In a pop culture landscape rife with remakes, re-imaginings, reboots, reality shows and too many other unimaginative “R” words, it is rare to see something come along that is truly original.
Now, in a show that has been consistently creative and unpredictable, Wednesday’s (Feb. 24) episode of “American Crime” once again gives viewers something they’ve never seen before, and the result was a potent mix of fact and fiction.
The previous week’s episode got people talking as embittered teen Taylor (Connor Jessup) brought a gun to school, leading to a heart-stopping finale; now, in Episode 8, the time has come to see what effect the school shooting has on all the “Crime” characters.
The power of the episode, however, is largely derived from actual interviews conducted with survivors of school shootings, bullying and other acts of violence.
As showrunner John Ridley and his writers allow the narrative work of actors like Felicity Huffman and Regina King to move the plot forward, the interviews add a powerful level of complexity to the show.
“It could take years before there is something that feels like it might be healing,” says one survivor of a school shooting, punctuating scenes that have the parents and students at Leyland School dealing with the aftermath.
“My son’s name was on a list; a week ago, someone wanted him dead,” King’s character explains of her fictional character’s struggle along those same lines. “I went to a wake, with people I know standing over their son in a casket. My son was supposed to be next to him; my child, my life.”
Another survivor, a teacher at a school where there was a shooting, talks about the abnormality of hearing a gunshot in such an environment — and the difficulty in returning to work.
“I can never again guarantee that one of those kids I love won’t ever shoot me,” the teacher says, as her words are played over Felicity Huffman’s emotionally-scarred principal Leslie Graham returning to work.
As per usual, the plot advances: “Crime” viewers see Taylor now imprisoned, debating with his mother whether he should take a plea deal; the board at Leyland attempting to save their school’s reputation by ousting Graham; Elvis Nolasco’s Chris Dixon attempting to keep his own public school from similarly imploding.
Most notably, the best part of Season 1 — intense, tattooed Richard Cabral — seems to be finally nearing a connection point with the other storylines.
But the true triumph of Episode 8 is the way “Crime” goes about doing what needs to be done in the most unexpected, powerful way possible. Unfortunately, it also serves as a stark reminder that in the modern world, drama is too often found outside our TV sets.