American Crime premiered on ABC Thursday night, opening with a shocking crime that sparked tension among several members of a California community. Read on for our recap and spoilers from the first episode of John Ridley’s explosive new drama:
The show begins with a stunning 911 call, as an unknown man’s voice says: “I don’t know if this is a home invasion, or but, you know my neighbors… they pretty much look like they’re dead.”
Russ Skokie (Timothy Hutton) wakes up to a phone call in the middle of the night from the Modesto robbery/homicide division. After talking to the detective, Skokie flies to Modesto and is met by a detective. He is taken to the morgue and identifies his son, Matt. The detective tells Russ that his son was killed in the home invasion, and his son’s wife, Gwen, was sexually assaulted and is clinging to life. He tells Russ that they have a vehicle of interest and a suspect, a young Hispanic male. The detective thinks it could have been a robbery, but is looking for a motive and asks Russ several questions about his son. We find out that Matt’s mother hasn’t been told of his death yet. Matt had been killed Sunday night.
Elsewhere, Hector Tontz (Richard Cabral) uses a credit card in the name of “Mr. Skokie” at a store. Alonzo Gutierrez (Benito Martinez) comes home to find his daughter on the coach with a boy from school he doesn’t know, and fights with her about it. He then grills his son, Tony Gutierrez (Johnny Ortiz) about what they were doing.
Russ meets with his ex-wife, Barb Hanlon (Felicity Huffman) at a diner to talk about their son’s death. She is upset that the police haven’t done enough, and when she hears it’s a Hispanic suspect, she says “some illegal?” Russ says he hasn’t told their other son, Mark, about the death, but will call him. “We need to be a family now,” Russ says, as Barb heads off to talk to the police.
At a party, Aubry Taylor (Caitlin Gerard), gets into a fight with another woman and is left beaten and bloodied as her boyfriend, Carter Nix (Elvis Nolasco) runs to her aid and calls for help. Carter takes Aubry to their rundown apartment and gives her a bath, treating her wounds. They then fight as they look for drugs, and she asks why he let the other women attack her. Carter comforts her and she says she is going to do better.
Gwen Skokie, whose husband was killed, is in the hospital, unconscious, as her parents, Tom and Eve Carlin (W. Earl Brown and Penelope Ann Miller), meet with Russ and Barb. Barb says that a reporter wants to do a story about them and the home invasion. She thinks it’s a good idea to let people know who their children were and keep the story present. But the Carlins aren’t comfortable with talking about their daughter “being violated.”
Hector brings the stolen goods he bought with Skokie’s credit card to a drug dealer to get cash. Hector then goes to Alonzo’s garage and picks up a car from Tony and drives off. During the daytime, Tony is pulled over while taking a car that he has been working on at his father’s shop for a test drive. Other officers arrive and say they want to talk to Tony. He is taken to the police station and interviewed by the detective investigating the home invasion. He asks if anyone else has driven the car, and inquires about where Tony was Sunday night.
Russ and Barb tell a reporter about their son and daughter-in-law. Russ served in the military, enlisting after 9/11 and married his high school sweetheart, a beauty queen. They were a “perfect couple,” Barb says. She also says her other son, Mark, is also serving in the military. Barb says the police are looking for an “illegal or something” and that it figures that her son went to another country to fight and then came home to America to be killed by someone from another country. Russ is upset about the way Barb talked about their family, but Barb says he has no right to be upset because he gambled away all their money, sending her and the boys to public housing.
Carter is seen going to find a gun, which he pulls out of a pipe where it had been hidden. We return to the police station, where Alonzo meets Tony and the detective. Alonzo says Tony wasn’t home Sunday night, and was at the garage. The detective tells Alonzo he needs Tony to tell the truth. After being grilled by his father, Tony admits that it was their car that became a person of interest in the home invasion. As we learned earlier, Tony had given the car to Hector, and he tells his father that he did it to make some money.
Carter goes to buy drugs, but doesn’t have the money to buy them. He pulls out the gun and begins beating the dealer, stealing the drugs, which he takes back to his apartment to share with his girlfriend, Eve.
At the police station, Tony tells the detective that he has been renting the car. He says a man who knows his friend, Adam, came by to rent it for $50. The man was, as the detective says, “a gangster.” Tony says the man has rented the car from him multiple times. Tony gives the detective the number the man had been texting him from.
Hector is at a store, where he tries to use the Skokie credit card again. He gets nervous as the store’s computer doesn’t work and leaves. As he does, police cars show up and Hector begins to run. As he is running away, the officers jump out and shoot Hector once, from behind. He is taken into surgery, and it turns out he was shot in the leg and survived. The detective comes to the hospital and tells Hector that they have a witness who can place him in a car that was spotted at the scene of a homicide and that he was found in possession of the victim’s wallet and credit card. Hector says “I didn’t kill nobody.” But he won’t say who did.
After the cop presses him, Hector says a “black dude” came to him looking for a ride. He says the guy, a meth head, wanted to settle a score for him and his girlfriend, with a white man. He says he wouldn’t take the meth head anywhere, but that the man ran off and came back with the wallet and credit cards. Hector says to the police, “you know why you shot me? Because you don’t give a damn about me.”
A SWAT team breaks down the door at Carter’s apartment, arresting him and Eve. At the police station, Tony is arrested for murder, and is dragged off screaming as his father yells at the officers. Eve is at the hospital, having the injuries from the earlier beating looked at. She’s chained to the bed and the detective asks her to cooperate, and questions if Carter caused her wounds. The detective tells Russ and Barb that they have four people in custody. Barb goes to the police station to see the man accused of killing her son, Carter, who is taken past her in handcuffs.
Another detective talks to Russ, about whether his son was hiding things from him or involved in drugs. Russ says he would know if his son was using drugs. The detectives say they found drugs, including meth and marijuana, packaged to sell at Matt’s house. Russ is shocked as the detective asks “would your son have told you if he was a drug dealer?”
The second episode of American Crime airs next Thursday on ABC at 10 p.m. Eastern.