The line between found footage fiction and non-fiction blurs in this horrific true crime mystery.
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.