‘American Rust’ Season 1 Recap & Ending Explained: Will Del Harris Be Exposed In Season 2?


Created by Dan Futterman, American Rust makes us privy to the dwellers of a small city in Missouri called Buell and how certain incidents caused a furor in the lives of a few people who lived there. The slow-burn suspense drama is based on a novel written by Phillip Meyer. Del Harris, the sheriff, was a well-respected man, but his personal biases got in the way of his duty, and he ended up making some decisions that had certain detrimental consequences. Del Harris used his position of power to hide the truth, but soon things got out of hand. So, let’s find out what exactly happened in the series and if Del Harris is able to conceal his crimes and maintain his reputation.

Spoiler Alert

Who killed Pete Novik?

Pete Novik was a corrupt officer, and it was not a hidden fact that he was a drug addict. Del Harris protected him for a long time, but certain things happened that made the former take strict action against him and discharge him from service. It was not a hidden fact that Harris was biased towards Billy, as he was the son of the woman Harris loved. We saw at the beginning of American Rust that whenever Billy landed in trouble, Del Harris used the power vested in him to save the boy. Billy was not a bad man, and though he had gotten into trouble in the past, he knew that he would come out of it and do something with his life. There were not a lot of people with whom Billy talked, but he had a lot of gratitude for the people who had been there for him in times of crisis. Isaac was one such person with whom Billy felt really close. Isaac was attracted to Billy, but the latter didn’t reciprocate those feelings. Billy had a relationship with Lee English, Isaac’s sister, back in the day, but it ended when the latter moved out of Buell.

Lee got married to a guy named Alejandro, but still, somewhere inside her, she had feelings for Billy. One day, Lee got a call from her father, and he asked her to come and visit him. Isaac had gone missing, and nobody had any clue where he went all of a sudden. Billy knew all about it, but he decided that it was in the best interest of everybody that he didn’t reveal the reality. Billy blamed himself for what had happened, and he carried a lot of guilt inside him. Isaac one day saw Pete Novik entering an abandoned steel factory. Billy held a lot of grudges against the man, and he blamed him for what had happened to him back in the day. Billy was on probation, and soon, he was going to get a clean chit from the law enforcement authorities, but he just couldn’t resist the impulse. He went after Pete and found that he was buying drugs from a dealer named Bobby Jesus. Billy entered into a fight with those men, and there came a time when it felt like Pete was going to kill Billy. But Isaac came at the right time and gave a fatal blow to Pete on his head. Billy asked Isaac after that to run away from the town and start afresh in a new city. Del Harris had come to know that Billy had something to do with the murder of Pete Novik when he found his jacket lying at the crime spot. Del Harris not only took that jacket before the police arrived but also told Billy to dispose of his shoes and buy a shoe that was a size bigger. Del Harris was an experienced campaigner, and he knew that sooner or later, the police would connect the dots and find out about Billy. That’s why he wanted to create an alternative and more compelling narrative so that he could save Billy from getting convicted. 

Why wasn’t Billy saving himself? 

Lee came back to Buell, and she couldn’t stop herself from once again getting intimate with Billy. She knew that she was doing wrong all along, but she just couldn’t stop herself. Billy felt guilty every time he saw Lee, as the poor woman had no clue where her brother had gone, and she had a lot of sleepless nights thinking about what would have happened to him. There came a time in American Rust when Billy mustered up the courage and decided to tell Lee whatever happened in that steel factory. Lee was disappointed in Billy, and she told him how utterly wrong she was about harboring delusions about starting a new life with him. Billy told her that no matter what happened, he wouldn’t tell the police about Isaac’s involvement. As Del Harris had expected, Billy was put behind bars on suspicion of being involved in the Pete Novik murder. Billy, for the longest time, didn’t cooperate with his own lawyer, as defending himself meant incriminating Isaac in some way. Del Harris was trying his level best to save the boy, but he told Grace that if her son wouldn’t help his own cause, then they wouldn’t have a lot of options left. Grace tried to convince Billy, and for a brief period, he agreed with her and started cooperating with Rachel, his lawyer. But then, one day, Rachel came to meet Billy with Lee, and that’s when Billy’s stance changed once again. Till the very end, Billy didn’t speak a word to the authorities, and before his trial could take place, he was brutally thrashed by the inmates, who held a grudge against him for a very long time. At the end of American Rust season 1, Billy went into a state of coma, and the doctors couldn’t tell for sure if he would regain consciousness ever again. 

Was Del Harris able to save Billy Poe? 

Del Harris tracked down Bobby Jesus, and he made up his mind to kill both Jackson and Jesus. Del Harris went and met Jackson, and he told him about his plans for cleaning his city and pinning down all the drug dealers who were ruining the lives of people. Del threw the bait, and Jackson walked right into it. Harris knew that Jackson would fall for him, and he would get an opportunity to shoot them dead. Harris went to Bobby’s house, and as planned, he shot him. Jackson’s cousin, who owned the cabin, also came in between the fights with a rifle, and inevitably, Harris had to shoot her, too. Harris disposed of all the evidence and calendar before leaving so that he didn’t leave any prints behind. Harris also got shot in the left arm, but he managed to drive home safely. Grace was waiting for him, and she was elated to know that the plan was a success. She knew that now, finally, her son would be free, as the police would think that it was Bobby and Jackson who were behind Pete’s murder. Grace had no clue that Billy was altogether on a different tangent, and he had accepted his fate because he not only wanted to save Isaac and also because didn’t want to disappoint Lee.

At the end of American Rust, Virgil Poe, Billy’s father, figured out that their house hadn’t caught fire by accident. He went to the tool shed, and realized that it was Grace who had used kerosene oil to burn the house down. Virgil went and told this to Harris, but somewhere, he also knew that Del Harris wasn’t going to do anything about it because he was blinded by his affection for the woman.

Will Del Harris be exposed in season 2? 

Season 1 of American Rust ended on a cliffhanger, and there is a possibility that Harris’s entire plan will be exposed in the future. Firstly, Harris had come under the radar of the authorities after Chuck took his own life after killing the man he’d been investigating for a very long time. There was a code of brotherhood that policemen in Pittsburgh followed. If they were not able to find evidence against a person they knew, in all probability, was guilty, then they carried out extra-judicial killings and created a false narrative to save themselves from any sort of legal ramifications. Chuck had killed a man for Harris back in the day, and now he wanted him to return the favor. Harris didn’t want to be a part of it, and so he stalled Chuck’s calls for days. But then Chuck came to meet him and took him to the place where his target worked. When Harris told him that he wouldn’t be able to return the favor, Chuck went and shot the guy and then took his own life.

The investigators had come to talk to Harris, and in American Rust season 2, they would probably find some evidence against him. The murders of Bobby and Jackson were still being investigated, and it is possible that Sue Herlitz connected the dots and found out about what had actually happened that night. Harris made sure that he did not leave any evidence at the crime scene, but still, it could be possible that he left some loose ends. Harris was talking to the investigators and telling them that he hadn’t met Chuck for a long time when suddenly he saw somebody familiar walking inside the police station. Isaac had decided to come back and confess to his crimes. Had Isaac come back a day earlier, he probably would have decided to go ahead with his plan. But Isaac arrived the day when his father took his own life, probably because he felt that he had become a burden for his children, and moreover, he didn’t have any purpose left to live. Harris panicked when he saw Isaac, and he asked him to immediately hide the murder weapon that Isaac carried with him. Harris knew that if Isaac confessed, then all the efforts he had made until then would become useless. Steve Park had realized that Harris was behind the murders of Bobby Jesus and Jackson, as he had found out that there were things missing from the armory.

It could be possible that in American Rust season 2, Steve would decide to expose his senior, though it would be an extremely difficult decision for him, considering he had a lot of respect for Harris. Harris is indeed troubled, and it would be interesting to find out if he is able to turn the odds in his favor or if his crimes get exposed. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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