What’s Worth Watching: Crime Story

American Crime
Felicia Graham/ABC
American Crime

American Crime, “Episode Two,” Thursday, March 12, 10/9c, ABC

In one of the year’s bravest performances, Felicity Huffman, playing the distraught mother of a murder victim, exposes emotions of rage, grief and mistrust of the criminal-justice system and society at large, which manifest into misanthropic statements of bigotry that make us recoil. It’s hard to feel sympathy for such an unsympathetic and unyielding character, but even if her Barb Hanlon is as hard to like as she is tough to watch, she forces us to understand where she’s coming from. It’s not pretty, but it isn’t meant to be.

This bold series continues with an episode written and directed by series creator John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), whose use of jarring jump cuts adds to an overall sense of disorientation. Barb is in angry denial when the police continue to look into the background of her slain son. On the other side of the racial divide, young Mexican-American Tony (Johnny Ortiz), a seemingly unwitting accomplice to the events in question, suffers behind bars. He’s terrified but also resentful toward his strict father Alonzo (Benito Martinez), whose own daughter calls him out for his racial self-loathing: “You wish you were white so they would like you better.” Harsh, painful truths continue to emerge in the wake of this all-too-American tragedy.