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Impeachment: American Crime Story has been watchable, sympathetic and safe

  • With its focus on Monica Lewinsky, the third season of American Crime Story is "throwing its narrative power behind one character," says Daniel D'Addario. "A show that has, in the past, had a roving curiosity seems now tightly focused on a single perspective. Which means that in Impeachment, we’re only getting part of the story." Part of the problem is that Ryan Murphy went into Impeachment saying to Lewinsky, who boarded the show as an executive producer: “Nobody should tell your story but you.” "The show that has resulted from her partnership is her story by her, for better and worse," says D'Addario. "Like the installments of this franchise about the O.J. Simpson trial and about the killing of Gianni Versace, this American Crime Story took a bit of semi-recent history and sought to convert it into drama. But while the Simpson case provided endless refractions through the lenses of race, gender, and celebrity, and while the Versace story put forward often-uncomfortable provocations about gay life, this season has demanded plaudits for telling a version of the Clinton story that’s actually become conventional wisdom." The focus on Lewinsky at the expense of characters like Linda Tripp and Bill Clinton has hindered Impeachment. "The show’s imaginative palette is generously applied to Lewinsky, and the series allows for shading and nuance of her experience that it rarely grants anyone else," says D'Addario, adding: "But consider what other angles on the story are left hanging. The show’s perspective on Tripp seems so fixed that it’s perhaps futile to bother wondering what might have been had the writers been really curious about what besides rage made her flip. Moving on, then, one wonders about the person who’s actually being tried for the crime on this Crime Story. On the show’s margins, Clive Owen is quietly delivering the best performance on Impeachment, simmering with rage that his rectitude would ever be questioned and alienated from the things he’s done, said, and felt. He believes himself innocent, even as some part of him knows this cannot be. In a performance granted only a nibble of screen time (and buried beneath unfortunate prosthetics), Owen conjures something that feels genuinely new: A map of the gnarled, self-justifying internal logic of a man who uses women. This is a performance that might, in another context, have lent painful and wrenching complexity to Impeachment, and have raised real and difficult questions: How should society, now, deal with a former President who seems constitutionally incapable of admitting he was wrong?"

    TOPICS: Impeachment: American Crime Story, FX, Beanie Feldstein, Clive Owen, Monica Lewinsky, Sarah Paulson