‘American Crime’ Season Three In Review: Great In Parts, Good Overall

A few thoughts on the end of American Crime season three coming up just as soon as you get me a bus pass…

Before this season began, I compared it to The Wire in terms of its political, narrative, and artistic ambitions. Having come to the end of it, I think John Ridley and company bit off slightly more than they could chew, at least in this abbreviated 8-episode season.

This round featured the usual outstanding performances, from both series veterans like Felicity Huffman and Regina King and newcomers like Ana Mulvoy-Ten and Tim DeKay. And it had lots of stunning individual moments: Isaac casually beating up Coy on the far edge of the camera frame, Clair talking smack in French about Nicholas while on their couples night out, Kimara finding out that Shae died, etc. But the season felt choppier and more underfed as a whole than previous rounds did, and many of the stories wound up connecting thematically rather than narratively, despite the attempt to bring most of them together in the courtroom for the final scene, with three of the murder victims watching from the back as justice was delivered to some, but not all.

Some characters like Jeanette and Kimara were around for the full season and got to travel complex and fully satisfying arcs, with both of those two, for instance, sacrificing principle for the sake of more immediate financial needs. Others had shorter stints, and the decision to split parts of the season in two — four episodes of Luis looking for his son on the farm, then four of the Coateses letting their marriage and business disintegrate — didn’t always to the season favors. Luis’s story felt more or less full and complete, whereas Clair and Nicholas’ felt rushed compared to what was going on elsewhere. And a character like Laurie Ann probably needed to be around more, given that she was being held up — by Jeanette, anyway — as an individual villain, in a show that’s most interested in indicting a broken overall system.

I don’t know how many of these decisions were made due to actor availability, or a struggle to squeeze Ridley’s usual approach into a smaller season — ABC trimming the order in a “Be thankful you got a third season at all, given those ratings” way — or something else, but the whole never added up to the sum of its many impressive parts this year. Still, I’m glad American Crime has been around this long, and I’d hope that whatever corporate largesse has allowed it to continue past its first season doesn’t go away quite yet.

What did everybody else think?