Ardham Lodge proves to be a place of old and terrifying secrets
Atticus Freeman, a WWII veteran, starts off on a journey to find his father, travelling across a Jim Crow-era American landscape.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 10: “The Verdict”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
* For a review of the previous episode, “Manna From Heaven” – click here
Finally, the last episode of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson has arrived!
We begin as O.J. (Cuba Gooding Jr) gets dressed for the big day. Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) advises him how they’ll proceed from here. In court, Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) is faced with letting O.J. address the court. Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is not happy with that, believing the defense is trying to get facts to the jury improperly. Everybody watches on, as O.J. speaks awhile. Until Marcia shuts that shit down.
In the defense camp, death threats are rolling in for Johnnie – twenty and counting. He’s not concerned, though. Too busy rehearsing and writing his famous “if the glove doesn‘t fit you must acquit” speech that, as we all know now, was so Cochran-like. He love rhymes and alliteration, he had an almost theatrical quality.
Over in court, Marcia’s doing the best she can to convince the jury, one last time, that her sides is the right side. She pleads that the testimony concerning Dt. Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) not poison the well entirely. With her in court she has a nice board made up stating its UNREFUTED EVIDENCE that Simpson is the murderer. The jury is swayed, back and forth. Clearly many of them, especially the African-American citizens, are on the side of Cochran and Simpson. But Marcia makes a good case. She does, indeed. As much as Johnnie can talk the talk, Marcia can, too. She can walk that walk, as well.
More of Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown), also pleading their case for the jury. He is another man whose passionate and plain way of speaking is an evident advantage as a prosecutor. But it’s the whole racial angle around the trial that’s interesting when considering Darden. He was faced with being a supposed Uncle Tom-like figure, when he was simply there on the side of justice: “This case is not about the N–word. It is about O.J. Simpson and the M word: murder.” Darden brings up many great points about Nicole Brown and her relationship with Simpson; his jealous, his anger towards her, the previous domestic abuse and the fact she filled up a safe deposit box with pictures of her injuries from those incidents, and so on.
Johnnie proceeds to stand on the high horse about domestic abuse. Ironic? Well, he moves on and gets loose, he orates like a man onstage reading Hamlet. Moreover, he again uses this as a chance to slag on the LAPD. He’s not only trying to get O.J. off, he wants to use this as a soapbox for the things he already fights against. He pops off the infamous glove line, then finishes up, the whole place hushed.
So now, they wait.
F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) is off to Laguna Beach, Johnnie has a flight to catch. Then Bob Shapiro (John Travolta) rambles about Oscar De La Hoya, and everyone leaves him all alone, almost without a word. They’re done with him and his bullshit, I suppose. Who wouldn’t be?
The jury starts to deliberate. Not Guilty keeps coming out, over and over. Out of the whole lot only two jurors claimed O.J. as Guilty. More of the black v. white stuff happening. Also there’s plenty of doubts about the trial itself, the weird things going on. But some of the Africa-American jurors are unwilling to budge, particularly because of racist Fuhrman and his absolutely despicable testimony.
Everyone’s surprised by the mere four hours the jury deliberated. Everyone’s worried, too. Naturally. Because it isn’t clear, at all, at any point what’s been about to happen in the trial. Meanwhile, Shapiro and Cochran are at each other’s throats again, as the latter has involved Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam in their protection because of the volatile nature of the trial and its surroundings. For their part, Marcia and Chris try keeping a positive spirit, hoping the quick deliberation means the best for the prosecution.
In jail, Simpson preps for the “big day” – “biggest,” as he says. Even signs a ball for one of the guard’s kids. The guard also seems to give up a bit of good news from a friend guarding the jurors. Uh oh.
Everyone sits, waiting, hearts in every throat, pulse throbbing. Every single person looks stressed, both figuratively and literally on the edge of their seats. The verdict is handed over. Time slows down from O.J’s perspective. Each person watches the verdict pass over to the jury from the bailiff. Everything is by the book. This sequence is super tense, very well filmed and written, so as to draw things out. Even while knowing the verdict already it is still thrilling. The editing even cuts things to a higher level of intensity, too.
When the verdict is read out loud, everyone reacts in amazingly different ways. The racial tension is completely obvious. The editing cuts back and forth between jurors, family members, friends, the streets. An impressive little montage of edits within this scene that made the impact even more weighty. When one of the jurors holds up the Black Panther sign it comes as a whopper to both O.J. and Marcia; especially the former, who finally sees it wasn’t his supposed innocence that got him off, it was the fact he’s black. Therefore, nothing will change, people – some of them – will still see him as a cold-blooded murderer.
In the bathroom, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) loses his lunch, clearly doubting his old dear friend’s guilt. So many reactions that it’s just a gumbo of different opinion all over the place. But even those closest to Simpson have their doubts. Hell, Shapiro was never sure to begin with, so it’s not surprising.
The fallout of the trial is different for everyone, as well. Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) feels his career will be defined by their loss. Marcia says she’s “ashamed” of herself. Darden wants nothing to do with going out and facing the press. But they stick together. Gil even compliments lark on her class, for not stooping to the level of the press, nor that of the defense and their tactics. Obviously, though, she feels the weight of the decision against her. Amazing acting in this scene, Sarah Paulson gives us more of her excellent portrayal of Marcia Clark; some of the highlights of the series as a whole in this first season.
Many are devastated by the jury’s decision. The Goldmans, The Browns, Garcetti and his entire team, many in the community. They can only pick up the pieces and move on from there, learn from their mistakes and errors in judgements. Clark and Darden do their best to give a press conference, under all the emotion they suffer. Another emotionally charged moment out of this great finale. Then from the crowd someone asks: “Gil – you gonna look for the real killer now?” Whoa. That is a big one, and it hits Garcetti off guard.
On the streets people celebrate. But so many, like The Goldmans, are left wondering how to move on. How can they reconcile what they feel they know deep in their hearts with the verdict? And after so much madness throughout the course of the trial.
Very interesting is the meeting between Cochran and Darden. The faith Chris has in the law doesn’t waiver, yet he has no faith in the theatrics of Cochran and his tactics. But Johnnie is able to sleep at night knowing he’s slightly changed things. When he sees President Bill Clinton on the news talking about the LAPD, the black experience, he knows things may shift. If only he were still alive today, he’d know nothing ever fully changes. Not when it’s embedded like racism.
Darden: “This isn‘t some civil rights milestone. Police in this country will keep arresting us, keep beating us, keep killing us. You haven‘t changed anything for black people here. Unless, of course, you‘re a famous, rich one in Brentwood.”
Marcia and Chris lick their wounds together. Neither of them is totally sure how to process what’s happened, even if it’s something they understand, how it came about, what went on during the trial. We get some insight into Clark, though. She reveals to Darden her rape, years ago, in Italy at the hands of a waiter. She tells him how there’s a “thing” in her seeking “vengeance for victims“, and that is her idea of justice, to get the justice those victims deserve, that they need. Although, the Simpson trial is really shaking her to the core, her beliefs wavering in the face of such injustice for Nicole’s murder after all the domestic abuse, the fighting, et cetera. Sad to see a strong person like Clark beaten down by a major case.
Simultaneously, O.J. gets out of jail. Funny enough, the only person waiting is Kardashian. He can’t even hide his feelings, almost weeping right there. But they head home, bringing Simpson back to his place in Brentwood. Big party, a “rager” is about to happen ’cause O.J. wants to get down. Only the reception is not what he’d expected. People in his upper class neighbourhood aren’t happy. So he’s experiencing the many-edged sword of race. The predominantly white neighbourhood of Brentwood isn’t exactly impressed with the verdict, not like the reactions in the inner city.
There’s a neat juxtaposition of things at the end here in this finale. We inally see O.J. back at home – the first time we’ve really seen him free the entire series. But he is alone. He cries to himself. Even he doesn’t know exactly how to go on after everything.
At his party afterwards things are even more telling. The only person on his defense team that’s present is Kardashian, who doesn’t even stay too long. A moment with a waiter is also pretty interesting, revealing more racial undertones to every relationship which O.J. engages in. Also, his last look with Kardashian is extremely heavy, as Simpson can tell his good friend no longer has faith; at least in him ,anyways.
In the backyard, O.J. stares up at his statue, long and hard. A larger than life figure, both him and the statue. In his head are the sounds of his old days on the field, the crowd roaring. How far he has fallen.
An impressive series that I loved, start to finish. I look forward to seeing what they’ll do for next season, which is rumoured to be centered on Hurricane Katrina. Also dig the end where they showed everyone with their real life counterpart side-by-side. Lots of great writing, acting, editing, the whole thing was nearly perfect, only a couple rare missteps. I see some awards in this series’ future.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 9: “Manna From Heaven”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
* For a review of the previous episode, “A Jury in Jail” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “The Verdict” – click here
The penultimate episode of American Crime Story has arrived.
We begin with recap of the trial via television. The tapes of Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) are being tracked down. Meanwhile, in court Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) is doing his thing, asking his witness whether someone “sounded black“, which prompts Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) to go off. It gets so heated that Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) calls a recess. Of course, Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is pissed herself because the racial nonsense distracts from anything truthful.
But the defense are jumping all over Fuhrman and the supposed tapes. Bob Shapiro (John Travolta), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) and the rest try to get things in order. “We must get them,” orders Johnnie re: the tapes.
Johnnie: “God brought us these tapes. There‘s something much larger at play here. This, is Manna from Heaven.”
The prosecution are variably worried in their own respects about Fuhrman; Darden more so. Yet Johnnie and his crew are moving along to the beat of their own drum. We’ve got F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) touting his influence in the boardroom, offering to head up the whole Fuhrman angle in North Carolina, where he and Cochran are headed for the tapes and transcripts. And so the two dig in on Fuhrman and his extremely complicated racist background. Unfortunately, the NC judge is not happy to have a flash, proud, strong black man like Johnnie in his court. So, Bailey has to take over. He placates the Southern racists, managing to slip out those tapes and transcripts for their case in California.
Bailey: “Mr. Cochran take a good look where you‘re standing. We‘re in the South. Haven‘t you noticed the scent of mint julep and condescension in the air? Right behind you is a statue of a Confederate soldier holding a rifle. With all due respect, I don‘t know if you play as well in Dixie.”
Back in Los Angeles, Marcia is getting even more worked up, as the tapes make their way further towards their trial. Ito won’t let them in yet, but the teams are allowed to review them. There’s an ominous tone to this episode. All the looming racism of the past connecting with Fuhrman and the ongoing racism, that sadly still burns today in the U.S. The entire opening 10 minutes or so are incredible.
So everybody tucks in and listens to what Fuhrman’s got to say on the infamous recordings. The editing in this series is spectacular, as always. They cut both of the teams listening to the tapes together, back and forth between the two. Super intense sequence overall. Immediately, Fuhrman launches into a tirade about “niggers” and “Mexicans“, and talks about the right way to enforce the law, tough on the street. He says the word nigger about a dozen times in the first few sentences. Brutal. Each side realizes what this will do to their case; obviously, Marcia and Darden see this can crush them.
But they’ve got something “unexpected” for Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood), an “O. Henry twist“, as Marcia puts it eloquently. There’s a bunch of talk from Fuhrman on the tape about Ito’s wife, the “highest ranking woman in the LAPD” – another nail in the whole Mark Fuhrman witness debacle. The entire thing becomes a massive shitstorm.
Gil: “This screams gross incompetence”
Both sides are pressed against the wall, though. Cochran and Co. don’t want a mistrial, while Darden suggests to Marcia that’s their best option, to start over without Fuhrman and his madness. Everything involving Ito spill out in open court, as he prefers it to happen. He even happens to give a little shout out to hardworking women in male-dominated environments.
Above all else, Ito determines another judge has to call whether the case should stay in front of the court. Yowzahs. So much happening on each side.
So Marcia and Chris go back to the drawing board. As do Johnnie, Shapiro, and everyone else. The whole court, really. Cochran suggests giving Ito the tapes with the parts about his wife edited out. Everyone seemed to find that suitable, but it’s up to a new judge now. Tempers flare in the meantime, with Shapiro blowing up on Cochran. Same goes for Darden – he chews Marcia out for not having listened when he advised they shouldn’t use Fuhrman to begin with, and this opens more cans of worms, relationship-wise amongst them.
Darden: “You put me on this trial because you wanted a black face. But the truth is, you never wanted a black voice.”
On his own, Cochran is running against the tapes, him and the Coalition with which he’s involved. They’re determined to root out racist LAPD officers. Everyone from Shapiro to Garcetti is worried about more riots like in Watts. The city is almost on fire with racial heat.
People like Ito, they’re caught in the middle. People like Johnnie are willingly in the middle o the storm.
In court, things get rolling again. Johnnie wants those tapes, and he is running with them. On the other side, Clark isn’t defending Fuhrman, but rather the victims of the crime at the center of their trial. Regardless, they’re both passionate speakers. Merely different breeds of thinkers, different strategists. And Marcia does her best to try and make sure the jury won’t hear the tapes.
It’s all down to poor Ito. He has to read through a ton of vile, racist trash, as well as contend with the backlash on either end of his decision. A terrible position in which to find oneself. Nobody would’ve wanted to be him during that time. Especially once he decides the tapes will be allowed, as they’re a matter of “national concern“, so says Ito. A huge blow-up comes out again between Darden and Cochran, with the former unimpressed how his old mentor is making a mockery of the court. This gets Marcia up on Chris’ behalf, each of them nearly held in contempt by the judge. One of the most INTENSE sequences of the entire series. Orderly chaos. Eventually it all calms down, but the dirty laundry is out on the line for all to see.
Finally, the court hears some of Fuhrman. The recording is played, his speech is spelled out in text. Damning stuff, as he goes on about police brutality. Everyone in court is horrified by some of the things he says. Openly admitting to hating black people, as well as the brutality that routinely goes on behind the scenes of the LAPD. Awful, vicious. A very creepy scene, hearing these things come out. Imagine what it must’ve been like in the courtroom that day. People like Fred Goldman (Joseph Siravo) are disgusted with the focus being taken off the murder victims, and everything honing in on Fuhrman, et cetera. At the same time, Darden and Clark are licking their wounds, attempting to figure out somewhere to move next. Marcia apologizes for not listening to Chris earlier. Too late, though, better late than never at all.
Ito rules on the Fuhrman tapes. Only concerned with “perjury” and not all the LAPD corruption. Cochran isn’t happy, neither is Bailey. As usual, Bob dances around not wanting to piss off the police. He doesn’t get why Johnnie is so inflamed. Because he’s white. He could never fully understand. Nevertheless, Johnnie blows things up and advises Los to “remain calm” – but does he want that, or would some riots help his cause? The enigma of Cochran is that he’s at once a theatrical act, a performer, a disguise, and simultaneously he’s a proud, tough man who does right by people, too. You just never know who you’re going to get at any given time.
Fuhrman is being brought to the stand. Outside the court it’s a circus, inside like a morbid auditorium awaiting some bloody dissection of a patient. And that’s sort of what’s about to happen. All his lies are poised to come out.
And before things get started, Darden leaves the courtroom. Wow, a powerful statement in itself.
Johnnie starts his surgical procedure in open court. Only Fuhrman asserts the Fifth Amendment for all his questions. Another wrench in the machine. The one question Cochran does go on to ask gets the same response, and casts further doubt on the evidence. Things are getting very rough from here on in for Clark and Co.
One ray of sunshine? Marcia got primary custody of her children. A small glimpse of hope after a terrible time in court.
Next and final episode, “The Verdict”, promises lots of interesting things. Let’s see how Ryan Murphy finishes things off along with his super talented crew of actors, directors, writers, and everyone else involved. An amazing series that’s giving us impressive insight into the events behind the scenes of such an infamous trial.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 7: “Conspiracy Theories”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by D.V. DeVincentis
* For a review of the previous episode, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Jury in Jail” – click here
Covering the sexism Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) dealt with at the start of the O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr) trial in the last episode, American Crime Story moves towards the end of its excellent first season with the next chapter “Conspiracy Theories”, and what does it bring?
We start with Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) running into Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood). The latter is worried about race riots again, which he sees Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) dangerously close to starting. And then Marcia shows up with a new hairdo!
We zip back and forth between court, and taped court, as Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler) takes about the “narrative” of the media, and so on. He has others studying Johnnie doing his thing, before getting inspiration of his own. He sends a fax down to the court room for Cochran. This starts the thread of doubt, throwing a possibility of gang and drug-related violence into the mix.
Marcia isn’t worried about the defense getting “exotic“, but Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) makes clear they’re making “big moments“, which in turn sways the jury and resonates. Even against fact. So Darden propels Detectives Lange (Chris Bauer) and Van Atter (Michael McGrady) to get at the work hard.
Mannwhile, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) is worried about “the blood in the Bronco” and he’s having doubts of his own. But things switch gear when news breaks about Johnnie’s personal life, as the women from his former life – Barbara Cochran (Angela Elayne Gibbs) included – give interviews. This sends him into a fury, stunning the others in his company. The war games have truly begun.
The detectives busy themselves with Nicole Brown’s things. They dig up some Visa statements, pointing towards the gloves from her murder scene being bought by none other than Nichole herself. This sends them all into a frenzy, like sharks sniffing out blood.
Marcia: “The gloves are our conviction”
Media hounds Johnnie about what he calls “old gossip“, wondering if he’s got two lives happening parallel to one another. He shrugs it off and gets going: “Man‘s made of god damn Teflon,” says Darden watching on with Marcia. I love their relationship, again as I’ve said before. He and Marcia get closer, and I find them endearing together; friends or otherwise. It’s an interesting pair.
In court, Shapiro arrives with a pin on his jacket to show “police solidarity“, which nobody at the defense table finds too agreeable. Certainly not O.J., nor F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane). More and more, the wedge divides them all. Bob brings up Johnnie’s most recent troubles as evidence he shouldn’t be telling anyone how to live. At home, Johnnie faces further problems – nobody else knew about his other life except her, now the cat’s out of the bag.
Dale: “You made the world your stage. You wanted the attention. Now you got it. Now you got it.”
The two Bobs are in council together. Shapiro wants things to smooth out, seeing Johnnie as out of control, or whatever. Mostly it’s about jealousy. What Shapiro brings up is the infamous bag; the one Kardashian took for Simpson, the one that possibly contained the murder weapon. So Shapiro thinks he ought to give up the weapon, saying there’s talk in the air about it. This does not sit well with Kardashian. At all. None of it gets shared with Johnnie, though. Sneaky Bob Shapiro.
Along with Al Cowlings (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), Kardashian checks out the garment bag from Simpson. He opens it, expecting the worst, and… nothing. Only clothes and the expected things, a few Penthouse magazines. “Nothing funky in that bag,” as A.C. puts it. Yet they have a brief conversation about who may have done it, what could’ve possibly happened. “I‘m really struggling,” Kardashian tells Al. He is slipping, going over the entire situation about Nicole and Ron Goldman, and it is driving them mad. It worries him there are no other suspects – “no other answer,” he claims.
At the prison, O.J. has Bob Shapiro come down. “Where‘s your I Love Cops pin?” asks Simpson. They’ve got a bit of beef, stemming from Bob’s attempts to undermine Cochran and his strategies. The Juice wants things out on the table. Bob does not want to take on the LAPD as a hole, rather than one “bad apple” – but it’s more bullshit. Simpson isn’t happy about Bob and his behaviour. They’re clearly at odds. The entire defense team is at odds, especially now with Kardashian questioning whether his friend actually killed his wife.
Happier times are here for Darden and Marcia. They go out together with some of his friends. Everyone has a great time, Marcia fits in with the black crew wonderfully, and it’s all good times. “First one who mentions that god damn case drinks,” says Marcia half-drunk and laying down the law. Lots of talk about Simpson and the case, as people theorize about Dt. Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) planting the glove, et cetera, and LAPD needing to cover things up later. So then Marcia uses a bunch of shot glasses to lay out the case in front of everyone. Things get serious while Marcia shoots down all the theories, then more drinks are had.
Later, Marcia and Chris end up almost climbing in bed together. But rather than do that Darden chooses to merely say “goodnight” and they head their separate ways. You can tell he did not want to do that. And it may have squashed any chances he had previously.
In the office, Darden tells Marcia they need to get him to put on that glove. The media will make it look perfect. She wants to go for it without that, as it may turn the entire case over to the defense. We who know the history know what happens.
On rages the trial. Tension between Clark and Darden obviously has things seeming awkward. On the other side, Shapiro is isolated from the others, as is Kardashian still feeling strange about everything.
And then Shapiro checks out the gloves, unable to fit one on his hand. He brings his ideas to the table quickly. They’re about to take charge of things: “Those gloves are too small,” says Bob. He wants to beat Clark/Darden, same as they want to do on that side, too. Fascinating to see both sides of this situation. Bailey has a better idea: “We get them to present it.” What a congregation of spin doctors! At the prosecution table, things are in shambles, and Darden gets egged on by Bailey setting in motion a piece of history in this major trial.
Up on the floor, Darden starts in on the gloves, and Johnnie throws further fuel on the fire Bailey started. Lots of performances going on here, as Cochran acts up a storm. All to get Darden to do what they want; to introduce the gloves and make Simpson try them on. This blows Marcia away, insubordinate to the maximum. And on the circus rolls.
The famous moment we all know so well comes to us on FX: the Juice steps up and tries to put the gloves on, which proves extremely difficult. “These gloves are too small,” he exclaims to the jury. A moment that resonated deeply in many senses. The prosecution is brutalized. The defense slap hands under the table, as Cochran and Shapiro are on good terms once more.
Darden is obviously beat up over what’s happened, though, not defeated. But where do they go from here?
We know the results. At the same time, it’s interesting to watch the whole trial, its various dynamics, dissected from one episode to the next. The penultimate Season 1 episode “A Jury in Jail” is next week. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 6: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by D.V. DeVincentis
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Race Card” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Conspiracy Theories” – click here
This episode begins with Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) in court over her children. She starts to express herself “outside of protocol” and the judge is not pleased. But we’re seeing the warring parts of her life; she is a high profile, powerful woman, also not without her faults and flaws. I’m sure her husband wasn’t any better, though, we definitely get a glimpse of her obsession with the law over anything else in her life.
Marcia rushes on into the court, as everyone else is already seated. Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) gets everything rolling.
On the stand is a friend of Nicole, who recounts a vulgar moment about O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr) grabbing Nicole by the crotch in front of a crowd. Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) tries to keep everyone’s cool, including Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) who gets feisty. Johnnie tells O.J. and Bob that the woman is “crying on cue” and seems pretty confident when Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) taunts a bit on his way out of court. I’m sure Cochran’s got a few tricks ready to roll out his sleeve.
At home, Marcia sees herself on television. Except it comes in the form of talk about her beauty, whether or not she dresses well, her style described as “frump incarnate” by one of the people on the news. This weighs on her, while she has other things that need attention, from family to the courtroom.
More custody troubles. Marcia finds her husband wanting further custody, as she’s so busy all the time. Particularly with the Simpson trial now. Lots of looking at Marcia in this episode already, excited for more.
Meanwhile, Johnnie is laying out his next strategy. Bob shows up late, then in typical Shapiro style glares at Cochran, as he goes on about his routine. Cut to Marcia on the stand, talking to Detective Phillip Van Atter (Michael McGrady), whom Johnnie cross-examines afterward. What comes out of the conversation here is that Cochran tries to draw Van Atter into admitting they quickly identified O.J. as a suspect, rather than a “husband to be notified” or anything else. For now, Johnnie is setting things up to show how the LAPD is lying about “small things” to get to the bigger things later in the questioning.
We get to see all sides of Johnnie, too. He’s a jack of all trades, hanging with police and laughing with the likes of Detective Tom Lange (Chris Bauer). He then turns around and puts Lange on the stand, grilling him; even bringing up that where Lange lives, where he took evidence for “6 hours” before logging it, is the same place where cops involved in the Rodney King case live. Any way he can draw doubt into the picture, he can, and he will. Major, major doubt now with Shapiro and Cochran double-teaming Lange over the evidence; something he’d not done before, that he “can recall“, anyways.
I dig seeing the relationship between Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. She is very supportive of him, even after sort of using him on the case in a racial sense. However, Darden clearly cares for her, as both a friend and a colleague. What they both have in common is that they’re marginalized, in life and in the case. She brings up being judged – can’t be too uptight or they call her a bitch, can’t let loose and party or they’ll take her kids away. Same as Darden’s situation on the case, stuck between a rock and a hard place – seems a black man can’t judge O.J. or he’s a traitor of some kind versus the fact he’s black and a lawyer and doesn’t want to go against his best judgement simply due to him and O.J. both being black.
On the radio next day, a DJ polls – “Is Marcia Clark a bitch or a babe?” This prompts Darden to call in and vote for babe. Although it seems he’s playing into it, he does so because of his feelings for her, obviously. They’re sort of cute together, Marcia and Christopher.
When Marcia calls Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale), things get sketchy. Cochran brings up a witness who has to be on the stand right away. Then “babysitting issues” for Marcia come up, as the personal side of her life spills into the public eye of the court. Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) tries to convince Marcia into letting go of the media; “stop watching tv,” he tells her sternly. He hates it and knows the whole thing is sexist, but there’s simply nothing he can do. Except to suggest some “media consultants” he could put her in touch with, causing a bit of embarrassment on both their parts with the whole office listening in. But again, Marcia has so many things, each bigger than the last, to tackle.
In court, Johnnie takes jabs at Marcia about “childcare issues” and she finally stands up to say it is offensive, “totally out of line“, making clear she will not stand for any his bullshit any longer. Finally, on comes the housekeeper, Ms. Lopez, whom Cochran wants on the stand. Marcia starts to unravel a bit of Ms. Lopez’s story concerning a ticket out of the country, then begins working on whittling down the timeline the housekeeper proposes: “Whatever Mr. Johnnie says I said,” she tells Clark. Then she can’t seem to remember. “Good enough for me,” says Marcia.
Outside Marcia receives a ton of media attention, women chanting out to her as she leaves the court. But it’s Johnnie who’s got the trouble – rumours of his own clash with domestic abuse in the past are about to hit the newsstand. Although, Marcia still has her trouble, too. Her ex-husband Gordon goes on the news revealing Marcia didn’t need to leave court to take care of her children, effectively spreading their dirty laundry in public.
Johnnie gives a call to a woman named Barbara. Obviously the one whom he abused. He ends up offering her the profits off selling a property he owns, that was her “pet project“, and putting the bribe out there for her to take.
At the prison, Johnnie, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), and Bob Shapiro go meet with O.J. The Juice is not happy about the whole “Mr. Johnnie” incident in court with the housekeeper. He wants more control, to be involved with all the decisions. “When I wanna hear from you I‘ll rattle my zipper,” Simpson screams at Shapiro, yelling everybody out of the room.
Back over to the trial. In the lobby, Darden has it out with a black reporter who seems to only focus on Cochran. At the same time, Dominick Dunne (Robert Morse) pipes in for Darden, seeing behind the thin veneer of celebrity that lays over Simpson.
Marcia shows up with her new hairdo, which has everyone turning their head. Not necessarily in a great way, but turning nonetheless. She goes for a short, curly do, even more than before. And she digs it. Until Judge Ito makes a remark and her eyes reach around the room to see everyone mocking her. Darden writes her a sweet note, though, the papers next morning give her a brutal going over. Then she experiences NASTY sexism – at a store getting Tampax, a cashier makes a remark about her period and how the defense are in for rough times. Wow. Unbelievable writing, yet the situation is atrocious. Such blatant sexist talk, and it affects her deeply.
Detective Mark Fuhrman is on the stand now with Clark. He expresses distaste for the trial devolving into “personal issues” rather than “facts” and all the evidence. And so his testimony begins, recounting the crime scene, the evidence found, et cetera. Things go along smoothly. Stories of the white Bronco, the blood, and the police worrying O.J. himself may have been injured in whatever the incident had been. Of course Simpson and Cochran don’t think that’s too true.
Later during drinks, Bailey goes on about Fuhrman’s “tombstone” and how he’s going to ask the man about the word “nigger“, whether or not he uses it. As those of us know, this is exactly what Lee did during the trial, and is largely believed to be one of the nails in the coffin of this case later.
Back to court, where Bailey gets up to talk about Fuhrman’s service with the Marines. Seems Bailey was a Marine, too. Then he heads into hacking away at Fuhrman, attempting to make it look as if the detective possibly planted evidence, or even to put that seed of doubt in peoples minds. Finally, Bailey drops the question on Fuhrman, whose response is no, he doesn’t use the word nigger. Great editing and writing in this scene makes it quite exciting.
At the office, Gil shows Marcia a paper that published a nude picture of her. And it’s real. The husband before Gordon took them. Now they’re in the public eye, like the rest of her life; now it’s her body. Gil seems thrown off. Not as much as Marcia.
Everything is weighing hard on her. She’s about to break, as the tears well in her eyes and Darden tries to comfort her. Ito sees it. The defense sees it. Luckily, the judge graciously breaks the court for recess until the next day. An act of mercy on his behalf.
Afterwards, Marcia weeps in her office on the floor. Darden goes to see her, to try and be of some help. She breaks down further: “I‘m not a public personality, this isn‘t what I do. I don‘t know how to do this. And those other guys, they‘re flashy hot shots. They‘re used to it. But I – I just can’t take it.” He sits with her, a literal shoulder on which to rest her head. At least they’re in it together.
Amazing episode, so much focus on Marcia while still pushing the entire narrative forward. Wonderful writing and lots of nice direction from Ryan Murphy. Stay tuned with me for the next one, “Conspiracy Theories” – see you next week.
FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 5: “The Race Card”
Directed by John Singleton
Written by Joe Robert Cole
* For a review of the previous episode, “100% Not Guilty” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” – click here
This episode starts out in 1982, as Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) is driving with his little girls. He’s pulled over by a motorcycle cop. Johnnie explains he’s on the way to dinner with his daughters. “This is the third time this week somebody‘s pulled me over for no reason,” he explains to the officer. When the cop tries to engage the girls, Johnnie gets “hostile” – supposedly. Cuffed and leaning over the hood of his car, Johnnie assures his daughters everything will be fine. Meanwhile, all the white faces look at him from the sidewalks. Then the officer comes back from checking on things, letting him go after recognizing his position as Assistant District Attorney. Johnnie’s daughters ask if the man called him “a nigger“, but Johnnie assures “he didn‘t have to” and asks them never to say that ugly word again.
Back to the present timeline in 1995. Johnnie’s introduced at a church, heralded for taking the reins on the O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr) case. Everyone is praying for Mr. Cochran in his litigation. The community is right behind him all the way.
Well on the television, as Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson), Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) and others watch on, Johnnie plays the titular race card. He claims, in front of reporters, the only reason Darden is now involved is due to his blackness, which pisses Marcia off, but resonates at least slightly with Darden.
With The Dream Team running full steam, Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) is refusing to work with F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) – or, he is for a few moments. “Judas,” Shapiro fires across the table. Bailey replies slyly: “I suppose that makes you Jesus?” Well Johnnie puts a stop to it all in the name of work.
This scene edits us back and forth between the prosecution/defense teams. Clark and Co. are going hard at the abuse angle, how Simpson was a serial abuser, pursuing Nicole Brown constantly and aggressively even before their relationship became fully serious. At the same time, Cochran and the others are going at the evidence, its credibility, et cetera, as well as the fact the witnesses to any of the supposed events, before and during, aren’t strong enough. This is amazing writing, as well as editing, because it puts us right in the room with both teams at once, giving a bird’s eye view of every step.
Then we find out Darden is taking on the Dt. Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) angle. This makes Christopher more curious now, as if he’s feeling what Cochran had said, as if his race is the only reason for his assignment here. But he doesn’t bother to say anything about it to Marcia.
Fuhrman and Darden meet in the latter’s office. Christopher brings up what the defense may bring in front of the court. For his part, Fuhrman says “it‘s not going to be an issue” and even makes the comment about his “black buddies” from the force. Something about him gives Darden a “real bad vibe” and he brings his concerns to Marcia, about the things Fuhrman may be hiding, how he feels Fuhrman is playing a part for them. Here, we’re seeing the difference between how blacks and whites understand racism. Marcia simply tells Christopher: “Massage it.”
Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) meets with Dominick Dunne (Robert Morse). Ito gives Dunne a front-row seat to the Simpson trial. Dunne’s history with violent trials is clear, as his own daughter was murdered. Those who don’t know, Dunne is an actual journalist and writer, whose daughter Dominique was murdered and whose killer got off light. This is a nice, interesting piece because we also see Ito’s own fame-whoring here. He hauls out a picture from Arsenio Hall – signed and everything. The look from Dunne shows us how he feels, as well as how we can glean the way Ito sees stardom. Incredibly interesting.
At the start of the trial, Darden and Cochran meet in the lobby. Christopher wants them to be respectful of one another, but Cochran makes clear: “Brother, I ain‘t tryin‘ to be respectful – I‘m trying to win.”
Shapiro is up giving his piece on the domestic abuse charges, how they ought not be relevant to the murder case. However, the prosecution clears things up, like we’re all thinking: that’s some flawed logic, Shapiro. The prosecution begins to dig up O.J’s jealousy, his anger, his quick temper, and so on. Certainly doesn’t have O.J. sitting there listening too easily. But when Darden gets up hoping to “address a separate issue“, he brings forth the situation concerning Fuhrman – his past with racial epithets, slurs, his possible prejudice. Christopher drives home there is no legal precedent for it in their case: “The N–word is a dirty, filthy word, your honor. It is so prejudicial and inflammatory that the use of it in any situation will evoke an emotional response from any African–American. We‘re talking about a word that blinds people, and when you mention that word to this jury it will blind them to the truth. They won‘t be able to discern what‘s true and what‘s not. It will impair their judgement. It will affect their ability to be fair. It‘ll force the black jurors to make a choice: whose side are you on – the man, or the brothers? So the People strongly urge the court, respectfully, not to allow that vile word to be uttered at any time during this trial.” Johnnie paints this statement as “outlandish, unwarranted” and “preposterous” and as an offence to all African-Americans. On the side after giving his statement, Johnnie leans to Darden and says: “Nigga, please.” Wow. Just wow. What a powerful scene.
The media immediately starts painting Cochran as the saviour of black people, whereas Darden comes off as an “Uncle Tom” to many, supposedly. Either way, Christopher isn’t happy. Nobody around him seems to get the racial complexities with which he is dealing. Darden starts talking about affirmative action when he was going to college and Marcia says she remembers: “No you don‘t, you‘re white,” replies Chris. The issue of race penetrates every aspect of this trial, from the crime itself involving O.J. to Johnnie, to Darden’s involvement and assignment with his team. Nothing here is unaffected.
At home, Johnnie practices his speeches for his wife Melodie (Tayler Buck). We see how part of his speaking, his practice is also being able to speak, to orate, to write well. He gets in some alliteration, a bit of flowery talk. Certain times Johnnie is funny and endearing, while others as we’ve seen he can be incredibly intense, even vicious.
Johnnie gets a call about Shapiro’s people fooling up witnesses for discovery. Seems as if Cochran is ready to go full barrel, no matter who it costs.
At the trial, things are heating up. Outside are mobs of people trying to get pictures of the defense, the suspect, Johnnie. People have “FREE THE JUICE” shirts and signs proclaiming O.J. as innocent. Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), Bailey, and all the rest head inside for the opening statements. Judge Ito starts things off, he jury arrives, and finally everyone is seated.
First up, Marcia brings her statement, which focuses on the public persona of Simpson, how “like many public men he has a private side” – a batterer, an abuser, and now, murder. She brings up the bloody glove, other DNA facts, so on. Truly damning evidence, if it’s all on the level, right?
Then comes Johnnie. He smiles at the jury, beginning with a Martin Luther King quote about justice. Johnnie leaps into a mention of witnesses, people that the prosecution were not aware of due to the Shapiro-end flub. Bill Hodgman (Christian Clemenson) jumps up angrily to bring out the point of the witnesses being unavailable to them before the statements. Everyone is in shock. Ito claims he’s never seen Hodgman look as he is now. And not long afterwards, Hodgman keels over, his chest tightening. He’s wheeled out on a stretcher, which casts an ominous cloud over the proceedings. In the office, Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) is throttled with the news of Hogdman, not sure where to go from there. Although, Marcia keeps pushing Darden as being “ready” to step up.
Later, Marcia calls Chris during the night. She tells him about his sort-of promotion, but either way Darden is very happy. “Now it‘s on us,” says Clark.
During a lavish dinner party, Dunne is running his mouth about the trial. Then while a black butler serves them, everyone stops talking. Funny – he’s supposed to have a better perspective on these things due to his own daughter, yet there he is playing interpersonal racial politics between the rich and the servants, and gossiping about the case and those involved with all those high society people. Goes to show how the white upper class view these things.
Right afterwards, we cut to Johnnie at the Simpson home. He looks fondly at the pictures on the table in the hall, which show O.J. and his family. But then there’s too many white women kicking around. Johnnie remarks to himself: “This won‘t do at all.” Cut to all sorts of black art, pictures of Simpson and his beautiful black grandma – all from “the Cochran collection,” quips the man himself.
Johnnie meets with O.J. to tell him about appearances, for the next time everyone sees him up at the old house. Cochran lets him know about the redecorating, though, O.J. isn’t incredibly pleased. He doesn’t like all the placating happening, making himself seem more black, or whatever it is Johnnie wants out of him. Johnnie just wants him to seem like the average African-American instead of the “Mayor of Brentwood” – and Simpson responds saying: “I did what I had the right to do.” He had people with their hands out hoping to make it, like he did. “You gotta do it on your own,” says O.J. The man won’t apologize for getting out of the hood, essentially. Similar to what other famous black people have expressed over the years. So many angles we white people never can understand about what it is to be black.
Up at the home of Nicole Brown, everybody’s in attendance. Except there is nothing there, at all. The walls are bare. “This tells them nothing,” says an angry Clark: “She was a mother, there was a family!” In opposition, the Simpson house looks forced, a “complete misrepresentation” in Darden’s eyes. Even O.J. doesn’t look very happy, he knows it was all a pose. Marcia definitely knows, as does Darden. They both are extremely displeased with the state of affairs. When Darden sits on a bench in the backyard, O.J. tells him to get off, which leads to Johnnie and Chris aside talking – Johnnie advises him to “let the white people do” Fuhrman.
Back at his place, Chris calls his father and complains about what’s happening. His father suggests maybe Johnnie is truly trying to help. Cut over to Darden running through things with Fuhrman at the office. The detective tries to paint himself as a friend of African-Americans. Darden presses him on the use of racial epithets, which Fuhrman skirts around slightly before saying: “I haven‘t – ever.”
Clark and Darden come up against each other after she finally admits wanting to have him put Fuhrman on the stand. Their relationship seems a little fractured now, as Marcia agrees to take the detective. It’s obvious Chris is not comfortable.
The very finish of the episode sees the evidence on Fuhrman come forward, to the audience only. The WWII memorabilia, the medals, he particularly mentioned collecting earlier turns out to be.. troubling. Definitely things brewing in terms of Furhman’s prejudice. Wait and see. Of course if you know the story of the trial, then it’s obvious. But part of why I love this series is because of how it frames the real events, the racial issues it examines, as well as all the characters on whom we’re gaining insight through these types of scenes.
Next episode is titled “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” – a beautiful play on the old Brady Bunch catchphrase. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans. This series gets better and better each episode.
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 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.