The end is here. Who'll survive and what will be left of them?
In Miami, Gianni Versace is shot in front of his villa by a young man, Andrew Cunanan.
FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 2, Episode 2: “Warts and All”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the Season 2 premiere, “Scream Again” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Handidates” – click here
With murder on the hospital grounds, Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) has more trouble on her hands again. Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin) is being sweated by the police, even though she was stuck in the hydrotherapy tub the entire time. Lots of whodunnit already! Chanel #1 (Emma Roberts) and #3 (Billie Lourd) arrive to circle their other namesake, berating her about not getting any dick at all, especially in light of Dr. Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner) and Dr. Brock Holt (John Stamos) respectively asking them out. Of course, it’s like nobody believes #5.
Back with Drs. Cascade and Holt, along with Zayday (Keke Palmer), the Chanels suffer through another consultation being insensitive as usual. This latest guy, Tyler (Colton Haynes), essentially has these tumours forming bumps like pebbles under his skin, all over. Wonder how this might play into the episode, or if it’s just a bit of background mess. In the meantime, Zayday worries about Munsch and her motives for running this hospital. Zayday doesn’t like how things sound about the latest murder, and well, she was around for Season 1. She knows what that crafty bitch gets up to now and then. “I think she wants revenge,” Zayday says re: Munsch. And she asks Chamberlain Jackson (James Earl) to help her out with a bit of low key investigating.
Out at the movies, Dr. Holt and Chanel #1 bond over being horrible people. Ironically The Hand is playing (as well as Pieces). We start seeing more of Brock’s “out of control hand” and she talks about “his hot mouth” – I can’t wait to see where this whole hand transplant thing is headed, because I love it. Meanwhile, #5 is bonding, too. With Tyler. And she comes round to deciding she’ll help him raise the money for the surgery he needs.
Late in the night, Chanel #1 is on duty at the nursing station. Power goes out. Screams. The Red Devil Killer shows up! He lifts his axe, and then removes his mask: it’s Dickie Dollar Scholar, Chad Radwell (Glen Powell), bitch. Who else?
Now that’s an interesting return. His buddy Randall can’t stop screaming, so there he is to get a bit of help. As well as discover that Dr. Holt and Chanel may be “boning.” This scene is god damn hilarious. When Brock keeps clicking the pen, showing off Randall’s exaggerated reactions. In between we find out that Chad’s started a band: “Gold–plated Nutsack.”
Zayday’s digging. Plus, Chamberlain went and got some of the microfiche for her to help, along with a machine setup downstairs. They come across the Halloween Massacre at the hospital. We zip back to 1986 with Dr. Mike (Jerry O’Connell) and a bunch of partygoers, other doctors, all rock out. When a couple of them head to take a few shots alone, they encounter the Green Meanie Killer who promptly chops them to bits. He then pulls a Michael Myers on Dr. Mike, lifting him off his feet impaled before chasing down his next victim to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” and tossing a machete through her midsection. Wickedly nasty sequence. Dig that.
Ingrid Hoffel (Kirstie Alley) asks suspicious questions about whether Zayday might let her know where the Chanels are at all times. She makes a case, but seems pretty sketchy. I wonder what her deal is, I hope she’s got an interesting story.
In the showers, Chad tries to stand his ground against Dr. Holt. They argue over the “dateable guy checklist” and who’s most fit to be dating Chanel #1. This scene gets more homoerotic by the second, as Chad gradually works his way further and further until literally being tip-to-tip with Brock in the shower stall. I laugh way too hard at Chad Radwell. He’s the ultimate douche and he’s written as such. Powell plays the role incredibly well.
With #1 and #3 convincing #5 that Tyler won’t like her anymore if he gets the surgery, #5 is quite on edge. She kicks the shit out of two dudes who make fun of Tyler in a diner before screaming: “I do not have teeth in my vagina.” Another role played way too funny, written wonderfully, is Chanel #5. Breslin is magic.
Munsch says she could “really use a friend” and so with Chamberlain and Zayday at her door, they agree to listen to her secrets. She tells them about having awful headaches, bad joint pain, a ton of various symptoms. So it looks like Cathy may be straight up this time around. Although there’s no telling if she’s even being truthful. You know how underhanded she can get. Oh, and a lurking figure outside – is it #1? Or is that Ms. Hoffel? – hears all. A little later in the dark corridors, Munsch winds up confronted with the latest Green Meanie Killer. Luckily she has some ass kicking experience. Fighting hard she downs him. When Dr. Cascade and #3 come across Munsch, this distracts her, and the killer gets away. In a meta moment, Curtis goes off on those moments when somebody kicks the killer’s ass and nearly unmasks him but gets distracted. Fucking awesome! This episode is full of fun writing.
Still, Drs. Cascade and Holt are trying to cure Randall of his screaming. In an aside, Brock’s hand acts up again, scrawling a note; that only Chad cares to read. Funny enough it seems to be a grocery list for a fancy dinner. Hmm. Afterwards playing squash, things get tense between Chad and Brock, though the latter asserts his dominance, as well as possibly a homicidal streak? We’ll see.
You know Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) is kicking around, apparently an FBI trainee at this point. She calls Zayday a “stone cold hoe” and believes it’s likely her killing people. Even though she already barked up that tree last season to no avail. But Nash is outrageously funny and I love every time she’s allowed to let loose.
And the moment we’ve all been waiting for – or at least I have – the return of Hester Ulrich (Lea Michele). They’ve got her in a Hannibal Lecter-like cell, even talking like Hopkins a bit and there’s plenty of homage dialogue, the dungeon cell area highly reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs – a patient even throws… birthday cake mix… at Chanel #1. So the crazy Hester locked away has demands for helping with their case. One of which includes transferring to Munsch’s hospital. “Bitch, ain‘t nobody got time fo‘ dat,” Denise tells her. But I’m guessing they’ll be enlisting Hester soon enough.
So we get a good dose of story about the hand Holt has now. The guy was a world class squash player, finding people to play with and then killing them. That menu Brock wrote down is the last meal he had before going to jail. The guy was executed, a notorious serial killer, and gave up his organs for donation. Chad brings this newfound information to Dr. Holt and they have a bit of a face-off. We also see another tiny slice of that possible crazy person inside Brock.
Munsch talks of going to Papua New Guinea, which Zayday believes led to her having a disease cannibals get from eating human flesh. There’s nothing they can do: less than a year to live. Yikes. We further discover Ms. Hoffel has a bug planted in Munsch’s office, and she knows everything.
Seems as if Tyler’s been trying to help #5, finding information on the Green Meanie Killer. And then all of a sudden, his surgery is switched, someone wheels him off. Problem is that Drs. Cascade and Holt are gone home to have a “Handsome Contest.” With Tyler on the table, the Green Meanie puts an end to his prying. Tyler gets the laser all right. The Chanels are too late to stop his untimely death.
Loved this episode! Maybe one of my favourites of the entire series, honestly.
Excited for more. Next up is “Handidates” and I can only imagine what we’ll see judging by the title.
FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 2, Episode 1: “Scream Again”
Directed by Brad Falchuk
Written by Falchuk & Ian Brennan & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “The Final Girl(s)” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Warts and All” – click here
The bitches are back, bitches!
This season opens on October 31st, 1985 (just seven days after my birthday). In a hospital people are partying. But one woman’s husband is in trouble, and she can’t find anyone to take her seriously. Until they come across Dr. Mike (Jerry O’Connell), who – after a bit of prodding – takes care of the man. He and one of the nurses plan to dump a body out back in a swamp, let the animals and nature take care of him. She talks about the “Green Meanie” – an urban legend from when she was younger, a monster that stalked the swamps. Now, heading to the present, are we going to see someone taking revenge for this crime? You betcha.
It’s 2016. Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) is all over the place as the face of “new feminism.” Meanwhile, hands Doctors Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner) and Brock Holt (John Stamos) are taking care of a Ms. Catherine Hobart (Cecily Strong); an unfortunate lady who’s had to deal with werewolf syndrome. So we come to find out it’s Dr. Cathy Munsch. She received the honorary doctorate they “stripped from Bill Cosby.” Mostly she’s a lot of talk. As usual. But she’s awesome, and she opened up the hospital. Via voice-over, Cathy takes us back through how she got to this point. A fun little romp with Jamie Lee Curtis; ever cool, ever hilarious in a dry, sly way.
And what about the Chanels? Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts), #3 (Billie Lourd), and #5 (Abigail Breslin). We go back over their court case, the involvement of Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) in her crack up testimony during trial. There’s a bit of Hester Ulrich (Lea Michele) on tape claiming “double jeopardy” while arguing with Denise: “It‘s single jeopardy!”
Then there’s Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer). She’s in med school, trying to get by like many students. Munsch is swooping in on her, offering to pay for her tuition, offering a position at the hospital. Too good to be true? Well, Zayday takes her up on it. Whether that’s a good thing will have to wait a while.
Starting her schooling, technically a direct entry residency, Zayday meets the obnoxious Dr. Cascade and the weird Dr. Holt. Particularly we get a story about how Holt actually lost a hand a few years back. Lost a ring in the sink, garbage disposal got turned on, and VOILA! These days he’s doing surgery like a magician. His speech is both tragic and hilarious – the way he keeps hitting things, scaring Cascade and Zayday made me laugh. Lots of eeriness, all the same. Cascade seems like an ass, as well as the fact he’s strikingly cold to the touch. Best is when Chamberlain Jackson (James Earl) shows up. His charm is undeniable, if not a bit in your face.
Zayday makes a big with Munsch to get more women around the hospital. You know what that means. Oh, yes.
Chanel and her “idiot hookers” are back. Everybody hates them now to the point they’re having shit thrown at them in the streets. They majored in Communications, they all got jobs. Not exactly what you’d think. Especially after ending up poor, tired, and knocked down a few social pegs. Once Munsch shows up, everything changes. Naturally the girls are sceptical of the former Dean’s extending her hand, asking them to enrol as students and work at the hospital. But really, what else will they do? Their arrival throws Zayday for a loop, too.
So the fashion clash begins when the Chanels realise they have to wear scrubs. Although things feel more palatable after seeing Dr. Holt taking a shower. Curious: #5 notices a tattoo, sort of like a coat-of-arms with an H in the shield. Hmm. Anyway, the girls each have their jobs. After a bit of brutally funny banter on the term ‘ghosting’ as per Munsch: “Isn‘t ghosting when you do a number two and you look down at the paper and there‘s nothing there? And so you stand up and you look in the toilet and there‘s nothing there either because the turd somehow got shot down the hole before you even flush?”
The Chanels don’t have much bedside manner. Neither do Dr. Cascade or Dr. Holt, the first rambling on a Nietzsche-like thought and the other texting. Poor Catherine, the werewolf lady, is trying to get a bit of sense out of the doctors. Only one providing that is Zayday. We also get introduced to Ingrid Marie Hoffel (Kirstie Alley), R.N., who doesn’t have time for Chanel or any of their bullshit. Speaking of which, Munsch puts the Chanels on academic probation because of their treatment of Catherine earlier. Everything quickly feels like it’s crumbling beneath the Chanels after discovering they also don’t get paid, only free room, board, so on. So they head back to their room and brainstorm about what to do next: find a cure for “werewolf girl” first.
Chanel goes to talk with Dr. Holt about Catherine’s case. We see a bit of his weird, transplanted hand. In the midst of everything, Holt and Chanel figure out there may be a testosterone problem in Catherine, which prevents any further hand madness. Thus starts the fierce competition between Zayday and the Chanels. After a bit of treatment, Catherine loses ALL her hair. Not just a little. Every last bit. They give her a bit of a makeover, so that patches things up for now. Making Munsch’s hospital look great and pissing Zayday off.
#5 is on graveyard shift while the other two have dates. While she helps Catherine with a bit of hydrotherapy, someone watches in the shadows. #5 opts to get in one, as well. Both of them locked in a tub. Smart move, dummy. Then, a green-masked intruder appears with a couple blades in hand. He puts on a bit of music for the occasion. Before lopping Catherine’s head off.
And we end on a last chop: is it to #5? Or to the head? Or maybe just a last scare? We’ll find out next week.
An exciting, weird, creepy first episode for the second season of Scream Queens! Really loved this one. Can’t wait to see “Warts and All” next. Lots of promise, new characters, new setting, and a fun mask for a new killer, too.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 1: “Chapter 1”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of Chapter 2, click here.
This year’s theme? My Roanoke Nightmare. Delicious.
We open on a series of talking heads. Almost seems like an Amityville Horror sort of thing, too. My Amityville Horror is a documentary by the man who was a child during the supposed Lutz story, and this seems to mirror its style a bit.
Well, Shelby (Rabe) and Matt (André Holland) are a married couple. They tell us about their relationship, what they do for a living, so on. They talk about the “worst night” of the their lives when Matt is randomly knocked out by some gang of kids. He nearly died because of their foolish brutality. We see Sarah Paulson playing Shelby and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Matt, like reenactments of that night. Sadly, Shelby lost her baby on that evening. After the event they took a trip out into the wilderness: “We weren‘t city folks,” Matt says.
Out in the woods is an old farm house. A massive backwoods mansion. The house is cheap, just like the one the Lutz family fell into buying in Amityville. They snatch it up, now owning a surely haunted house. Shelby knew it from the beginning, in the back of her mind.
Strange banging in the night already starts Shelby and Matt off on a rough note. Interracial couple, rednecks kicking around. They’ve had troubles before, but were more than willing to fend any trouble off. Nothing’s too great. When Shelby’s home alone it starts raining teeth. TEETH! That’s pretty fucking unsettling. Of course no teeth are left when Matt gets back. To be expected when you live in a haunted Southern mansion. I mean, even the house, the big windows upstairs, the shape, it’s so reminiscent of The Amityville Horror. Not in a bad sense. Dig the homage.
One evening while cooking, home alone, Shelby sees two young women pass in the hallway, staring at her. Nice bit of tension, as she goes to check out where the women went. Finding nothing, only a suspenseful moment or two. Later when she relaxes in the hot tub outside until somebody holds her under. She calls Matt, who gets home quick, and the police, of course. Although the police don’t care much. Lots of paranoia swirling already. The couple aren’t sure anymore what to believe. So I LOVE the cinematography so far this season – the house especially looks ominous even in how the shadows cast over everything, big windows everywhere like eyes, darkness crowding around them.
Living in the house only gets worse, as you’d imagine. Weird noises get Matt out of bed and he finds a mutilated pig on the porch outside. He doesn’t tell his wife, he assumes it was the redneck boys who wanted to buy the house. So like a smart person, he hooks up lots of cameras and a nice security system hooked to his phone. Better yet, he gets his sister Lee (Angela Bassett) to go out there and look after Shelby. Lee was a bad ass cop, whose injury from getting shot on the job led her to taking medication a bit liberally. One day, really lit up on pills, she chased a serial rapist and her addiction was discovered. This got her fired, before wreaking absolute havoc on her personal life; she lost her husband, even her daughter. A sad, human tragedy.
Nothing changes in the house. Just because a security system’s in place and a former cop is looking after Shelby doesn’t mean whatever inhabits that house is going away. Paranoia runs mad now with another person kicking around. Only makes it easier for Shelby to confuse ghostly apparitions with Lee moving things, walking around, et cetera. An added interest is that Lee is still an addict. She asks Shelby not to drink, though I’m not sure how well that will hold up. On the other side is the fact Lee is also sceptical of her sister-in-law.
Then the house starts working on Lee. A lone wine bottle rolls across the floor at her, so she assumes it’s Lee being a bitch. “Why would you do something like that?” she questions Shelby. Now the accusations fly between the both of them. Meanwhile, Matt gets a text from his automated security: people in hoods carrying torches have headed through the gate up to the house. Oh, my. He tries to call the ladies, but they’re too busy arguing.
Suddenly, Shelby and Lee are interrupted by a videotape playing on the television, the strange noises from the night coming out – then on the tape appears a pig-headed man in the wilderness, squealing and bloody. Like anybody would be, the women are terrified. The hooded people with their torches get inside the house while the pair hide, and Matt rushes from a couple hours away to try getting home. When the ladies finally come out of hiding there are tons of creepy stick figures a la Blair Witch Project hanging about the house. Cops once more do nothing.
When Matt is back he watches the video, only getting angrier at the local hillbillies. He still doesn’t want to leave; Shelby takes off in the car thinking only “fight or flight.” On her way she hits somebody in the road (it’s Kathy Bates and she just walks it off). Shelby chases her into the nearby woods and gets lost. She winds up finding more of the stick figures that were hung in the house, which sends her running into a place where the earth below seems to breathe. Deeper in she comes across a man missing some of his scalp and skull, brain exposed. And in the darkness lurks a man holding a torch, among many others holding torches – Wes Bentley’s character. We’ll just have to wait and find out who he is, as well as what happens to Shelby out there.
I don’t care what any of these other horror sites are saying – they probably won’t continue watching after the first episode of the series, anyways. So fuck ’em. This was a great start to the new series. Fun references, eerie shots and sequences, a bit of character intrigue and gritty development. “Chapter Two” will likely be good fun.
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 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.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 1: “From the Ashes of Tragedy”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszweski
* For a review of the next episode, “The Run of His Life” – click here
The series opens on video footage of the Watts Riots. Then there’s Rodney King himself uttering the famous “Why can’t we all just get along?” quote. Soon enough, we come to Los Angeles. Out from the door walks O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr). He apologies to his driver for being a little late, needing a shower. They head off, as the driver is starstruck by his run-in with celebrity.
Cut back to an L.A. neighbourhood. A man walking his dog ends up stumbling across a murder scene. Back to the crime scene – Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) looks around before Detective Phillip Van Atter (Michael McGrady) shows up to head the investigation. They head over to the Simpson residence where Fuhrman finds the now infamous white Ford Bronco pushed up against the curb; on the door is blood, inside a little more. The detectives rush to the house. In the backyard, a sort of creepy statue of O.J. stands tall, as they look on. Over at the guesthouse, Kato Kaelin (Billy Magnuseen) is strung out, barely making sense, but he points them in the direction of where he heard “loud bangs“, which he supposed to be an earthquake. Simultaneously, we cut to shots of O.J. being told about Nicole Brown’s death; at first it seems he isn’t that surprised, almost sounding fact. He sits on the edge of a bed and appears to weep – meanwhile, the detective on the phone with him, Dt. Lange (Chris Bauer) is suspicious because “he never asked how she died.“
Now we’re introduced to Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson). She gets a call from Dt. Van Atter, who needs advice on the double homicide involving Simpson’s former wife. The law is mounting against O.J., and Clark seems as gung-ho as anybody else.
I love the look and feel of the show already. The cinematography is solid, as is the score; the music lies beneath each scene and sort of keeps you on edge, no matter which characters are in front of you.
The Simpson home, post-murders, is turning into a media hotspot. At the same time, Marcia is gearing up to start dealing with Van Atter’s case. They immediately begin a timeline on O.J. to determine exactly where he was at the time of the murders. Furthermore, they try to figure out motive as to why O.J. might have killed both Nicole and Ronald Goldman – either he walked in on them, or Goldman interrupted the murder of Nicole. Here, we also see some of the ‘oh how could he ever have done this’ which often dominates celebrity criminal cases. People become lost in the aura, the myth of a celebrity, stuck in the fame, and end up being blinded to what’s truly happened.
Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) tries to get access to the crime scene, saying O.J. is expecting him. Then the man himself arrives in a limo, his face unshaven, his eyes weary; he knows a battle is ahead of him. But does O.J. know it because he did it, or does he simply understand what’s about to happen? Police meet him and there’s something not quite right about the way Simpson reacts. Yet appearance isn’t everything.
A news camerman catches the actual arrest of O.J., cuffs and all, in the backyard sneaking around to get a clip. Van Atter shows up and uncuffs him, only needing him “detained“. Simpson makes clear he has nothing to hide, agreeing to cooperate. Then the camerman delivers his news to his colleague: “O.J‘s a suspect.”
Best yet, Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) is introduced. First, he’s getting ready to look good for the day. His wife helps him out, suggesting purple. But Johnnie “don‘t wanna look like no grape.” He has a heated conversation with Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) and they get very honest. Darden wants to quit, but Johnnie assures him: “The world needs more black men willingly to make a difference.” I enjoy seeing Cochran introduced before the trial and all that because we’ve got a chance to see bits of his character in advance.
Marcia Clark is disgusted with the system – Nicole Brown had been beaten up a bunch of times, O.J’s violent behaviour evident long ago. Her associate makes a hard point about how the police operate when it comes to famous people. However, now we’re going to see how they operate when it comes to black famous people, especially since murder is on the table. Then Marcia gets a listen of the interrogation tape when O.J. spoke with Van Atter. A timeline begins to come out, except it isn’t as concrete as Clark would like, giving O.J. plenty of opportunities to possibly change his story later. “He‘s the Juice,” Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) tells Marcia, as she tries figuring out how the questioning went so slack.
The family and friends of Simpson are rallying around him. A bit of a confrontation happens, on the sly, between O.J. and Kato; the latter lies about what he told the police, not telling them the two “had burgers” the night of the murders. Kardashian and Juice talk a little bit, but O.J. gets slightly upset because he keeps claiming his innocence. But there are lingering looks on the man’s face, which give up something else about what’s happening underneath the facade.
Out having dinner, Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) is schmoozing and having fun when O.J. reaches him on the telephone. Those who know of the trial will know who the man is before we’re formally given more on him.
Shapiro meets with Simpson and Kardashian. There’s talk of Johnny Carson, name dropping from Shapiro, but mostly he tries to make sure O.J. uses any expense at his disposal to get the job done. Naturally, like any good high quality lawyer would do. A private conversation between Juice and Shapiro sees the latter ask his client: “Did you do it?” To which the reply comes, fairly quick: “No. I loved her.”
Clark and associates are busy compiling a timeline, bringing witnesses together. They’ve got a pretty damn good look at the events, so far. But I’m sure, like the real case, lots of twisty, turning nonsense will begin to get in the way.
While they’re pressing forward, O.J. is busy with his own situation, taking a lie detector test. He’s asked several questions before a whopper: “Is the person who killed Nicole Brown in this room?”, and all of a sudden O.J. isn’t answering so quick. The tester reveals a score of “minus 24“, “the worst you can do” as confirmed by Shapiro to Kardashian. This puts the fear and doubt in Robert’s eyes, even as he denies the fact O.J. could’ve killed Nicole. Back in the room with O.J., he is flipping out about the detector and it seems like the world is just falling down all around him at each turn.
The funeral for Nicole is underway. Kris Jenner (Selma Blair) and Faye Resnick (Connie Britton) talk about the abuse Nicole suffered at the hands of O.J., but this is factually untrue: supposedly, Jenner claims she didn’t know until the trial when evidence of these incidents were presented. Outside, O.J. tries to make it into the funeral with photos taken everywhere, people yelling at him, and many questioning why he’d bring his lawyer. The whole scene is intense, as Simpson walks in towards the casket, everything silent and the entire room watching on. One huge note: Cuba Gooding Jr has done an impressive job playing Simpson in this first episode, and I really cannot wait to see how he develops the character over the course of this series. Right now I am blown away. Plus, the technical aspects of American Crime Story makes everything better, capturing each scene, every look and glance with absolute perfection.
We get more of Marcia, too. She pretty much hangs up on her daughter after Van Atter and Lange show up with more information. Very telling. She values her job almost more than anything else in life. Can’t wait for the magnificent Paulson to flesh out Clark, as well. She is a fantastic actress and no doubt will provide the range necessary for the role.
The impending big arrest is coming. Shapiro sweats it out, as things do not look good for the Juice. Speaking of O.J., he’s sleeping over at Kardashian’s place, likely in one of the girls’ rooms; posters of Jonathan Taylor Thomas and other teen heartthrobs of the 90’s adorn the walls. They start to get Simpson ready for a physical exam, as he flips out more. Shapiro is still not sure about his new client, asking if there’s any last confessions needing to be made, but O.J. has no time for more of that. Doctors check him out while Shapiro and Kardashian each try to hold a steady face. The police are pissed, though, as Shapiro hasn’t brought Simpson down to the precinct yet. Stalling, I imagine.
Grand jury hearings begin now. Clark is questioning Kaelin, who won’t answer a thing clinging to the 5th Amendment. She then finds out O.J. hasn’t turned himself in yet.
And the finale of the episode comes with Simpson writing a letter in Robert’s office. In fact, he has written a will, a statement for his fans, a letter for his mother and another for his kids. All because he plans to kill himself. The gun comes out and Robert has to talk his friend down. O.J. even puts the gun right to his temple, his eyes filled with tears.
But Rob can’t get it done. Simpson runs off with the gun at his head, down to “Kimmy‘s bedroom” (little name drop for her). His friend keeps on trying to talk him down, just as A.C, a.k.a Al Cowlings (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) shows up to help.
A squad car arrives and two LAPD officers come to arrest the culprit. Only O.J. is gone, Rob is distraught. Everyone is gone crazy looking for him, but he is gone. So is the Bronco.
Next episode is aptly titled “The Run of His Life”, after the book of the same name. Get ready to see some of that famous footage we all saw back in the 90’s, as the white Bronco speeds away on the Los Angeles freeway. Stay tuned with me, folks. Loving this series already.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 12: “Be Our Guest”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by John J. Gray
* For a review of the penultimate Season 5 finisher, “Battle Royale” – click here
This finale for the wild Season 5 begins with Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) talking about taking over the Hotel Cortez. Only she has her throat slit with a gloved hand, not unlike the one we’ve seen Countess (Lady Gaga) wear earlier in the season.
Cut to a couple checking in. Iris (Kathy Bates) and Liz woo them, with champagne on arrival, hoping to make the guests feel at home and ready for a wonderful time. They’re apparently from some website, one which reviews hotels. “It was going to take 4–stars on the internet,” Liz tells us. All the rooms are newly redone, looking beautiful; even Egyptian Cotton on all the beds. Looks a far cry from where it was once.
Except Sally (Sarah Paulson) shows up from out of nowhere to greet the new guests, lazing around smoking in her usual leopard print. She’s even getting ready to shoot up, which soon does in one of the guests. The other one goes running in the halls, coming across Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). “I‘m new at this murder game and jesus christ is it a thrill,” he says before stabbing her to death. Seems like things aren’t exactly perfect at the Hotel Cortez, despite the beautiful surface.
A very wonderful start to this final episode for the season. Plenty more macabre, nasty fun to come, I hope.
The meeting is called, as Liz and Iris try to create order among the ghosts of the Cortez. They all meet at the bar, everyone wanting something different. Marcy wants a new room. Will and Sally would rather kill. The rest are too self-involved, but not those two. They’re more excited for killing: “I‘m dead,” Will tells them, “but I‘ve never felt more alive.”
Up turns James March (Evan Peters), wanting them all to stop the killing. Funny, right? He’s mostly concerned about what happens if the Cortez gets shut down, torn down, bulldozed. Where will they go? In the meantime, everyone’s aruging. Until March flips a lid and sets them all straight. They need to make it a historic landmark, March claims, only they’ve got to keep the building there another 10 years, until 2026. Sally needs a “soulmate,” though, and she doesn’t look poised to change. Even with the threat of March sicking the Addiction Demon on her, as once he did before.
Most interesting is how Iris shows Sally about the world outside, social media, which will help her not be so alone in the world. She can’t go out, but that doesn’t mean Sally can’t interact with the world. Great way to bring the issues of today into the show, instead of only relying on dates onscreen from time to time. Plus, it goes well with Sally’s 1990’s rock/grunge character, to think she might be someone who would fall into social media and all its trappings.
Mainly, everyone is now trying to figure out the way to head into the future. Liz has all but convinced Drake to stay holed up in the hotel, all “Howard Hughes” and such. In fact, Liz is now Will’s acting hand at his company. Amazing new age company being led by Ms. Liz Taylor. The fashion goes on, the clothing still coming out – even Sally models bits of his work, plus Ramona (Angela Bassett) and other ghosts in the Cortez.
But sadly, Liz misses Tristan. Then we’re introduced to an old, familiar face – Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) back from Season 1’s Murder House. What a beautiful return to the original season, another character linking things together. Great season for this sort of thing, with Queenie in the last episode, Marcy showing up from time to time, and more. This sequence sees Billie helping Liz to try reconnecting with his now lost, murdered love, Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock). But it seems Tristan isn’t willing to fully reconnect, he’s angered and doesn’t want to talk with Liz. Not right now, anyways.
But wait – it’s Donovan now reaching from the other side, talking of “pancakes with blueberries” and that it’s “always Saturday morning” wherever he is.
Gathering the ghosts together, Liz tells everybody she’s got prostate cancer; inoperable, “nothing to do.” All those ghosts are worried, but Liz absolutely has a plan. Of sorts. Weapons are out on the bed, ready for everyone. She wants to be hacked, bludgeoned, et cetera, to death. “It‘s not murder,” Sallys says to them: “She wants to be reborn.”
“The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” by Marianne Faithfull starts to play while everybody weapons up. Liz lays back on the bed, ready for the murder to take place. At the door, though, Countess arrives. “You were always my fondest creation,” Countess tells Liz. She’s there to join in on the fun: “I wanted to be here to help you transition.” Great word play all around with this sequence. Great, viciously bloody fun. This takes us back to that first scene, watching Liz have her throat cut open, the blood flying and beginning to run down onto the floor. Savagery – the best sort which Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk continually give us. And in death? Liz finds Tristan once more.
Down at the desk a woman shows up on Devil’s Night in 2022. She booked a room way in advance. In other news, Iris and Ramona are lamenting too much publicity after Billie Dean Howard’s specials aired on television, bringing out the weirdos, the perverts. Funniest is seeing John Lowe in league with them all, just another part of them. We get cuts back to Howard doing her various specials in Room 44, Room 64, and so on.
Now Lowe has got himself a plan. They call Billie Dean down for another taping, as she continues to try calling on the Ten Commandment Killer to reveal himself.
Then there’s Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) and John’s family. They made things work in the outside world. Or at least, as best as it would work. They tried. Out on the streets, Lowe killed, stockpiling blood in coffee canisters, stalking the streets for more victims with which to feed the family. One night, he finds himself caught by the police. Bleeding, full of bullets, John tries his best to make it back inside the Cortez, to die in there. Instead of making it all the way, he’s left on the sidewalk. Returning on Devil’s Night, though, it is easy to see James March has a hand in it all. Another dinner party, perhaps?
Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Richard Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe), they’re all back! Gacy’s trying to teach Jeffrey to talk to guys, in such a creepy scene. The music in the background plays heavy, lazy. Everything is terrifying and dark. John introduces her around the place, acclimating her to the strange surroundings. The Zodiac is there, too. Quiet and chilling in the corner with his baghead costume on, totally silent. A surreal sequence here, as Billie Dean navigates through “all these dark spirits.” March appears soon enough to toast them all. Lots of fun! A top five favourite sequence out of this Hotel season.
This is all a way to get Howard to stop doing specials at the hotel. The ghosts all want, need, to be left alone. So they need to her to give up. None of the ghosts can leave, but Ramona shows up to tell her: “I can.” Seems ole Billie Dean has more to fear than a few ghosts. Best she start moving on, right?In Room 64, John keeps his family. His daughter has grown a few years, obviously, and the others sleep soundly. Must be strange for her to age while the family stays the same, forever. Yet she seems fine with that mostly. It’s nice for John and Alex, who have their son back and eternally get to sleep next to one another, just like a new family. A creepy finish, as John has to go away for a whole year until the next Devil’s Night, when the family will come back together in the Cortez, to enjoy each other’s company, to love one another for that single day. A semi-happy ending in one sense, but a deeply tragic one for Lowe.
The very end of the episode sees The Countess at a table in the lounge, drinking, smoking. Out of the dark hallways comes a man she likes the look of, so off she goes to sit next to him at the bar. He sort of looks like Donovan – hair slicked back, handsome, a bit of stubble. Is that the intention? I think so. “You have a jawline for days,” says the Countess, right before everything cuts to black. Beautiful.
Loved the end to this season. An impressive full circle, but in a way that doesn’t only recall the beginning of the season, the beginning of character relationships, it also adds things on, making the layers deeper, more enticing. People complained a ton about this season. Me? I dig it. Totally. Stay tuned, we’ll see where Falchuk and Murphy go from here next season.