Taylor's (Connor Jessup) desperate act of violence last week reshaped American Crime. As we understand and even empathize with the reasons behind Taylor's terrible choice to shoot another teenager, the already on-edge community is, understandably, shaken, disturbed and broken, but also undergoing fundamental changes as people take (or dodge) responsibility for their individual roles in what happened.
Terri LaCroix (Regina King) turns uncharacteristically kind — trying to comfort her husband Michael (Andre Benjamin) and even seeking out someone from her past to right a wrong. Coach Sutton's (Timothy Hutton) daughter Becca (Sky Azure Van Vilet) attempts to clear her conscience by admitting her role in giving Taylor the drugs he took - a decision that has immediate negative ramifications on her family. Eric's father (Brent Anderson), whose decency and sensitivity throughout his son's ordeal remains one of this season's few optimistic spots, begins to come undone after his wife Lilah (Emily Bergl) makes a drastic, unfathomable decision that shatters the last bit of normalcy the family has left.
But what's most surprising about Wednesday's episode is a major departure from format. The hour features first-person testimonials from real-life survivors of school shootings and LGBT bullying. Fans already know very well that you're never ready for an episode of this show but, trust: You are not ready for these stories, including one from the mother of a gay high school student whose bullying led him to do the unthinkable.
Yes, the switch from the show's narrative format to a documentary style, interwoven with the fictionalized story we've been following, feels slightly disjointed and disruptive, but it doesn't matter. Perhaps that's the point. Here, American Crime unmasks its agenda, unabashedly putting its message of understanding, compassion and plain old sensitivity to other people walking the planet in our faces, just in case we missed it through the wrenching storytelling. It'll feel like a direct plea — a show-turned-PSA — and you won't care, but you may very well cry.
See what advice Regina King has for her on-screen husband Andre Benjamin: