Graham Norton once said: "Along with great fame comes great fandom, and along with great fandom come weirdos."
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 10: “The Verdict”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
* For a review of the previous episode, “Manna From Heaven” – click here
Finally, the last episode of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson has arrived!
We begin as O.J. (Cuba Gooding Jr) gets dressed for the big day. Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) advises him how they’ll proceed from here. In court, Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) is faced with letting O.J. address the court. Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is not happy with that, believing the defense is trying to get facts to the jury improperly. Everybody watches on, as O.J. speaks awhile. Until Marcia shuts that shit down.
In the defense camp, death threats are rolling in for Johnnie – twenty and counting. He’s not concerned, though. Too busy rehearsing and writing his famous “if the glove doesn‘t fit you must acquit” speech that, as we all know now, was so Cochran-like. He love rhymes and alliteration, he had an almost theatrical quality.
Over in court, Marcia’s doing the best she can to convince the jury, one last time, that her sides is the right side. She pleads that the testimony concerning Dt. Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) not poison the well entirely. With her in court she has a nice board made up stating its UNREFUTED EVIDENCE that Simpson is the murderer. The jury is swayed, back and forth. Clearly many of them, especially the African-American citizens, are on the side of Cochran and Simpson. But Marcia makes a good case. She does, indeed. As much as Johnnie can talk the talk, Marcia can, too. She can walk that walk, as well.
More of Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown), also pleading their case for the jury. He is another man whose passionate and plain way of speaking is an evident advantage as a prosecutor. But it’s the whole racial angle around the trial that’s interesting when considering Darden. He was faced with being a supposed Uncle Tom-like figure, when he was simply there on the side of justice: “This case is not about the N–word. It is about O.J. Simpson and the M word: murder.” Darden brings up many great points about Nicole Brown and her relationship with Simpson; his jealous, his anger towards her, the previous domestic abuse and the fact she filled up a safe deposit box with pictures of her injuries from those incidents, and so on.
Johnnie proceeds to stand on the high horse about domestic abuse. Ironic? Well, he moves on and gets loose, he orates like a man onstage reading Hamlet. Moreover, he again uses this as a chance to slag on the LAPD. He’s not only trying to get O.J. off, he wants to use this as a soapbox for the things he already fights against. He pops off the infamous glove line, then finishes up, the whole place hushed.
So now, they wait.
F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) is off to Laguna Beach, Johnnie has a flight to catch. Then Bob Shapiro (John Travolta) rambles about Oscar De La Hoya, and everyone leaves him all alone, almost without a word. They’re done with him and his bullshit, I suppose. Who wouldn’t be?
The jury starts to deliberate. Not Guilty keeps coming out, over and over. Out of the whole lot only two jurors claimed O.J. as Guilty. More of the black v. white stuff happening. Also there’s plenty of doubts about the trial itself, the weird things going on. But some of the Africa-American jurors are unwilling to budge, particularly because of racist Fuhrman and his absolutely despicable testimony.
Everyone’s surprised by the mere four hours the jury deliberated. Everyone’s worried, too. Naturally. Because it isn’t clear, at all, at any point what’s been about to happen in the trial. Meanwhile, Shapiro and Cochran are at each other’s throats again, as the latter has involved Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam in their protection because of the volatile nature of the trial and its surroundings. For their part, Marcia and Chris try keeping a positive spirit, hoping the quick deliberation means the best for the prosecution.
In jail, Simpson preps for the “big day” – “biggest,” as he says. Even signs a ball for one of the guard’s kids. The guard also seems to give up a bit of good news from a friend guarding the jurors. Uh oh.
Everyone sits, waiting, hearts in every throat, pulse throbbing. Every single person looks stressed, both figuratively and literally on the edge of their seats. The verdict is handed over. Time slows down from O.J’s perspective. Each person watches the verdict pass over to the jury from the bailiff. Everything is by the book. This sequence is super tense, very well filmed and written, so as to draw things out. Even while knowing the verdict already it is still thrilling. The editing even cuts things to a higher level of intensity, too.
When the verdict is read out loud, everyone reacts in amazingly different ways. The racial tension is completely obvious. The editing cuts back and forth between jurors, family members, friends, the streets. An impressive little montage of edits within this scene that made the impact even more weighty. When one of the jurors holds up the Black Panther sign it comes as a whopper to both O.J. and Marcia; especially the former, who finally sees it wasn’t his supposed innocence that got him off, it was the fact he’s black. Therefore, nothing will change, people – some of them – will still see him as a cold-blooded murderer.
In the bathroom, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) loses his lunch, clearly doubting his old dear friend’s guilt. So many reactions that it’s just a gumbo of different opinion all over the place. But even those closest to Simpson have their doubts. Hell, Shapiro was never sure to begin with, so it’s not surprising.
The fallout of the trial is different for everyone, as well. Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) feels his career will be defined by their loss. Marcia says she’s “ashamed” of herself. Darden wants nothing to do with going out and facing the press. But they stick together. Gil even compliments lark on her class, for not stooping to the level of the press, nor that of the defense and their tactics. Obviously, though, she feels the weight of the decision against her. Amazing acting in this scene, Sarah Paulson gives us more of her excellent portrayal of Marcia Clark; some of the highlights of the series as a whole in this first season.
Many are devastated by the jury’s decision. The Goldmans, The Browns, Garcetti and his entire team, many in the community. They can only pick up the pieces and move on from there, learn from their mistakes and errors in judgements. Clark and Darden do their best to give a press conference, under all the emotion they suffer. Another emotionally charged moment out of this great finale. Then from the crowd someone asks: “Gil – you gonna look for the real killer now?” Whoa. That is a big one, and it hits Garcetti off guard.
On the streets people celebrate. But so many, like The Goldmans, are left wondering how to move on. How can they reconcile what they feel they know deep in their hearts with the verdict? And after so much madness throughout the course of the trial.
Very interesting is the meeting between Cochran and Darden. The faith Chris has in the law doesn’t waiver, yet he has no faith in the theatrics of Cochran and his tactics. But Johnnie is able to sleep at night knowing he’s slightly changed things. When he sees President Bill Clinton on the news talking about the LAPD, the black experience, he knows things may shift. If only he were still alive today, he’d know nothing ever fully changes. Not when it’s embedded like racism.
Darden: “This isn‘t some civil rights milestone. Police in this country will keep arresting us, keep beating us, keep killing us. You haven‘t changed anything for black people here. Unless, of course, you‘re a famous, rich one in Brentwood.”
Marcia and Chris lick their wounds together. Neither of them is totally sure how to process what’s happened, even if it’s something they understand, how it came about, what went on during the trial. We get some insight into Clark, though. She reveals to Darden her rape, years ago, in Italy at the hands of a waiter. She tells him how there’s a “thing” in her seeking “vengeance for victims“, and that is her idea of justice, to get the justice those victims deserve, that they need. Although, the Simpson trial is really shaking her to the core, her beliefs wavering in the face of such injustice for Nicole’s murder after all the domestic abuse, the fighting, et cetera. Sad to see a strong person like Clark beaten down by a major case.
Simultaneously, O.J. gets out of jail. Funny enough, the only person waiting is Kardashian. He can’t even hide his feelings, almost weeping right there. But they head home, bringing Simpson back to his place in Brentwood. Big party, a “rager” is about to happen ’cause O.J. wants to get down. Only the reception is not what he’d expected. People in his upper class neighbourhood aren’t happy. So he’s experiencing the many-edged sword of race. The predominantly white neighbourhood of Brentwood isn’t exactly impressed with the verdict, not like the reactions in the inner city.
There’s a neat juxtaposition of things at the end here in this finale. We inally see O.J. back at home – the first time we’ve really seen him free the entire series. But he is alone. He cries to himself. Even he doesn’t know exactly how to go on after everything.
At his party afterwards things are even more telling. The only person on his defense team that’s present is Kardashian, who doesn’t even stay too long. A moment with a waiter is also pretty interesting, revealing more racial undertones to every relationship which O.J. engages in. Also, his last look with Kardashian is extremely heavy, as Simpson can tell his good friend no longer has faith; at least in him ,anyways.
In the backyard, O.J. stares up at his statue, long and hard. A larger than life figure, both him and the statue. In his head are the sounds of his old days on the field, the crowd roaring. How far he has fallen.
An impressive series that I loved, start to finish. I look forward to seeing what they’ll do for next season, which is rumoured to be centered on Hurricane Katrina. Also dig the end where they showed everyone with their real life counterpart side-by-side. Lots of great writing, acting, editing, the whole thing was nearly perfect, only a couple rare missteps. I see some awards in this series’ future.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 9: “Manna From Heaven”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
* For a review of the previous episode, “A Jury in Jail” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “The Verdict” – click here
The penultimate episode of American Crime Story has arrived.
We begin with recap of the trial via television. The tapes of Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) are being tracked down. Meanwhile, in court Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) is doing his thing, asking his witness whether someone “sounded black“, which prompts Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) to go off. It gets so heated that Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) calls a recess. Of course, Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is pissed herself because the racial nonsense distracts from anything truthful.
But the defense are jumping all over Fuhrman and the supposed tapes. Bob Shapiro (John Travolta), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) and the rest try to get things in order. “We must get them,” orders Johnnie re: the tapes.
Johnnie: “God brought us these tapes. There‘s something much larger at play here. This, is Manna from Heaven.”
The prosecution are variably worried in their own respects about Fuhrman; Darden more so. Yet Johnnie and his crew are moving along to the beat of their own drum. We’ve got F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) touting his influence in the boardroom, offering to head up the whole Fuhrman angle in North Carolina, where he and Cochran are headed for the tapes and transcripts. And so the two dig in on Fuhrman and his extremely complicated racist background. Unfortunately, the NC judge is not happy to have a flash, proud, strong black man like Johnnie in his court. So, Bailey has to take over. He placates the Southern racists, managing to slip out those tapes and transcripts for their case in California.
Bailey: “Mr. Cochran take a good look where you‘re standing. We‘re in the South. Haven‘t you noticed the scent of mint julep and condescension in the air? Right behind you is a statue of a Confederate soldier holding a rifle. With all due respect, I don‘t know if you play as well in Dixie.”
Back in Los Angeles, Marcia is getting even more worked up, as the tapes make their way further towards their trial. Ito won’t let them in yet, but the teams are allowed to review them. There’s an ominous tone to this episode. All the looming racism of the past connecting with Fuhrman and the ongoing racism, that sadly still burns today in the U.S. The entire opening 10 minutes or so are incredible.
So everybody tucks in and listens to what Fuhrman’s got to say on the infamous recordings. The editing in this series is spectacular, as always. They cut both of the teams listening to the tapes together, back and forth between the two. Super intense sequence overall. Immediately, Fuhrman launches into a tirade about “niggers” and “Mexicans“, and talks about the right way to enforce the law, tough on the street. He says the word nigger about a dozen times in the first few sentences. Brutal. Each side realizes what this will do to their case; obviously, Marcia and Darden see this can crush them.
But they’ve got something “unexpected” for Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood), an “O. Henry twist“, as Marcia puts it eloquently. There’s a bunch of talk from Fuhrman on the tape about Ito’s wife, the “highest ranking woman in the LAPD” – another nail in the whole Mark Fuhrman witness debacle. The entire thing becomes a massive shitstorm.
Gil: “This screams gross incompetence”
Both sides are pressed against the wall, though. Cochran and Co. don’t want a mistrial, while Darden suggests to Marcia that’s their best option, to start over without Fuhrman and his madness. Everything involving Ito spill out in open court, as he prefers it to happen. He even happens to give a little shout out to hardworking women in male-dominated environments.
Above all else, Ito determines another judge has to call whether the case should stay in front of the court. Yowzahs. So much happening on each side.
So Marcia and Chris go back to the drawing board. As do Johnnie, Shapiro, and everyone else. The whole court, really. Cochran suggests giving Ito the tapes with the parts about his wife edited out. Everyone seemed to find that suitable, but it’s up to a new judge now. Tempers flare in the meantime, with Shapiro blowing up on Cochran. Same goes for Darden – he chews Marcia out for not having listened when he advised they shouldn’t use Fuhrman to begin with, and this opens more cans of worms, relationship-wise amongst them.
Darden: “You put me on this trial because you wanted a black face. But the truth is, you never wanted a black voice.”
On his own, Cochran is running against the tapes, him and the Coalition with which he’s involved. They’re determined to root out racist LAPD officers. Everyone from Shapiro to Garcetti is worried about more riots like in Watts. The city is almost on fire with racial heat.
People like Ito, they’re caught in the middle. People like Johnnie are willingly in the middle o the storm.
In court, things get rolling again. Johnnie wants those tapes, and he is running with them. On the other side, Clark isn’t defending Fuhrman, but rather the victims of the crime at the center of their trial. Regardless, they’re both passionate speakers. Merely different breeds of thinkers, different strategists. And Marcia does her best to try and make sure the jury won’t hear the tapes.
It’s all down to poor Ito. He has to read through a ton of vile, racist trash, as well as contend with the backlash on either end of his decision. A terrible position in which to find oneself. Nobody would’ve wanted to be him during that time. Especially once he decides the tapes will be allowed, as they’re a matter of “national concern“, so says Ito. A huge blow-up comes out again between Darden and Cochran, with the former unimpressed how his old mentor is making a mockery of the court. This gets Marcia up on Chris’ behalf, each of them nearly held in contempt by the judge. One of the most INTENSE sequences of the entire series. Orderly chaos. Eventually it all calms down, but the dirty laundry is out on the line for all to see.
Finally, the court hears some of Fuhrman. The recording is played, his speech is spelled out in text. Damning stuff, as he goes on about police brutality. Everyone in court is horrified by some of the things he says. Openly admitting to hating black people, as well as the brutality that routinely goes on behind the scenes of the LAPD. Awful, vicious. A very creepy scene, hearing these things come out. Imagine what it must’ve been like in the courtroom that day. People like Fred Goldman (Joseph Siravo) are disgusted with the focus being taken off the murder victims, and everything honing in on Fuhrman, et cetera. At the same time, Darden and Clark are licking their wounds, attempting to figure out somewhere to move next. Marcia apologizes for not listening to Chris earlier. Too late, though, better late than never at all.
Ito rules on the Fuhrman tapes. Only concerned with “perjury” and not all the LAPD corruption. Cochran isn’t happy, neither is Bailey. As usual, Bob dances around not wanting to piss off the police. He doesn’t get why Johnnie is so inflamed. Because he’s white. He could never fully understand. Nevertheless, Johnnie blows things up and advises Los to “remain calm” – but does he want that, or would some riots help his cause? The enigma of Cochran is that he’s at once a theatrical act, a performer, a disguise, and simultaneously he’s a proud, tough man who does right by people, too. You just never know who you’re going to get at any given time.
Fuhrman is being brought to the stand. Outside the court it’s a circus, inside like a morbid auditorium awaiting some bloody dissection of a patient. And that’s sort of what’s about to happen. All his lies are poised to come out.
And before things get started, Darden leaves the courtroom. Wow, a powerful statement in itself.
Johnnie starts his surgical procedure in open court. Only Fuhrman asserts the Fifth Amendment for all his questions. Another wrench in the machine. The one question Cochran does go on to ask gets the same response, and casts further doubt on the evidence. Things are getting very rough from here on in for Clark and Co.
One ray of sunshine? Marcia got primary custody of her children. A small glimpse of hope after a terrible time in court.
Next and final episode, “The Verdict”, promises lots of interesting things. Let’s see how Ryan Murphy finishes things off along with his super talented crew of actors, directors, writers, and everyone else involved. An amazing series that’s giving us impressive insight into the events behind the scenes of such an infamous trial.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 8: “A Jury in Jail”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by Joe Robert Cole
* For a review of the previous episode, “Conspiracy Theories” – click here
* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “Manna From Heaven” – click here
Only a couple more episodes left, as O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr), Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson), Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), and the rest of the various figures hurtle towards the trial’s finish.
This episode begins with the jury being chewed out for tardiness. The trial went from two months to eight months. Everyone in the jury’s a little pissed.
But wait, let’s skip back 8 months earlier. Everyone is happy to be on jury duty, away from home and on a sort-of-vacation. At least until they start to discover the rules of their jury duty for the trial of the century, or “The Superbowl” as one of them puts it. Not so fun anymore when the pool is “off limits” and when you can’t even skim a Reader’s Digest without it being approved.
Well Cochran and Bob Shapiro (John Travolta) are back together, laughing, toasting champagne. As Marcia and Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) still aren’t too steady. And Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) is losing his god damn mind over the ill-fitting glove.
Over at the hotel with the jury, everyone’s arguing over what to watch. “What is a Seinfeld?” one of the women quips after Martin gets vetoed. Amazing to see the Martin versus Seinfeld showdown, more of the subtle racial angles within the writing of American Crime Story brings out.
Then we switch over to O.J. playing poker for Skittles in an interrogation room with a couple buddies, including Kardashian. What’s amazing is that O.J. is in the process of retelling a portion a Seinfeld episode, saying: “I‘m tellin‘ you they gotta give that Kramer his own show.” Never have we more evidently seen, directly in the writing and editing, an instance of where the perceived whiteness of Simpson comes out. Nicely written sequence all over.
What this episode gets into big time is how nobody, even just a little over 20 years ago, understood DNA. It frustrates Marcia, while providing fodder for jokes in Simpson’s camp. But when Clark has an expert break it down in layman’s terms, the jury, the defense, everybody in the court understands how damning this testimony is for O.J. Even Kardashian sees it, the look on his face almost ghostly. 1 in about 170-million; hard for Rob to get past.
Later, he and Simpson sit alone together talking of “the numbers” involved in the DNA found at the scene. Rob has a problem with Nicole’s blood being everywhere, disguising it as concerns of the jury. The faith of Kardashian is shaking in his old friend.
Simpson: “And this is them asking?”
Kardashian: “Yeah. This is them asking.”
More problems now; in the jury. One of the jurors was previously arrested for kidnapping, which Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi). He plays it off saying “you know how ladies can get“, not worrying about Marcia’s presence in the room. Even with Cochran dancing his best dance, Ito dismisses the juror. At least now Marcia doesn’t have to put with even more sexism. For the moment.
In the jury room, some of the other black jurors worry about being dismissed because they’re black. So within all the racial things happening during the trial, within the jury itself, there is even a division between some of the black people who see things differently. So many perspectives, it’s mind boggling at times.
So on goes court with a new juror in place. The defense bring up questions about missing blood belonging to O.J. and there becomes a doubt; in the minds of the jurors, those looking on. It gives Simpson confidence, Rob pause, and Marcia a look of terror. All of a sudden their explanation on the DNA becomes near redundant. Even wilder is the fact the expert, when off the stand, shakes the hands of everyone – the prosecution, except Marcia who refuses, and then the defense. Uh oh. That ain’t good.
Back in her office, Marcia loses it and tosses the place a bit. All that pressure has got to be getting to her. Wouldn’t be human if she brushed it off without any worry.
More juror worries. A woman on the jury accused her husband of abuse, but lied about it.
F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) outright drops some highly sexist shit in front of Marcia, already bringing more of that nonsense on her. But again, a black juror is dismissed. Hmm. Even Judge Ito recognizes there’s some ridiculous racial foolishness happening behind the scenes. And this is what American Crime Story brings out beautifully, the things we know about after the fact but couldn’t see during the original trial. So many racial games, from jury to prosecution to defense.
Marcia and Johnnie have a head-to-head outside. She proves time and time again how tough her mettle is, despite any of the sexist bullshit she has to suffer.
Marcia: “Toughen up, Cochran. This is the smoker‘s lounge. Daycare‘s on the first floor.”
The problem jurors are being sussed out on the defense side. Meanwhile, the prosecution has their own ideas. And some of both sides clash. So now with Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” we’re getting the battle of the races amongst the jurors, the prosecution and defense going back and forth. Amazing little sequence, even before Queen kicks in. We see how what was on the surface of the trial was truly only scratching it, barely. All the games behind the scenes made things much more volatile. Even some of the jurors are upset about racial treatment, the divide in the room: “They treat us like we‘re second class,” one woman yells at the judge in his quarters.
Ultimately, Ito has to step in and stop all the madness after accusations against jurors and all kinds of things. He’s experiencing his own skewering in the media, from jurors to people on television.
Now we’re back to the beginning of the episode. The jurors’ guards are switched up, the environment in the lunch room is vastly different, everybody speculating on the mindset of others. A real mess. Then they refuse to come into court, which throws Ito into a furor threatening to have them all arrested. When they do come in, many of the jurors are dressed entirely in black. So Ito suspends testimony and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” plays loud, proud with jurors smiling proud.
Dominick Dunne: “It just gets curiouser and curiouser”
Cochran and Co. are all worried about what’s happening in the courtroom. Worst of all, Simpson is losing his mind. He wants on the stand, and definitely doesn’t want a mistrial. Bailey thinks it’s a good idea because “people love him“, Johnnie seems open to it, yet of course Shapiro resists at first. Bob is worried about Marcia cross-examining O.J. and so Cochran decides they’ll do a “rehearsal” for their client.
Over with the jury, one of the women goes absolutely nuts and tries to flee before the deputies catch her. She’s almost gone absolutely mental.
More alone time with Clark and Cochran. He brings her a coffee, the way she likes it apparently. Greasy, Johnnie; real greasy.
So the defense rustles up a Marcia lookalike. They have her press him with Clark-like questions he’ll encounter on the stand. Everyone watches O.J. do his thing, charming, joking a bit. Kardashian looks almost filled with fear. Bailey and Cochran aren’t sure of what to make of it. Shapiro’s not happy at all. It’s a whole new ballgame if they intend on putting him up there with the real Marcia.
Most of all, Kardashian’s taking things incredibly hard. He believes they might “get him off“, but it is clear he doesn’t believe fully in his friend’s guilt. His ex-wife Kris Jenner (Selma Blair) urges him to just get up and go. Kardashian admits, unfortunately, that would essentially convict Simpson if it happened, and it would all makers things worse for their family. An emotional scene. Schwimmer is awesome in the role, loving his performance.
But the finale is the most damning. Someone gets a call – it’s about Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale). And it is not good.
The next episode, penultimate season finisher “Manna From Heaven”, promises to be a whopper. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans. Dig this series so much, it is all around 5-stars.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 7: “Conspiracy Theories”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by D.V. DeVincentis
* For a review of the previous episode, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Jury in Jail” – click here
Covering the sexism Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) dealt with at the start of the O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr) trial in the last episode, American Crime Story moves towards the end of its excellent first season with the next chapter “Conspiracy Theories”, and what does it bring?
We start with Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) running into Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood). The latter is worried about race riots again, which he sees Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) dangerously close to starting. And then Marcia shows up with a new hairdo!
We zip back and forth between court, and taped court, as Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler) takes about the “narrative” of the media, and so on. He has others studying Johnnie doing his thing, before getting inspiration of his own. He sends a fax down to the court room for Cochran. This starts the thread of doubt, throwing a possibility of gang and drug-related violence into the mix.
Marcia isn’t worried about the defense getting “exotic“, but Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) makes clear they’re making “big moments“, which in turn sways the jury and resonates. Even against fact. So Darden propels Detectives Lange (Chris Bauer) and Van Atter (Michael McGrady) to get at the work hard.
Mannwhile, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) is worried about “the blood in the Bronco” and he’s having doubts of his own. But things switch gear when news breaks about Johnnie’s personal life, as the women from his former life – Barbara Cochran (Angela Elayne Gibbs) included – give interviews. This sends him into a fury, stunning the others in his company. The war games have truly begun.
The detectives busy themselves with Nicole Brown’s things. They dig up some Visa statements, pointing towards the gloves from her murder scene being bought by none other than Nichole herself. This sends them all into a frenzy, like sharks sniffing out blood.
Marcia: “The gloves are our conviction”
Media hounds Johnnie about what he calls “old gossip“, wondering if he’s got two lives happening parallel to one another. He shrugs it off and gets going: “Man‘s made of god damn Teflon,” says Darden watching on with Marcia. I love their relationship, again as I’ve said before. He and Marcia get closer, and I find them endearing together; friends or otherwise. It’s an interesting pair.
In court, Shapiro arrives with a pin on his jacket to show “police solidarity“, which nobody at the defense table finds too agreeable. Certainly not O.J., nor F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane). More and more, the wedge divides them all. Bob brings up Johnnie’s most recent troubles as evidence he shouldn’t be telling anyone how to live. At home, Johnnie faces further problems – nobody else knew about his other life except her, now the cat’s out of the bag.
Dale: “You made the world your stage. You wanted the attention. Now you got it. Now you got it.”
The two Bobs are in council together. Shapiro wants things to smooth out, seeing Johnnie as out of control, or whatever. Mostly it’s about jealousy. What Shapiro brings up is the infamous bag; the one Kardashian took for Simpson, the one that possibly contained the murder weapon. So Shapiro thinks he ought to give up the weapon, saying there’s talk in the air about it. This does not sit well with Kardashian. At all. None of it gets shared with Johnnie, though. Sneaky Bob Shapiro.
Along with Al Cowlings (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), Kardashian checks out the garment bag from Simpson. He opens it, expecting the worst, and… nothing. Only clothes and the expected things, a few Penthouse magazines. “Nothing funky in that bag,” as A.C. puts it. Yet they have a brief conversation about who may have done it, what could’ve possibly happened. “I‘m really struggling,” Kardashian tells Al. He is slipping, going over the entire situation about Nicole and Ron Goldman, and it is driving them mad. It worries him there are no other suspects – “no other answer,” he claims.
At the prison, O.J. has Bob Shapiro come down. “Where‘s your I Love Cops pin?” asks Simpson. They’ve got a bit of beef, stemming from Bob’s attempts to undermine Cochran and his strategies. The Juice wants things out on the table. Bob does not want to take on the LAPD as a hole, rather than one “bad apple” – but it’s more bullshit. Simpson isn’t happy about Bob and his behaviour. They’re clearly at odds. The entire defense team is at odds, especially now with Kardashian questioning whether his friend actually killed his wife.
Happier times are here for Darden and Marcia. They go out together with some of his friends. Everyone has a great time, Marcia fits in with the black crew wonderfully, and it’s all good times. “First one who mentions that god damn case drinks,” says Marcia half-drunk and laying down the law. Lots of talk about Simpson and the case, as people theorize about Dt. Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) planting the glove, et cetera, and LAPD needing to cover things up later. So then Marcia uses a bunch of shot glasses to lay out the case in front of everyone. Things get serious while Marcia shoots down all the theories, then more drinks are had.
Later, Marcia and Chris end up almost climbing in bed together. But rather than do that Darden chooses to merely say “goodnight” and they head their separate ways. You can tell he did not want to do that. And it may have squashed any chances he had previously.
In the office, Darden tells Marcia they need to get him to put on that glove. The media will make it look perfect. She wants to go for it without that, as it may turn the entire case over to the defense. We who know the history know what happens.
On rages the trial. Tension between Clark and Darden obviously has things seeming awkward. On the other side, Shapiro is isolated from the others, as is Kardashian still feeling strange about everything.
And then Shapiro checks out the gloves, unable to fit one on his hand. He brings his ideas to the table quickly. They’re about to take charge of things: “Those gloves are too small,” says Bob. He wants to beat Clark/Darden, same as they want to do on that side, too. Fascinating to see both sides of this situation. Bailey has a better idea: “We get them to present it.” What a congregation of spin doctors! At the prosecution table, things are in shambles, and Darden gets egged on by Bailey setting in motion a piece of history in this major trial.
Up on the floor, Darden starts in on the gloves, and Johnnie throws further fuel on the fire Bailey started. Lots of performances going on here, as Cochran acts up a storm. All to get Darden to do what they want; to introduce the gloves and make Simpson try them on. This blows Marcia away, insubordinate to the maximum. And on the circus rolls.
The famous moment we all know so well comes to us on FX: the Juice steps up and tries to put the gloves on, which proves extremely difficult. “These gloves are too small,” he exclaims to the jury. A moment that resonated deeply in many senses. The prosecution is brutalized. The defense slap hands under the table, as Cochran and Shapiro are on good terms once more.
Darden is obviously beat up over what’s happened, though, not defeated. But where do they go from here?
We know the results. At the same time, it’s interesting to watch the whole trial, its various dynamics, dissected from one episode to the next. The penultimate Season 1 episode “A Jury in Jail” is next week. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 6: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by D.V. DeVincentis
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Race Card” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Conspiracy Theories” – click here
This episode begins with Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) in court over her children. She starts to express herself “outside of protocol” and the judge is not pleased. But we’re seeing the warring parts of her life; she is a high profile, powerful woman, also not without her faults and flaws. I’m sure her husband wasn’t any better, though, we definitely get a glimpse of her obsession with the law over anything else in her life.
Marcia rushes on into the court, as everyone else is already seated. Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) gets everything rolling.
On the stand is a friend of Nicole, who recounts a vulgar moment about O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr) grabbing Nicole by the crotch in front of a crowd. Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) tries to keep everyone’s cool, including Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) who gets feisty. Johnnie tells O.J. and Bob that the woman is “crying on cue” and seems pretty confident when Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) taunts a bit on his way out of court. I’m sure Cochran’s got a few tricks ready to roll out his sleeve.
At home, Marcia sees herself on television. Except it comes in the form of talk about her beauty, whether or not she dresses well, her style described as “frump incarnate” by one of the people on the news. This weighs on her, while she has other things that need attention, from family to the courtroom.
More custody troubles. Marcia finds her husband wanting further custody, as she’s so busy all the time. Particularly with the Simpson trial now. Lots of looking at Marcia in this episode already, excited for more.
Meanwhile, Johnnie is laying out his next strategy. Bob shows up late, then in typical Shapiro style glares at Cochran, as he goes on about his routine. Cut to Marcia on the stand, talking to Detective Phillip Van Atter (Michael McGrady), whom Johnnie cross-examines afterward. What comes out of the conversation here is that Cochran tries to draw Van Atter into admitting they quickly identified O.J. as a suspect, rather than a “husband to be notified” or anything else. For now, Johnnie is setting things up to show how the LAPD is lying about “small things” to get to the bigger things later in the questioning.
We get to see all sides of Johnnie, too. He’s a jack of all trades, hanging with police and laughing with the likes of Detective Tom Lange (Chris Bauer). He then turns around and puts Lange on the stand, grilling him; even bringing up that where Lange lives, where he took evidence for “6 hours” before logging it, is the same place where cops involved in the Rodney King case live. Any way he can draw doubt into the picture, he can, and he will. Major, major doubt now with Shapiro and Cochran double-teaming Lange over the evidence; something he’d not done before, that he “can recall“, anyways.
I dig seeing the relationship between Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. She is very supportive of him, even after sort of using him on the case in a racial sense. However, Darden clearly cares for her, as both a friend and a colleague. What they both have in common is that they’re marginalized, in life and in the case. She brings up being judged – can’t be too uptight or they call her a bitch, can’t let loose and party or they’ll take her kids away. Same as Darden’s situation on the case, stuck between a rock and a hard place – seems a black man can’t judge O.J. or he’s a traitor of some kind versus the fact he’s black and a lawyer and doesn’t want to go against his best judgement simply due to him and O.J. both being black.
On the radio next day, a DJ polls – “Is Marcia Clark a bitch or a babe?” This prompts Darden to call in and vote for babe. Although it seems he’s playing into it, he does so because of his feelings for her, obviously. They’re sort of cute together, Marcia and Christopher.
When Marcia calls Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale), things get sketchy. Cochran brings up a witness who has to be on the stand right away. Then “babysitting issues” for Marcia come up, as the personal side of her life spills into the public eye of the court. Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) tries to convince Marcia into letting go of the media; “stop watching tv,” he tells her sternly. He hates it and knows the whole thing is sexist, but there’s simply nothing he can do. Except to suggest some “media consultants” he could put her in touch with, causing a bit of embarrassment on both their parts with the whole office listening in. But again, Marcia has so many things, each bigger than the last, to tackle.
In court, Johnnie takes jabs at Marcia about “childcare issues” and she finally stands up to say it is offensive, “totally out of line“, making clear she will not stand for any his bullshit any longer. Finally, on comes the housekeeper, Ms. Lopez, whom Cochran wants on the stand. Marcia starts to unravel a bit of Ms. Lopez’s story concerning a ticket out of the country, then begins working on whittling down the timeline the housekeeper proposes: “Whatever Mr. Johnnie says I said,” she tells Clark. Then she can’t seem to remember. “Good enough for me,” says Marcia.
Outside Marcia receives a ton of media attention, women chanting out to her as she leaves the court. But it’s Johnnie who’s got the trouble – rumours of his own clash with domestic abuse in the past are about to hit the newsstand. Although, Marcia still has her trouble, too. Her ex-husband Gordon goes on the news revealing Marcia didn’t need to leave court to take care of her children, effectively spreading their dirty laundry in public.
Johnnie gives a call to a woman named Barbara. Obviously the one whom he abused. He ends up offering her the profits off selling a property he owns, that was her “pet project“, and putting the bribe out there for her to take.
At the prison, Johnnie, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), and Bob Shapiro go meet with O.J. The Juice is not happy about the whole “Mr. Johnnie” incident in court with the housekeeper. He wants more control, to be involved with all the decisions. “When I wanna hear from you I‘ll rattle my zipper,” Simpson screams at Shapiro, yelling everybody out of the room.
Back over to the trial. In the lobby, Darden has it out with a black reporter who seems to only focus on Cochran. At the same time, Dominick Dunne (Robert Morse) pipes in for Darden, seeing behind the thin veneer of celebrity that lays over Simpson.
Marcia shows up with her new hairdo, which has everyone turning their head. Not necessarily in a great way, but turning nonetheless. She goes for a short, curly do, even more than before. And she digs it. Until Judge Ito makes a remark and her eyes reach around the room to see everyone mocking her. Darden writes her a sweet note, though, the papers next morning give her a brutal going over. Then she experiences NASTY sexism – at a store getting Tampax, a cashier makes a remark about her period and how the defense are in for rough times. Wow. Unbelievable writing, yet the situation is atrocious. Such blatant sexist talk, and it affects her deeply.
Detective Mark Fuhrman is on the stand now with Clark. He expresses distaste for the trial devolving into “personal issues” rather than “facts” and all the evidence. And so his testimony begins, recounting the crime scene, the evidence found, et cetera. Things go along smoothly. Stories of the white Bronco, the blood, and the police worrying O.J. himself may have been injured in whatever the incident had been. Of course Simpson and Cochran don’t think that’s too true.
Later during drinks, Bailey goes on about Fuhrman’s “tombstone” and how he’s going to ask the man about the word “nigger“, whether or not he uses it. As those of us know, this is exactly what Lee did during the trial, and is largely believed to be one of the nails in the coffin of this case later.
Back to court, where Bailey gets up to talk about Fuhrman’s service with the Marines. Seems Bailey was a Marine, too. Then he heads into hacking away at Fuhrman, attempting to make it look as if the detective possibly planted evidence, or even to put that seed of doubt in peoples minds. Finally, Bailey drops the question on Fuhrman, whose response is no, he doesn’t use the word nigger. Great editing and writing in this scene makes it quite exciting.
At the office, Gil shows Marcia a paper that published a nude picture of her. And it’s real. The husband before Gordon took them. Now they’re in the public eye, like the rest of her life; now it’s her body. Gil seems thrown off. Not as much as Marcia.
Everything is weighing hard on her. She’s about to break, as the tears well in her eyes and Darden tries to comfort her. Ito sees it. The defense sees it. Luckily, the judge graciously breaks the court for recess until the next day. An act of mercy on his behalf.
Afterwards, Marcia weeps in her office on the floor. Darden goes to see her, to try and be of some help. She breaks down further: “I‘m not a public personality, this isn‘t what I do. I don‘t know how to do this. And those other guys, they‘re flashy hot shots. They‘re used to it. But I – I just can’t take it.” He sits with her, a literal shoulder on which to rest her head. At least they’re in it together.
Amazing episode, so much focus on Marcia while still pushing the entire narrative forward. Wonderful writing and lots of nice direction from Ryan Murphy. Stay tuned with me for the next one, “Conspiracy Theories” – see you next week.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 4: “100% Not Guilty”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Dream Team” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Race Card” – click here
This episode starts with “Everybody Dance Now” playing, as O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr) lives a vastly different life than his present situation, partying, dancing, sniffing coke, his good friend Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) at his side.
But then we cut to the Juice flipping his meal tray over in jail, lamenting what once was, but clearly is no longer.
In the trenches, Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) gets F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler), Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), and the whole team together. Although, he prefaces this by asking: “Who thinks O.J. did it?” Nobody is keen to say they do, so at least they’re on the same team. Johnnie brings his brand of law to the table, suggesting black males are on their side, but black women – they don’t like “their men marrying white women.” Either way, they want to get charging; head on.
Now we’re in court, as Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) brings up hair testing, to which Cochran slightly objects, challenging the prosecution on all fronts, at all times. Cochran manages to muddy things up by creating sub-hearings, this one on the subject of collecting O.J’s hair samples and how many will be given.
In his cell, Simpson receives Johnnie by himself. The Juice is obviously breaking down in prison. Johnnie reminds O.J. – “Remember who you are. These walls around you don‘t change that.” Cochran tells a story about his own career, how he hoped to “change things from the inside” and such. It’s definitely inspiring. Vance does an impressive job playing the larger-than-life character of Cochran. So here Johnnie gives up a story about how Juice was giving him strength, seeing him play football and playing hard. This gives O.J. at least a little bit of inner strength himself, the fires of which Johnnie stokes: “This, O.J. Simpson, is the run of your life.”
Now we’re introduced to the judge of the upcoming case: Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi). His wife, Mrs. Ito (Carolyn Crotty) is a police officer. When signing a form, she hovers over the name of Fuhrman for a moment, unsure, unsteady. Ito and his wife have what seems to be a solid relationship, cheering one another on respectively. Here is another name, Judge Lance Ito, propelled to relative fame by this huge case.
In the courtroom, Ito arrives with everyone risen – Clark and her team on one side, The Dream Team on the other. The episode’s title comes directly from O.J. declaring his plea as “absolutely 100% not guilty.” However, at a restaurant on their own, Shapiro tells Bailey they need to keep Cochran under a watchful eye, as well as the fact he believes the case to be “unwinnable” and hopes to garner a deal because of Johnnie’s presence. A bit of friction here, though, as Bailey isn’t impressed with being pro bono.
In other news, Faye Resnick (Connie Britton) is trying to get a book deal in the works due to her relationship with Nicole Brown. She speaks highly of her deceased friend, but it’s obvious everyone is trying to get their 15 minutes out of the entire situation. She further goes on about Nicole’s breast implants, as well as other things which really don’t flatter Mrs. Brown-Simpson.
Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) is doing work alongside Detectives Van Atter (Michael McGrady) and Lange (Chris Bauer). In the meantime, Marcia meets with Kim (Jessica Blair Herman) and Fred Goldman (Joseph Siravo), the latter of which is especially upset about the treatment of Ronald Goldman, his own son – he’s simply been “a footnote” in the trial, a joke, as if he were asking to be killed. But Ronald was an honourable man according to Fred. The poor Goldmans are torn to pieces, obviously, which is not easy for Marcia to witness either. She tries to assure them: “We are gonna get him.” To which Fred replies: “You better.”
Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) wants to take out the death penalty. Except Marcia does not want that, she would rather take Simpson right to the end. O.J. simply is too famous, too loved: “We can‘t even execute Charlie Manson,” says Bill Hodgman (Christian Clemenson). When they start to check out focus groups, which prove to show us the racial divide, as well as the fact people think Marcia “seems like a bitch.” Lots of sexism towards Clark as the only female lawyer involved with the trial. She discusses this and other things with Darden later over drinks in the office. Christopher reminds Marcia that Johnnie is a showboater, but the real damn deal, so they should never underestimate his power.
On the other end, Kardashian is having trouble fitting in with his defense team. He doesn’t like that people see Nicole as a golddigger. His care for both parties in the relationship may prove to keep him down amongst The Dream Team.
Bailey and Cochran also have their own chat over drinks. Lee is not keen on settling, saying they ought not “settle like a pussy.” There are so many sides being played on The Dream Team right now, as everyone is angling in a different direction. Only now Bailey and Cochran may have aligned.
The lawyers all talk about how the trial is a spectacle, like a basketball game. Judge Ito kicks things off for the jury selection, which go regularly with questions about police, particularly the LAPD, whether or not prospective jurors have had encounters with police, good or bad, et cetera. The Dream Team feels things are headed towards a prejudice against black people. Furthermore, The Dream Team is starting to become divided slightly. Shapiro wants to do a press conference, which doesn’t sit well with the others, particularly Johnnie. But what Bob wants, Bob gets. The tension is mounting inside the defense already. Then Cochran has his own impromptu press conference while getting his shoes shined, because he is the real star of O.J’s legal team. The papers get printed with Johnnie on the front, no picture of Shapiro.
Gil now wants some flavour on their prosecution team; they need someone black, without him coming out and saying it. Marcia suggests Darden, stalling Gil in his tracks. That might be a good way to shake up Johnnie, as well as the others on the defense. But for now, Judge Ito has concerns – Faye Resnick’s book is out and may possibly damage the trial entirely. The teams set out to read the book, finding out what can affect their respective strategies. Simpson is not happy about the contents. All the while, Faye goes on Larry King Live, probably coked out, and pumps the television set full of bullshit.
Ito resumes jury selection. Although, Shapiro wants things suspended due to trial by media. Then there’s Bob talking for his whole team, no other opinions. But Johnnie jumps in to use his gift of gab, whereas Bob floundered in his own ego. The big conversation in Ito’s office concerns “playing the race card” and Johnnie states: “So be it.” The hateful relationship between Shapiro and Cochran has truly begun now.
Back to Larry King Live, Bailey is giving his own interview. He pretends to be on Shapiro’s side then gives up a load of soundbytes perfect for the media to use, taking Bob down in front of everyone. A clever, dastardly move.
The jury selection continues on with The Dream Team gladly accepting the jurors being presented. Over at the jail, Simpson receives good news from Kardashian and Cochran, as Shapiro shows up late; he has “possible options” to cut a deal. Nobody else is impressed at all. Clearly, Bob believes O.J. did it. This creates an incredibly awkward, viciously tense atmosphere. Bob gets completely passed over, as Kardashian starts to talk through the conversation they were having earlier. Now, Johnnie and the others are hoping to oust Shapiro for his foolish arrogance and egotism. At home, Bob’s wife wants him to quit, she doesn’t like what the case is doing to her life. And Bob makes it clear he wants to “put a lid on Johnnie Cochran” because he’s got issues with race himself.
Marcia offers the third chair position to Darden. He gladly, silently accepts.
Poor Juice is confused with everything going on, as Johnnie is in another league than him, or anyone else. Kardashian advises his good buddy that Johnnie ought to be lead on the case, but O.J. doesn’t enjoy conflict. Robert pushes hard to have the change made because it is going to affect Simpson’s life gravely.
At Shapiro’s office, Bob finds all the Simpson files gone. It is already quite clear, along with a New York Daily News front page, Shapiro is off The Dream Team. When Bob storms in on the meeting of the new reformed team, O.J. is on the phone with them and lets Shapiro know what the deal is: Johnnie’s on lead. In his own way, of course. Things start to move ahead with Bob merely riding in the sidecar.
In the courtroom it’s full steam ahead, as Johnnie takes the reins. But he is very surprised to see Darden sitting with Clark, also ready for war. The staredown begins and now the next episode will be spectacular after the trial falls into place.
Stay with me for the next episode, “The Race Card”, fellow fans.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Dream Team”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by D.V. DeVincentis
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Run of His Life” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “100% Not Guilty” – click here
After last episode’s finale, O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr) is in the custody of the LAPD following his run with Al Cowlings (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) in the infamous white Bronco, and Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) talking his old now suicidal friend down over the phone.
This episode begins with Robert and his children, as they go out for food on Father’s Day. What a day to be having in the midst of the looming trial. Here, we see Robert and his family given a table all due to his new found fame. The kids love it, of course. However, Robert’s not too keen on the eyes of others on him, nor his he happy his ex-wife Kris Jenner (Selma Blair) tells the kids “Uncle Juice” is guilty of the crime of which he’s accused. “In this family being a good person and a loyal friend is more important than being famous,” Robert explains to his children: “Fame is fleeting, it‘s hollow.” What an ironic line, as we see nowadays where some of his children have ended up; as hollow celebrities, famous for nothing.
We watch the media spin a picture of O.J. from normal to shadowy, dark, signifying the “falling of an idol“. Meanwhile, Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is going ahead as planned, not concerned with media, rumours, or anything else. She gives a live press conference, as the Juice watches on in his jail cell and new county outfit. Things at her office seem lax, happy even. Nobody there is prepared with hindsight as we are, they don’t realize the road ahead is paved with good intentions, but it’s hard, rough road all the way.
Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) isn’t doing as well as Clark. He is frustrated and angry. Now we get a meeting between him and F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), as Shapiro gains what insight he can from the older of the two. They both watch coverage on the television, including a Larry King interview with Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler), which takes potshots at Shapiro in particular and casts a dark gloom over the trial. Bailey’s suggestion? “Hire him.”
At the office, Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) has lunch with Marcia, as they discuss a few things together. Garcetti makes reference to the trial of Rodney King, something he certainly does not want to relive. I love all these real people being portrayed onscreen. We cut back to Dershowitz and a couple of his team meeting with Shapiro, who still has Bailey at his side as his aide and of course Kardashian. Everything isn’t exactly smooth with Dershowitz around, but he certainly gets things done. He refers to O.J. as similar to a Greek god in almost mythic stature, being a big name in sports and all. One of Dershowitz’s team brings up DNA evidence, and how it may come into play with this trial; as in they’ll try to keep any DNA out of the prosecution’s arsenal, hopefully casting doubt on the chain of evidence, et cetera. “No quarter,” says Dershowitz – everything is up to be attacked. In the Clark camp there is also lots of planning, shaping of strategy and so on. When it came to this case there certainly was an intense meeting of the minds re: lawyers.
Speaking of which, we find Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) with his wife Dale (Keesha Sharp). She instills a bit of fire in him, saying that while he doesn’t want to be involved in a big loss, which Johnnie says will happen, he’ll hate it even worse if someone else gets O.J. off. Johnnie knows this himself and now the seed is planted in his mind.
Cut over to Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) who sees the magazine cover with a “blacker” O.J. on it. Things are in upheaval. Everyone knows it’s “racially insensitive“, but more than that Johnnie is worried about the overall culture of the LAPD, as having an agenda when it comes to black people, males specifically. On the other side of that, Shapiro’s team starts to dig dirt on Dt. Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale), who apparently hates black people.
Shapiro tells a journalist about the “systematic railroading” that Simpson is experiencing due to racist Fuhrman. He also hints at a conspiracy possibly; planted evidence and so on. This is a smart move on Shapiro’s part, but at the same time doesn’t that give up a bit of their strategy? If it doesn’t go on record as a quote directly from him, I suppose not. We’ll see how this media angle plays out.
In jail, O.J. has a meeting with Bailey, Kardashian and Shapiro. On his part, O.J. has “dirt on his elbows” and isn’t really accustomed to the treatment he’s receiving, including the obvious infrequent showers. The team wants to get Johnnie, but Simpson has a problem: “You wanna make this a black thing. Well I‘m not black – I‘m O.J!”
Switch over to Johnnie. He receives a call from someone who’s obviously not O.J. and it really pisses him off, as the person on the other line laughs and says he’s guilty. Watching the journey of Cochran to where he’ll end up in the middle of the trial is a lot of fun, very intriguing. Also, there’s Kato Kaelin (Billy Magnussen) who finds himself caught in between celebrity’s double edges: women love him, men hate him.
Then there’s Darden. He ends up at the Clark team headquarters to give Marcia a heads up on the developing Fuhrman situation. To see Darden gravitating towards Clark, away from Cochran, it is sort of amazing. Because so many expect all black people to have just sided with Simpson, only that is terribly untrue, which should be obvious. But I love watching Darden and Cochran falling on opposite sides of the spectrum in the whole racial angle of the case. Well Marcia, she wants Darden on the case to really hammer the nail in Simpson’s coffin once the trial gets to a crucial point.
Kardashian and Jenner argue over the murder of Nicole. Kris is upset at her ex-husband for standing by O.J. especially when the evidence supposedly points to a different story. Although, that is something people can and will certainly debate. I’m still unsure, all these years later. It’s enjoyable to see it all play out dramatically. The writing in this series has been top notch so far.
The 9-11 tape is leaked of O.J. beating the hell out of his wife. Everyone on the face of American soil hears it, from the Clark team to people in the streets, in parking lots; everywhere. Marcia doesn’t want her case compromised, as witnesses and all sorts of people are on television, in the news. It is quickly turning into far more of a debacle than she’d ever anticipated.
In Shapiro’s office, he and Bailey sit together talking. The New Yorker piece concerning Fuhrman and the racism is out, which Bailey loves (those of you who know the case you’ll already know F. Lee is possibly the reason O.J. eventually got acquitted). There is lots of fallout. Marcia and the others are worried, seeing as how Shapiro and team are “trying to take down the LAPD“, making an entire other thing out of Simpson’s case.
Kardashian is reading The New Yorker’s article to Juice in prison. Simpson seems to be coming around to the entire race angle, but only after some prying from the two Roberts. And in an excellent transition, we’re back with Cochran in his office. He receives another call – will it truly be the one now? Next, we see Shapiro and Cochran meeting. Robert advises “I will remain lead counsel” and that looks to sit well initially Johnnie; for now. But Cochran also demands: “I need to believe him.”
The first of two final scenes from “The Dream Team” see Johnnie embrace O.J. in the small room where they meet. It’s emotional for Simpson. He tells the lawyer – “I loved Nicole more than you can possibly imagine.” The tears and the sobbing, it all rings true. At least the way Gooding acts it, anyways. Truly, though, it looks as if he is innocent. Johnnie assures that if O.J. doesn’t have all the strength required for their path, then “you can have some of mine.” He promises Juice a hung jury, and that he’ll get to go home.
The very last scene, Marcia sits outside her house smoking and sees a headline concerning Cochran, The Dream Team, and essentially the hard work ahead of her in this case. Nice little quiet ending, which begins to pit the two massive teams of lawyers against one another, ready to do battle.
Next episode is “100% Not Guilty” and I’m excited to see what happens next. Lots of fun writing, amazing performances. Can’t wait to see more new characters brought in and watch the ones already around develop.
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.