Review: ‘American Crime’ seeks the meaning of criminal

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Crime permeates the third season of ABC’s “American Crime.” Not just one crime, but many, some illegal, some not, but all morally questionable.

This anthology series may be the best dramatic show on broadcast television these days, daring as it does to work with both nuance and timely topicality. The new season, for instance, manages to explore migrant worker abuses, underage sex trafficking, murder and America’s current plague of drug addiction in its flow of concurrent stories. That’s a lot on the menu, but writer/creator John Ridley weaves it all together with skill.

As is the current and efficient vogue in anthology series, the third season sees the return of many of the actors from the first two seasons, although the characters they’re playing are completely different. The setting is North Carolina where Jeanette (mainstay Felicity Huffman) is married into a family of wealthy farm owners and slowly becomes aware of the living conditions the family’s migrant workers endure.

Among those migrant workers is Luis (Benito Martinez), a father searching for his son. Recruited to work in those same fields is a young white drug addict, Coy (Connor Jessup), trying to get straight.

Elsewhere Regina King — who has won two Emmys for the show’s first two seasons — plays social worker Kimara, who specializes in finding safe havens for children lured into lives of prostitution. She will eventually come to the aid of the hauntingly troubled Shay (newcomer Ana Mulvoy-Ten).

But wait, is a teen prostitute really a criminal? Is a drug addict? Is a man seeking his son? Or are the criminals the privileged white folk who house 10 migrant workers in a tiny shack? It’s complicated. It’s America.

There are slight miscues — Kimara’s attempts to become pregnant seem a distraction — but this very busy boat stays upright and moves forward, shifting just enough to stay interesting. Ridley isn’t afraid to suddenly introduce new storylines, but they just expand on his themes. And the question of what constitutes a crime, and who is guilty, hovers over everything. Just as it does in the real world.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.


‘American Crime’


10 p.m. Sunday

ABC (Channel 7)