American Crime is back for a second season on ABC. And while the series is taking a page from the likes of American Horror Story, True Detective and Fargo by creating a whole new setting and cast of characters for each season, many of the same issues are still front and center.

Race, gender, social justice, economic disparity. These and much more are at the core of American Crime, and season 2 doesn’t drop them just because a new story is presented. Rather, the show continues to embrace the struggles and the grit and the realism that we’ve seen before.

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The season 2 premiere begins with someone (we only hear the voice) calling 911 and saying, “I want to report a rape.” This is the storyline of the second season. A high school student named Taylor Blaine believes that he was drugged and assaulted at a party hosted by the school’s basketball team; pictures of him in a less-than-flattering state surface online. Soon enough, two of the team’s players are honed in on as possible suspects. But the big question is, will people believe Taylor?

When someone reports that they’ve been raped, common sense says we should take them seriously. But as we’ve seen, that doesn’t always happen, whether it’s a story on TV or a victim in the real world. And Taylor is no different. Believability is a big focus here because Taylor is male and the accused basketball players are also male.

Whenever these kinds of stories hit the news or are depicted on TV, we usually hear about about women who have been raped. American Crime has decided to spotlight a male figure instead. This presents very interesting storytelling opportunities to explore, and sexual orientation comes to the forefront.

There are a few characters on the show who find it hard to believe that boys can get raped. “Boys don’t get raped. First of all, boys don’t do that to other boys. And even if they did, the boys fight back.” This is just one of several quotes from the show that capture this feeling by some. Taylor himself acknowledges this by saying, “If I was a girl — people lose their minds if something happens to a girl. They have rights groups supporting them. … But a guy…” But as Taylor’s mother says, “Boys get assaulted more than you think.”

Speaking of her, Taylor’s mother, Anne, is quite possibly the most compelling character of season 2. That’s not to take away from Taylor being the heart of where this story originates from. But Anne is more persistent than anyone in trying to get the truth to come out — getting the truth from her son, getting the truth from the school, getting the truth from the police and everyone else involved. When she’s on screen, I as a viewer watch in awe and am completely drawn in to everything she does and what she says and the emotions she delivers. You can’t help but feel for her and want to be right there beside her helping to make things right.

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Taylor attends a private school, with Leslie Graham (Felicity Huffman) as the headmistress. While Huffman might have had more to sink her teeth into with her season 1 character, in terms of what she was able to deliver and emote, she still does a good job here. Huffman is one of those actresses that doesn’t give a bad performance. Leslie Graham wants to make sure her school’s reputation is kept intact after this scandal explodes. The question surrounding her is this: is she making Taylor a priority or is her school’s reputation more important? On the surface, at least, she’s saying a lot of the right things early on. But it’s the actions she takes along the way that will matter more in the end.

Coach Dan Sullivan, played by Timothy Hutton, is in a bind. The accused students are on his team, and because all these athletes look up to him like a father, he’s in a unique position. But will the truth come out? When watching Kevin LaCroix (Trevor Jackson) and Eric Tanner (Joey Pollari), the players who’ve been accused (by the way, that is not a spoiler since this info has been featured in promotional material), it’s very interesting as a viewer because our curiosity is piqued. Can we get something from them just by looking at the way they react to things or from facial expressions or from a conversation? Was only one of them involved? Both? Neither? Things may not be clear early on, but you’ll have to keep watching to find out the truth.

There are so many interwoven issues throughout each episode. And it’s stunning to watch. The subject material being explored here is heartbreaking, and fortunately the producers and writers have crafted everything in a very real, honest and authentic way. Everyone involved has done a masterful job. And it’s not just the acting (Regina King, for instance, is masterful once again) and the plot — even the camera angles and the music add something important to the show.

Take a look at a preview below:

When the first preview trailer for season 1 came out, I said that this show looked like something straight out of cable TV, not a series you’d find on a major network. And I still feel that way now. I haven’t seen the entirety of season 2 yet, but so far, I’m finding myself invested way more in this second season than the first. There’s a lot of ‘shock and awe’ type drama in many network shows. But American Crime is different — and that’s a very good thing.

Are you going to watch season 2 of American Crime? How do you think it will compare to season 1? And does the premise intrigue you?

American Crime season 2 premieres Wednesday, January 6 at 10pm on ABC.

(Image and video courtesy of ABC)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.