Joey Moser looks at American Crime Season 3. The ambitious series’s latest entry deals with the hot topics of undocumented immigrants and sex trafficking.
The cost of the American dream is at the forefront from the very first frame ABC’s American Crime Season 3. The ambitious anthology series returned this week with the hefty topics of sex trafficking, undocumented immigrants, and abuse. For the last two years, creator John Ridley produced sophisticated, well-acted drama, and the season premiere promises to deliver in the same vein. You’ll notice a lot of silence in the season premiere. The camera is already beginning to linger on these familiar faces, and it feels like the stories will begin to slowly unfurl.
Three siblings (Cherry Jones, Dallas Roberts, and Tim DeKay) own and operate a major tomato farm business. It appears that they aren’t above cutting some corners when it comes to hiring workers. They recruit down-on-their-luck young men and women to work in the fields at a “certain price.” In one scene, Crime regular Eddie Cabral tries to get (the should have been nominated) Connor Jessup a job picking tomatoes even though Jessup scoffs at the notion. The field workers’ cruddy living accommodations are revealed when a Mexican worker named Luis (Benito Martinez) crosses the border illegally even though he seems to have ulterior motives for coming to the United States. Felicity Huffman plays DeKay’s wife, a soft-spoken woman trying to help her sister get her life back on track after losing her way to drugs.
If it weren’t enough for Ridley to explore one set of exploited people, the third season introduces another side. Regina King plays a social worker named Kimara who is trying to have a baby. In one of the episodes’ first long scenes, she tries to help a young man get away from his pimp even though he doesn’t seem to want any help. We are then introduced to Ana Mulvoy-Ten, an underage prostitute who has two very different experiences with two very different men.
There is a lot to unpack here in terms of plot, but the skill is evident from the first frame. Will these stories connect? Do they have to? I’m sorry, Mr. Ryan Murphy. This is a lot more genuine in terms of human emotion and connection. There is a lot of silence used in this first episode, and the camera is allowed to linger on characters’ faces more than typical drama. Notice how one actor will be the focus while the other remains off-camera. Crime did this before, but something appears bubbling under the surface. Something big feels inevitable, and we have to wait with quiet patience.
Unlike other shows that give too much away or rely on bombast and flash, American Crime wants to delve into deeper territory. The first two seasons surely created conversation and debate, and it appears this third season (especially with Trump in the White House) will do the same. It’s off to a great, subdued start.