“Impeachment:” An interesting, overcomplicated story

The latest “American Crime Story” season falls short of high expectations



For the current generation of St. John’s students, the Bill Clinton presidency and its scandals are stories made known to us through crude Monica Lewinsky jokes and outdated pop culture references. We know the iconic statement, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” as well as the fact that Clinton did, in fact, have sexual relations with that woman. However, do you know Linda Tripp? Ken Starr? What about Paula Jones?

These questions reveal the potential for “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” the latest season of the true crime anthology series on FX. The series’ first season, “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” was a massive success in 2016 due in part to its portrayal of such an iconic moment in recent history. “Impeachment” takes a similar approach, but does so more from the perspective of victims rather than the more-famous perpetrators, with Lewinsky herself even signing on as a producer. While the 10-episode series boasts an intriguing story with standout performances, it falls flat by trying to do too much at once.

Lewinsky is the clear lead role in this season, played by Beanie Feldstein. Coming off of two impressive film roles in “Lady Bird” and “Booksmart,” Felstein continues her success in “Impeachment.” Portraying a former White House intern who endures betrayal, embarrassment and ridicule, her emotional scenes carry much of the season’s second half. As the general public often paints a terrible image of Lewinsky, this series does much to show her personal struggles throughout the saga without pretending she is entirely innocent in the matter.

Sarah Paulson plays Linda Tripp, a name rarely brought up in the retelling of the scandal, though I argue she is one of the show’s biggest villains. The viewer finds themselves despising Tripp, largely resulting from Paulson’s masterful depiction of the self-centered, paranoid government employee. She turns in fantastic performances each episode, cultivating in her strongest episode: the season finale. Overall, it is a wonder that Tripp is so easily forgotten in the scandal’s general history while playing such a vital role.

Outside of the two aforementioned roles, everyone else is a clear side character with their own memorable moments. Viewers finish the series wishing they could see more of Edie Falco’s Hillary Clinton, who is very reminiscent of Falco’s Carmela from “The Sopranos.” Meanwhile, Clive Owen plays a dry, forgettable Bill Clinton that hurts much of the show’s emotional impact. Even as a show centered on Lewinsky’s side of the story, “Impeachment” is terribly brought down by the lack of a strong performance from its main antagonist.

The series’ largest downfall comes in its failure to establish a clear, linear plot. Spanning much of Clinton’s presidency, the mental hurdles involved with establishing a timeline become a headache for the viewer. This becomes even more convoluted when separate plotlines involving Paula Jones, Vince Foster, and Ann Coulter are each scattered in, taking away from the show’s focus on Lewinsky. While each contributes to a narrative on the Clinton administration, the interruptions to the show’s main plot are detrimental to the audience’s perception of “Impeachment.”

If you have seen previous iterations of “American Crime Story” or appreciate historical narratives, you will likely enjoy this new season due to the importance of the subject matter. However, one should not watch “Impeachment” expecting similar quality to “The People v. O.J. Simpson.”

“Impeachment: American Crime Story” is now streaming for FX subscribers through FXNow. For those without FX, the new season will be available on Netflix sometime in 2022. 

In the meantime, previous show seasons “The People v. O.J. Simpson” as well as “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” are available to stream on Netflix.