In this post, Azra concludes her series of reviews of American Crime. Read her earlier reviews here.
Spoilers ahead—you’ve been warned!
Last week, American Crime concluded on ABC. I hadn’t reviewed the past several shows, as Aliyah’s time on screen became more and more limited with the show focusing on some of the other character’s concerns. She was able to work with her brother Carter’s attorney to have his case thrown out of court, in conjunction with Carter’s girlfriend, Aubry, confessing to committing the murder of the husband and attempted murder of the wife (whether she actually committed the crime remained a bit of a mystery).
The last episode was particularly Shakespearean in nature—this was a magnificent, unexpected tragedy for most of the show’s main characters. I was rooting for Carter to find some form of fulfilment in his life upon his release, which was never to come. Carter was shot by the father of the murdered son, the father pulling the gun on himself afterwards. Aubry slits her wrists on the inpatient psychiatry unit after she learns of Carter’s demise. Towards the end of the episode, Aubry’s long-suffering mother and Aliyah console one another over Carter and Aubry’s deaths. Aliyah closes her scenes with the mother: “inna lillahi wa inna ileyhi raajioon.”
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It was an apt concluding statement for Aliyah to make. One of the things that frustrated me most as the show continued was how little time was spent fleshing out other aspects of Aliyah’s life beyond her religious beliefs. While we were able to see the challenges other characters faced in their lives, how they lived and got along with their family or community members, were impacted by their mental health, Aliyah’s portrayal was limited to her relationship with her masjid and conversing with Carter’s attorney about his case. While she does work on building a coalition of supporters to publicly protest Carter’s conviction, I never got a sense of why or how she went about her protest efforts the way we were able to with some of the other characters on the show (the murdered son’s mother, for instance, is shown meeting and discussing her son’s case with her supporters on screen). We never got to see Aliyah interact with any friends, family, or at work the way we were able to with other characters—we are left with no knowledge of her inner life beyond her being Muslim and committed to working for her brother’s freedom.
There were so many important themes that were addressed on the show: immigration, the juvenile and criminal justice system, addiction and mental health, family relationships (and their demise), employment for those who have a criminal background that altogether contribute towards a portrayal that truly captured the reality of American life in a way that most other television shows even fail to see the world through a similar lens. Aliyah was portrayed as a strong black Muslim woman in a way that I sure haven’t seen on network television before. It’s a shame we couldn’t have seen more of Aliyah’s life beyond working towards her brother’s release. The show has been renewed for another season—here’s to hoping we get to learn more about Aliyah and her life, sadly without her brother.