I'm so excited that American Crime is finally back!
This is such a unique show. It always manages to compress a lot of drama and socially relevant issues into a relatively short amount of time.
American Crime Season 3 Episode 1 was no exception. "3.01" set up stories about forced labor, dealing with addiction in a family member, and human trafficking, all within the space of an hour.
I feel like it may have been a little bit too ambitious, since there were at least four storylines going on and I haven't even learned all the characters' names yet! But this certainly seems like set-up for some powerful television.
Unlike series that offer a continuing story year after year, American Crime starts over with new characters and scenarios every season. It's really important to find a central character to focus on early in the new season in order to avoid getting confused.
On American Crime Season 3, that character seems to be Kamara.
Kamara: My name is Kamara. I want you to know you're not in trouble. I'm not with the police. Nobody wants to arrest you. We just want to arrest your pimp. I work with Project Open Road, an organization that works with victims -
Boy: I'm not a victim.
Kamara's job position wasn't clearly stated, but I'm pretty sure she is a social worker. She certainly seems to be dedicated to helping young victims of human trafficking and she got frustrated with Ishmael's refusal to let her help him much at all, yet made it clear she wasn't really giving up on him.
I thought her work with both Ishmael and Shae were powerful bookends to the hour. Kamara clearly makes this same speech to hundreds of young victims of human trafficking every day, yet she came across as genuine while using the same words with Shae she used with Ishmael earlier.
I'm curious to see where her work takes her and what kind of emotional journey she's in for.
I also liked that Kamara has problems of her own that are not being dealt with. It was meaningful that she walked away from the cable service representative she was arguing with about restarting her service in order to see Ishmael.
That seemed symbolic of how out of balance Kamara's life is, and I suspect she is over-dedicated to the children she is trying to save and is not taking care of herself the way she needs to. I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops.
I'm also wondering how the human trafficking story is going to connect to the immigrant labor story.
Boy: I don't have a pimp. Marquez is my cuz. He's been looking out for me since I was six.
Kamara: He runs you.
Boy: He doesn't run me. I do it myself.
Ishmael mentioned that his cousin, who runs the trafficking ring, was named Marquez, and I guessed that the man seen with Shae who was setting up sex-for-money encounters was the same man, though this was never explicitly stated.
If so, I'm hoping that there will be some exploration of who Marquez is and how he ended up doing what he is doing. Since this season is dedicated to undocumented workers, I wondered whether Marquez's immigration status has something to do with why he is in this kind of business.
Man: I wish I had some better news, but I've been crunching some numbers and your bid for produce is not competitive.
Woman: There's no way to compete with these farms that use Mexican labor.
The non-English speaking undocumented worker who seemed to have more or less been forced into slavery undoubtedly is going to end up working for the farm that is trying to be competitive. The couple that owns the farm was clearly struggling business wise and was trying to hire cheap labor.
These characters seemed to be me to have been less developed than Kamara and her human trafficking victims, at least so far. Hopefully that will change as the season goes on. I found myself getting confused because I didn't really know who these people were or what, exactly, was going on with them.
I did feel bad for the undocumented worker when he was told that he would get a little pay after the man he works for pays everyone else. This wasn't what he expected and he probably will get very little money when all is said and done.
Obviously, this isn't the kind of life he risked everything for when he crossed the border. And without proper documentation, he won't have much legal recourse if he's abused by his new employers or not paid anything at all.
This story will surely be powerful once it gets going. I just hope to learn more about both the farm owners and this worker so that I can more easily follow what's going on.
Man: You done? You almost done?
Makeup Artist: That your boyfriend?
Makeup Artist: Everything all right with you?
Woman. Yeah. We're going to dinner with his sister. His sister and her fiancee. We're going to this restaurant and he just wants me to look good, you know?
I'd also like to know more about who Shae is and how she ended up involved with the prostitution ring. SInce she's involved in a human trafficking story, chances are she's not there of her own free will.
I wondered if she'd run away from home and ended up kidnapped, how old she really is, and whether she believed what she told the makeup woman about her pimp being her boyfriend.
Although I found some of the stories confusing and hard to follow, I'm eager to know more and hopefully things will start to make more sense as I settle into who these characters are and exactly what's going on with them.
What did you think? Is there a character or story that particularly grabbed you? What are you hoping to see as the season progresses?
Weigh in below, and don't forget that if you missed anything, you can always watch American Crime online.
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.