Azra continues her review of the TV show American Crime. Read her earlier review here. (Spoiler alerts ahead!)
American Crime settled into a more police-procedural tone last week, as Carter attended his bail hearing. We get to know more about Aliyah this episode, as she devotes herself to helping her brother. They continue their strained, racially charged relationship, when she visits him in jail along with an attorney. She still insists he change his behavior and try to get his life back on track and stay away from Aubry. The show’s reflection on appearances was a recurring theme throughout the episode. (The mother of the deceased son, Barb, also received advice on what to wear at the hearing: a dress, not in a cool color, to avoid appearing distant and cold to the audience).
The show spends more time introducing us to Aliyah, after her too brief scene with Carter in the last episode. We see Aliyah early in the episode in an entirely blank room as she stares at herself in a mirror and wears her hijab. This moment was profound, as it revealed Aliyah’s donning of the hijab by herself, not with a husband or family member in sight (rare occurrence! as the other characters have more complex family dynamics than Carter and Aliyah at the moment). On film, it’s rare to see Muslim women actually wearing the hijab—it’s usually just on. That she chose what to wear for herself, without any input from anyone else in that sparse room portrayed her commitment to living her life as she sees fit for herself.
While she’s alone in that quiet scene early on, her hijab doesn’t go without being commented upon by the end of the episode. After Carter’s successful bail hearing, Barb, in her frustration at seeing Carter released on bail, mumbles on about “those women in their headscarves” talking about the deceased son’s drug habits before loudly confronting Aliyah and her friends at the court. Aliyah silently glares after her, as Barb is led away by her ex-husband and other son.
We also see Aliyah attend a temple service twice during this episode. The first one is early on, where she is listening to a sermon in a church like setting, with two rows of pews, men on one side and women on another. In the other scene, Aliyah is the one standing at the podium, talking about society’s inclination towards materialism, consumption, and never-ending wants. That she used to live that way before she chose to “dedicate herself to others.” “I’m grateful for my freedom and want freedom for all of us,” she says.
It was surprising for me to see Aliyah’s place of worship in the temple setting, which I’m unfamiliar with. For me, a masjid space has always been a large carpeted space absent of orderly seating. Aliyah speaks of faith using language that can be easily understood by those who might be unfamiliar with Islam, or religion in general. The fact that there were pews, shows the congregation’s relationship with Christianity—as church pews are a sight that many viewers would be familiar with. I’m curious to see if there will be additional scenes at the temple.
Aliyah is still a bit of a mystery. We can see her dedication to her brother, and to her faith, and yet it’s still a bit unclear to what end.
There is an ugly moment where Aliyah meets the prosecutor to discuss the case against her brother where she asks him what kind of name he has (implying that he is Jewish). It’s unexpected, and uncalled for given her conversation with her brother about having pride and dignity in how one presents themselves. I hope we learn more about her as the show moves forward to life on bail.
This Thursday on American Crime, Carter ignores Aliyah’s advice to stay away from Aubrey:
American Crime airs on ABC on Thursday nights at 9PM CST. Some episodes can be seen online at the ABC website.