Selling your soul isn't cheap
Following last week’s soul-crushing episode of American Crime, which hit us with the double gut punch of Shae’s death and Gabrielle’s physical abuse, the penultimate episode of the season wound up being the closest we’ll likely get to a breather.
With the story lines now whittled down to a tight three narratives, we head into the season finale maybe not optimistic that there will be any sort of satisfying resolution (because that certainly didn’t happen last year), but at least now there’s a chance for a streamlined conclusion. However, I do hope the show will revisit the Hesby Farms subplot in its final episode — whether it’s an update on Coy, Luis, or the Hesby family — because even though it was shuffled aside to make way for the Coates family narrative, it’s never felt like that story has truly gone away. (And it hasn’t — the Jeanette subplot provides a chilling update in tonight’s episode.)
From where the main characters stand, there’s a lot riding on the finale, because it’s impossible to know where things are going for anyone. And as we learned last week from Shae’s story line, it’s wise to expect only one thing from American Crime: the unexpected.
In this week’s episode, many of the characters share a common theme: the selling of one’s soul to achieve purported happiness. Kimara tosses her morals aside to join Abby in her fraudulent nonprofit scheme; Jeanette learns her comfortable lifestyle comes at the expense of turning a blind eye to suffering; Clair’s drive to have a child not only destroys her family but turns her into an abuser; and Nicholas’ lone-wolf focus on his furniture business results in financial failure, a toxic marriage, and the emergence of his own cruel tendencies toward his wife and child.
Gabrielle, too, one could argue, is guilty of selling her soul for a cushy new life in the United States. But she remains more of a victim than any of the other characters and is in her current predicament through no fault of her own (although I do think she was foolish to surrender her passport to Clair). I realize it’s wishful thinking to expect a happy ending for her, especially from a show like American Crime, but out of all the characters this season, she is the one person whom I really hope is rescued in some fashion next week. We’ve had enough heartbreak with Shae and Teo — to send Gabrielle down that same path might be too much to ask of an audience.
After weighing the pros and cons of Abby’s proposition from last week — and being sacked with even more budget cuts at her current job — Kimara ultimately chooses the deal with the devil tonight. She forges a logbook of fake names and rescues, and by the end of the episode, she is packing up her office, ostensibly with the intention of going to work with Abby. While that handwritten logbook of little white lies has resulted in better funding for Abby’s shelter and a better-paying job for Kimara, the social worker never really makes peace with her decision.
There’s a great scene where Kimara visits Reggie (the guy who turned down her request to father her child) to vent over her predicament, and even he pretty much tells her to do whatever it takes to get ahead in life, including fraud, because that’s the way the world works now: “The days of being appropriate are over,” he says matter of factly. Without getting into the myriad examples of how our new president’s administration is leading the charge regarding questionable practices, Kimara — via Regina King’s spot-on delivery — dejectedly sums up the new world order in one brilliant line: “I actually liked it when the guy in charge loved his daughters, was faithful to his wife, and paid his taxes.”
But there was no way American Crime was going to let Kimara slink off to her new gig this easily, which is why, despite Shae’s death last week, the show has still kept the webcam house story line going through the character of Dustin. After being forced to dispose of his friend’s dead body, Dustin now knows that his own life is in danger, and he makes a break for it during a late-night supplies run. Somehow he ends up at the doorstep of the assistant district attorney, who places an 11th-hour call to Kimara for help. Inevitably, the social worker is sucked back into the thankless system, and we last see her trying to pry information out of a tight-lipped Dustin. We’ve got to hope she keeps pressing him, because Dustin is her only link to finding out what became of Shae.
In comparison to the rest of the characters, Jeanette remains the least burdened, but given what transpires in tonight’s episode, her decision to meddle in the Hesby Farms business may have been the smartest move she’s ever made, though for a reason you wouldn’t expect.
Jeanette’s beleaguered and on-parole sister, Raelyn, fails a drug test — and Raelyn (in addition to the audience) totally knew it was going to happen. There’s something in the air with the way Janel Moloney’s character emotionally says goodbye to her two young daughters before heading to the correctional facility. Then, right before she’s called to provide her urine sample, she not-so-cryptically starts preparing Jeanette for the possibility of having to take care of the girls.