receive a huge amount of funding that will not only allow her to actually help these teens (rather than turning them away) but also hire Kimara to fill a position that will finally pay her what she’s worth. We’ve seen how much Kimara has struggled both personally and professionally this season, so she’d be crazy to not at least consider the offer, even though it’s technically a bribe. The scene between these two characters, in which they hash out the pros and cons of this scheme, is another excellent one for the season, because you can see in Abby’s eyes how much she hates the levels she has to sink to in order to help people. Between Jeanette, Abby, and Kimara, it is hard to know if any sort of outreach is worth it in the end.
So it’s a tough decision for Kimara, requiring the self-professed technophobe to fake handwritten log books for this plan to work. We’ll find out what her choice is next week…