FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 2: “The Run of His Life”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
* For a review of the premiere, “From the Ashes of Tragedy” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Dream Team” – click here
After an excellent premiere episode, American Crime Story‘s first season continues with “The Run of His Life” (also the title of the book this series is purportedly based on). Last we left O.J. Simpsons (Cuba Gooding Jr), he was finally in the infamous white Bronco heading out onto the Los Angeles freeway, running instead of surrendering to the police. Also, he’s got a gun.
This episode starts on Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) who prays for his dear friend O.J. Then downstairs, there’s Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) trying to talk things down with Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood). Gil, for his part, is pretty damn upset. As is expected. Everyone’s up in the air now with O.J. on the road. Shapiro and Kardashian meet in a darkened room, as the latter gives the lawyer O.J’s supposed suicide note: “Who the hell signs a suicide note with a happy face?” laments Shapiro.
The news is already spreading that Simpson is on the run. Garcetti claims it’s worse than when he received his cancer diagnosis. Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is adamant the Juice “can‘t hide forever – everyone knows his face“. Meanwhile, Detectives Van Atter (Michael McGrady) and Lange (Chris Bauer) are loaded down with tips, everything from O.J. being with Magic Johnson to even crazier mentions. And at the grave of Nicole Brown, people come to lay all sorts of presents, flowers, anything at her tombstone.
Up alongside the cemetery lane appears the white Bronco, slow, skulking. It drives away after a moment.
Garcetti gives a press conference to make clear that O.J. is a fugitive. We get a glimpse into Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) and his office watching the news coverage, some claiming “they‘re just trying to tear down another black man“. At home, Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) rushes in to watch the conference. There are stakes at play here, for so many. Shapiro is worried for his reputation. Some of Cochran’s team are upset at the racial angle.
But Shapiro gets ahead of the tidal wave. He holds his own conference, exclaiming how he is a man of his word. Cochran watches on at the office and tells his colleagues to never abandon a client, as Shapiro does on live television. We get to see two different sides of the law and justice here with both Cochran and Shapiro being a fairly strong juxtaposition against one another.
Kardashian reads the statement for O.J’s fans, and at the same time the Kardashian name rockets to fame. We get little flicks back and forth to the Kardashian house, where a young Kim and her siblings sit around watching their father. Nice little moment, even though I couldn’t care any less about their family. Still, pop culture and all.
Two people in a VW van spot a white Bronco on the freeway. Inside is not Simpson, however, but Al Cowlings (Malcolm-Jamal Warner). Police fly out after the vehicle, guns drawn and approaching. O.J. is in the backseat, not at the wheel. A tense situation occurs before Cowlings speeds off. One of the cops ask if they ought to shoot, but the other office replies: “I‘m not shooting at O.J. Simpson unless somebody authorizes it.”
The people around Simpson are crumbling, almost as bad as him. Kardashian sits in his car before going back into O.J.’s place, where friends and family wait, and screams into the steering wheel. He tells everyone about how upset O.J. was before running off, and that now they “have reason to believe he has killed himself“. But then on the television up pops the white Bronco. Live coverage follows Cowlings driving, reporting that Simpson is in the back with a gun to his head. Relief? A little. Not much, though.
White Bronco-mania is raging. Every station on television, even the ones with sports ongoing, are all focused on the Simpson situation. Channel to channel the television is blocked. I like that actual footage from those moments is being used, not solely the recreated filming Murphy & Co. did. Because it adds more authenticity among all the factual stuff that’s stretched out a bit here and there.
Inside the Bronco, Cowlings tries to talk O.J. down. Simpson is out of his mind, keeping the barrel of the gun stuck against his forehead. Al assures his friend he’ll do what’s necessary, but things are still scary.
As for the people in media, the NBA finals gets switched quickly for O.J. coverage. We see a live reaction at a bar, as people go from mad to enthralled after the game is changed. Every eye is captivated with Simpson and his debacle. Not Marcia Clark, though. She just wants to sink her teeth into the legal justice against Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman’s killer. Most everyone in her office is glued to the television, and the look on her face speaks volumes.
From the Bronco comes a call to Kardashian. His friend O.J. just called to say “I love you, Bobby“. There’s an incredible emotion in Cuba Gooding Jr’s performance. He captures the human element of the man, behind everything else from the news coverage, to the media slant, to everyone and their personal opinions on him. Gooding draws out our empathy, essentially saying goodbye to Rob, to everyone else through his friend. It is an intense moment to watch and hear. Gooding is an amazing actor and it’s a shame he hasn’t done more great stuff since winning his Oscar. This is definitely his best role since then.
Cochran walks into a newsroom where he sees two men compiling a R.I.P segment for Simpson. Trying to “stay ahead of the news“, as they say. But Cochran is disgusted, clearly. He goes on air to talk about the way police mishandle things, as well as how O.J. isn’t used to being arrested, he is a larger than life personality, and so perhaps he’s scared, nervous, “fragile” even. Now, out comes the racial angle with Johnnie putting it out there about a black man who was gunned down years ago by police, comparing that situation to O.J: “His only crime was the colour of his skin.”
Finally, Dt. Lange gets O.J. on the phone. Simpson is actually apologetic, saying he didn’t want to get everyone out on the run, acknowledging they work hard, have lives, families and so on. Lange attempts to get O.J. to toss the gun, but Simpson relies: “I deserve to get hurt.”
Cut to the Darden family gathering where Christopher talks with others about O.J. They seem to have rosy-coloured glasses on about Simpson, due to his football skills. Although, Christopher manages to keep his head on straight and offers rebuttal to their cheers for Juice. The neighbourhoods of Los Angeles are alive, many people out by the freeway cheering on Simpson in the Bronco, shouting “Go O.J! Go O.J!” over and over. None of this comforts the man himself, who weeps in the backseat as Cowlings keeps driving full speed.
Back at the house in Brentwood, the Bronco pulls in. He won’t exit the vehicle, no matter what. He sits in the backseat with the gun in his hand, crying harder now. His son runs out the vehicle, but is thrown back by police. Everything goes dark. Cochran watches on at the office and says “They don’t want us to see“. Clearly is afraid of a deadly end to the situation. With O.J. one step away from blowing his brains out, Kardashian calls his friend outside.
Once everything is settled, the gun is left inside the Bronco, O.J. gets out. He is clearly scared, but we still can’t tell: is it fear of guilt, or fear of the situation mounting against him? Very difficult to understand, which is why I love the performance Gooding Jr gives in this series so far.
Then a cop spots a gun – or so he says. Kardashian runs to tell them “They‘re pictures! They‘re pictures of his kids!” and you can feel a thick tension hanging in the air, almost like they were about to blow him away and be done with it all. Would have been a far different story, that’s for sure. Inside the house, the police stand guard with their guns, Rob gets his friend a phone to talk with his mother, and O.J. asks for a glass of – you guessed it – orange juice. I thought that was a great little moment.
Many people have their ideas of what’s happening now. The people at the Darden place think he was framed, all but Christopher. Marcia smokes happily and says: “We‘re taking him to trial.” And then the police finally take Simpson into custody, as he rides in the back of the squad car, lights flashing behind him and a steady, grim look in his eyes. But again, grim for what reason? Did he do it? Or is he falling apart because he is an innocent man?
The next episode is titled “The Dream Team” and will clearly start focusing on the trial about to start, with Clark, Darden, Cochran and others coming to play a bigger role. We’ll see what happens together. Excited for more. Love when true events are made into impressive series’ or films because we get a look inside the inner workings. Yes, dramatized, but for good reason. It was a highly emotional and dramatic situation, this particular case. Look forward to see what Murphy & Co. have in store for us going forward.