The highly anticipated season 3 of American Crime Story follows the events of Bill Clinton’s impeachment, though the series is receiving mixed reviews from critics. Similar to American Crime Story’s past two installments, Impeachment tells the story of a controversial, highly publicized political and cultural event in recent American history, culminating in the first U.S. presidential impeachment in over a century. Impeachment follows White House intern Monica Lewinsky, whose secret sexual relationship with Clinton became a public scandal after information was leaked by a coworker, along with the women who were key players in the lead-up to Clinton’s notorious impeachment trial.
Season 1 of American Crime Story documented another of the United States’ most controversial cultural happenings in recent years, exploring the murder case of O.J. Simpson from 1994-1995. The People vs. O.J. Simpson was wildly popular, receiving typically positive reviews and a score of 97% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. American Crime Story season 2, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, had much more mixed reviews than season 1, though still generally fared well with critics, earning a score of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Although fans have been eager for Impeachment to be released, especially after two recent real-life impeachments under Donald Trump, critics aren’t in total agreement on whether the series accomplished what it set out to achieve or what its real purpose was, though both sides support the series’ primary perspective from the women involved rather than the men. Here’s what positive reviews are saying about ACS: Impeachment:
“The execution is compelling, from the sickening slow roll of Clinton’s pursuit of Lewinsky to the eventual public frenzy over Clinton’s lies and Lewinsky’s stained blue dress.”
“This is a propulsive, incredibly watchable show, not really pulling the curtain back on a story you already know but turning that story into high drama, filled with fantastic performances.”
“Though Impeachment is not as emotionally resonant as the previous ACS installments, The People v. OJ Simpson and The Assassination of Gianni Versace, it’s a gripping and challenging retelling of a presidential scandal — and our nation’s moral failure.”
“There are many reasons that make Ryan Murphy’s 10-episode “Impeachment: American Crime Story” essential viewing… the FX anthology series is gossipy, gripping, cunning, cruel, harshly hilarious and shockingly heartbreaking—sometimes all at the same time.”
The critics who received Impeachment positively are championing it for portraying the women as flawed human beings, not simply heroes or villains that need to be redeemed, as well as portraying the rampant sexism surrounding the trial that targeted the women as jokes far more than Clinton. Additionally, they agree on the vivid performances, especially those of Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky and Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp. Although some call American Crime Story: Impeachment “essential viewing,” others felt the series fell flat with momentum and was uneven in its underlying focus, while also not adding anything substantial to the story like ACS‘s previous installments had. Here’s what critics had to say about Impeachment’s shortcomings:
“Impeachment can’t seem to decide whether it’s unearthing the humanity of a presidential scandal or indulging the mythology of its media circus, but Beanie Feldstein and Sarah Paulson’s performances ring true in the midst of all the noise.“
“Unfortunately, the wink at the original American Crime Story season only underscores all the things People v. O.J. got right that Impeachment gets wrong, by offering a shallow, Wikipedia-style synopsis of history with precious little insight into what happened, and why.”
“It struggles to locate a larger point worthy of the time it takes to convey it. For a star-studded drama about an explosive historical moment, Impeachment feels oddly static.”
“Unfortunately, compared with the first two installments, “Impeachment” is a featherweight, lacking its predecessors’ urgency, gravitas and perspective.“
With a story still fresh in the American cultural conscience, audiences will have to choose which side of critics they agree with for Impeachment’s treatment of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. At the same time, FX only gave press and critics 7 of the season’s 10 episodes, so the reviews aren’t indicative of the way in which the show culminates. Whether or not American Crime Story: Impeachment added a new perspective on Monica Lewinsky’s story, gave stellar performances of real-life people, or was a gripping narrative of America’s sexism and morals will continue to be up for debate, especially among those who lived through the events in real-time.