'American Crime's Season Finale: 5 Big Moments, Explained
Spoiler alert! Don't read the following unless you've seen Wednesday's season finale.
This season of American Crime began with Taylor (Connor Jessup) and Eric's (Joey Pollari) choice to have sex at a party, so it's only fitting that Wednesday's finale ends with both boys having to make another choice—one life altering, one not as much. But they weren't the only ones dealing with the repercussions of that night over the course of 10 episodes. Family, friends and school administrators had to deal with the aftermath of what happened, with the alleged rape bringing up issues of race, class and sexuality—all of which unfolded over six weeks within the show.
With so much happening in the season-ending hour, we asked executive producer Michael MacDonald to help us unpack the finale's big moments.
Anne and Taylor Blaine
What happened: Following the release of private emails and messages that belonged to the families and administrators of Leyland High School, Anne (Lili Taylor) was optimistic there was enough in Taylor’s favor to have him declared innocent or, at the very least, get him sent to a psychiatric facility. Unfortunately, this required Eric to testify on his behalf. Instead of asking his alleged rapist for help, Taylor told his lawyer that he wanted to take a plea deal to serve time for two years—overriding his mother in the process. The final moments of the episode focused on Taylor’s time in court as the judge outlined his options and confirmed his decision while his mother looked on. But before Taylor could announce his final decision, the screen cut to black... and the season ended.
Explanation: "We wanted to leave it about choices," explains MacDonald. "John's desire was to let the audience decide for themselves what those choices would be. It was meant to be ambiguous so the audience could answer the questions, but I think all of the markers that [Taylor] is going to plead, are there. I'm not saying he is. Even John [Ridley] doesn't have an answer." As for how this choice affectis Anne, who spent most of the series trying to get justice for her son, MacDonald says, "For her as a mother, it is probably the hardest thing in the world to sit there. She did everything she could to protect him, but she had to pay the consequences, or was willing to pay the consequences for his actions. That's the tragedy of it. She tried everything she could and she still couldn't [protect Taylor] in the end.
Dan, Steph and Becca Sullivan
What happened: Becca (Sky Van Vliet) was arrested after messages of her arranging to sell drugs to students—including Taylor—were posted online. Dan (Timothy Hutton) and Steph (Hope Davis) were informed that their daughter could serve anywhere between six months to over two years at a juvenile facility. Dan turned to Leyland school principal Leslie Graham (Felicity Huffman) for help but she refused. Desperate, Dan sought out Sebastian (Richard Cabral) the hacker and gave him (what appeared to be) the shredded remains of Anne Blaine’s medical records, claiming they were from Leslie’s office. With the documents released online, Leslie was asked to step down from the school board. Following this, Leslie confronted Dan and suggested that he and Steph doctored the images. But in the end, Becca still had to serve time.
Explanation: Whether or not Dan went through Leslie's Leyland trash is an open question. Says MacDonald, "[Leslie] accuses [Dan], but she never once says that those documents were from her. She says she never released those documents."
Terri, Michael and Kevin LaCroix
What happened: When Kevin (Trevor Jackson)—and the rest of the basketball team—was brought in for questioning at the police station, Terri (Regina King) learned that Michael (Andre L. Benjamin) asked their police detective friend to get rid of Kevin’s statement that he was inadvertently responsible for the basketball team beating up Taylor. Kevin was eventually cleared, but Terri faced the consequences of the leak at work where a co-worker brought up her personal emails, which referenced white people negatively. Terri's explanation wasn't well received, and she was offered the choice to either relocate or accept a severance package. While Michael wanted to fight back, Terri accepted the reality of the situation. Later, Kevin apologized to his mother, saying that he loved her.
Explanation: "An interesting thing that we witnessed in reality and media when people's personal lives are exposed, is how they talk to each other and what their emails and personal lives are like," said MacDonald of Terri's job being impacted by her personal emails rather than her son's involvement in Taylor's case. "That actually can be as detrimental and as difficult to deal with as any sort of criminal activity. It's casual conversations that are taped or remembered and emails that are casually sent out that ultimately can be the downfall of many people in both the public and private lives. That was something that we wanted to examine. Social media is really much at the core of this show, and there's a lot of reflection of how media and the social space now affects everything, including crime."
MacDonald says that the final heart-to-heart between Terri and Kevin is one of the most powerful scenes in the whole series for him. "You've seen this woman, who did everything she possibly could to protect her son, who still didn't succeed. Ultimately, her son let her know that they as a family will go forward, and they'll be okay. That love, which they'll walk away from, is truly the only thing that's going to get you through anything."
Sebastian De La Torre
What happened: Upset that other hackers joined his “project” and released all the personal information, Sebastian tried to take back control. He tracked down and threatened another hacker involved in the leak, but this led to him getting hacked, causing him and his daughters to go on the run.
Explanation: "There was a case that had some similar parallels that John and the writers were pulling from," says MacDonald. "There was somebody who was trying to expose some of the prominent figures in the town who were squashing a rape case, and it got away from them because these anonymous things are really groups of people. They're not driven by one individual. Once it's out there that there's a target, anybody can go after them. That's what happened with Sebastian." As for what the white hat hacker's original motivations were, MacDonald says, "He had good intentions, [but] his ego got in the way and the notoriety became powerful. We wanted to reflect that everyday people get caught up in these systems or these notorious cases. There's something dark about the cultural celebrity in America. This is just a little tiny, tiny taste of it. "
What happened: Public school principal Chris (Elvis Nolasco) was offered a $75,000 settlement, which he chose to accept after a conversation with Evy Domingues (Angelique Rivera), who revealed that she and her family took the settlement Leyland offered.
Explanation: MacDonald shares, "He is accepting some responsibility. It's a combination of his conversation with Dr. Lewis and with Evy. Evy triggers that in him. Education and children are really important to him. He doesn't want to make this more difficult for anyone. He's the adult and he's going to walk away and start afresh."
What happened: Eric was brought in for questioning, and he revealed to the police that he was the one who placed the call that summoned Taylor, only for him to get beat up by the basketball team. When he learned that he could testify to that at Taylor’s trial, he maintained that he wa the only one who kept telling the truth. Back home, his brother Pete (Ty Doran) said he wanted things to be better than they were, but Eric didn't accept that. Later on, Eric embarked on yet another anonymous sexual encounter, but as he walked up to the car, he stopped short.
Explanation: This cliffhanger was also left ambiguous. "I think he's probably thinking about everything. He's thinking about the conversations he had with his father. About the last time he got in a car with a stranger. His sexual gratification, his need for love," shares MacDonald. "Is he willing to risk the danger in order to fulfill that? I'm sure he's thinking about his brother. About his mother. About that night." Ultimately, though, MacDonald freely admits that he doesn't know what Eric is really thinking or deciding because, like most of the open endings, there is no exact answer—only what viewers choose to believe.
American Crime has yet to be renewed for a third season.