On Thursday night, American Crime premiered on ABC and delivered every bit of drama that was promised in the previews.
The show opens up with a 911 call from an unknown man telling the dispatcher that his neighbors “pretty much look like they’re dead.” Russ Skokie (Timothy Hutton) is woken up in the middle of the night and gets the phone call that we all know means bad news. His son Matt may be dead, and he needs to fly to Modesto, Calif., ASAP to verify if the body is Matt’s.
After making the ID, Russ has an all-out cry-athon that was totally giving me Tom Hanks when he lost Wilson in Castaway. The detective tells Russ that his son was killed in a home invasion, while Matt’s wife, Gwen, was sexually assaulted and in critical condition. Cops do have a description of a car that fled the scene, and a Hispanic male was driving. Matt’s mother has not been told yet, and the detective suggests that Russ call her and break the news.
Next we’re introduced to Hector Tontz (Richard Cabral), a young Hispanic man who is at an electronics store buying expensive headphones with a credit card in the name of “Mr. Skokie.” This is the first clue that Hector is not a very smart criminal. You don’t use the credit card of a dead man unless you want to get caught! [Face palm.]
Alonzo Gutierrez (Benito Martinez) comes home to find his daughter on the couch with a random boy from school and yells at her, and she storms off in typical schoolgirl fashion. Alonzo then questions his son, Tony Gutierrez (Johnny Ortiz), about what they were doing, and Tony pretty much echoes his sister’s response.
Russ meets his ex-wife, Barb Hanlon (Felicity Huffman), at a diner to break the news. If you’re expecting another crying scene, think again. Barb is mainly upset because she thinks the cops aren’t doing enough to find Matt’s killer. When Russ tells her that he may be a Hispanic male, the first thing out of Barb’s mouth is “Some illegal?” The argument the two have about who got called first by the cops hints that a family drama is brewing.
We’re then taken to a party where Aubry Taylor and her boyfriend Carter Nix, a biracial couple, are doing drugs and having a grand old time. There’s dancing, people are sweating, and miraculously no one is standing around on their cellphones taking pictures for the gram. Aubry goes to the bathroom, where a black woman confronts her and threatens to stomp her “Barbie-doll ass.” It’s worth mentioning that meth head Aubry looks nothing like a Barbie doll, so either this woman never had the toy as a child or Aubry is considered a top-notch beauty by Modesto’s standards. Nevertheless, the woman makes good on her promise and beats the brakes beat off of Aubry. Carter takes her home, where he runs a bath and caters to her wounds ever so gingerly. Never has drug love looked so romantic.
Back at the hospital, Gwen Skokie (wife of the deceased Matt) is unconscious, and her parents, Tom and Eve Carlin (W. Earl Brown and Penelope Ann Miller), meet with Russ and Barb. Barb tells them that there’s a reporter that wants to do a story on them, and she thinks it’s a good idea because otherwise people will forget what happened to their kids. Gwen’s parents are less than thrilled to tell the world that their daughter was sexually assaulted and decline to do the interview.
Tony gets pulled over in an orange car that he was working on in his dad’s mechanic’s shop. The cops tell him that they want to bring him in for questioning, and we know immediately that the car he was driving is a vehicle of interest in the murder. At the precinct, the police inquire about Tony’s whereabouts on Sunday. I wanted to jump through the screen and tell him, “Do not answer any questions without a lawyer present!” But of course, Tony doesn’t know his rights. [Le sigh.]
Russ and Barb go to speak to the reporter about their son, and Russ is upset that Barb tells the reporter she struggled by herself to take care of the kids. Barb feels that he has no right to be upset because it was his gambling addiction that caused her and the kids to move into a housing project, where she was the only white woman living among “those people.” I’m going to need Ms. Barb to watch her mouth.
Carter is seen removing a gun from a pipe in an abandoned lot somewhere.
Back at the police precinct, Alonzo tells the detectives that his son, Tony, was at their garage Sunday night. Tony tells the detective that a guy we assume is Hector offered him $50 to use the car.
Why anyone would want to commit crimes in a bright-orange car is beyond me. But again, Hector is not the sharpest shank in the cell. The cop asks Tony for his cellphone to see if they can track down Hector.
Next we see Hector in a store, trying to use Matt Skokie’s card again. At this point I just want this fool to get caught. When the clerk tells him that the computer is having issues, Hector gets suspicious and leaves the store, but it’s too late. Police cars corner him and as he runs, the cops shoot him in the leg.
Hector tells detectives that a meth head, “a black dude,” came to him on Sunday looking to get drugs with no money. The black dude, Carter, tells Hector that there’s a white drug dealer who owes him and his girlfriend. He wanted Hector to give him a ride so he could settle the score, after which he would give him the money for the drugs. Hector says that he didn’t take the meth head anywhere, but after some time Carter came back with a wallet and some credit cards.
A SWAT team shows up to Carter and Aubry’s apartment, placing them both under arrest. At the police station, young Tony is taken into custody for murder, and his father, Alonzo, completely loses it, yelling incoherently at the officers.
The detective tells Russ and Barb that they have four people in custody in connection with their son’s murder. Barb asks if it’s true that it only takes 12 years to execute someone and demands to see Carter, who is taken past her in handcuffs.
A detective then informs Russ that they recovered a sum of crystal meth and marijuana so large at Matt’s place, it must have been intended for distribution. Russ, still in disbelief, asserts that Matt would have told him if he was involved in anything illegal. Losing patience, the detective hits Russ with the headline: “Would your son have told you if he was a drug dealer?” [Drops mic.] And boom! There’s a jaw-dropper for you!
I can’t wait to see what happens next and how Regina King fits in the mix. American Crime is on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. I’ll be watching. Will you?