FX wrapped up “the trial of the century” on Tuesday (April 5) as the dramatized O.J. Simpson trial riveted a captive TV audience once again.
Except this time, we viewers were given backstage passes thanks to the excellent adaptation of Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life by superb writers Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander. They should be remembered at award season.
Tuesday’s finale, The Verdict is retold dramatically through the eyes of all parties, and pointedly at the end through the pariah, O.J. Simpson, reviled by his neighbors who want him gone from their community.
He may have been acquitted but he was no longer “free”. Cochran’s face-off with Darden was telling too, as Darden sees the forest for the trees regarding race and reality and Cochran’s patronizing of him is telling.
Police brutality and malfeasance still goes on. As does Cochran’s legal legacy. He is gone but his firms are still aiding the underserved minority communities who still have claims of police brutality.
The overall effort gets a grade “A” from us and dutifully retold (minus a few side stories and some compression of certain events) one of the most polarizing and cathartic moments for blacks and whites in the USA.
Was he guilty? Depends on who you pose the question too.
TV critics April Neale and Ernie Estrella wrap up their discussion on the episode and the series in total.
Ernie Estrella: I didn’t think there’d be a lot to write or talk about in this final episode of American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, but I should’ve known Ryan Murphy would throw the kitchen sink into the final episode.
April Neale: This was a fantastic summary of a historical event you and I both lived through, and it captured the great divide among those who believed OJ and those who did not. It was also a very powerful episode for Sterling K. Brown as Darden.
EE: We got three closing statements and as expected Marcia Clark stuck to the evidence while Darden tried to stack the emotional deck high. Cochran got the layup and just underlined the feelings that most jury members already had going in.
Of all of the three, Darden’s closing statement stuck with me, despite not having the catchy tag line. I’m also respect the science too much to just disregard it. Which closing statement reached you?
AN: I am so with you on this point, as Darden and Brown’s portrayal of him really resonated for me this whole episode. The jury’s caving (specifically, the white jurors) was something else. It was bothersome.
EE: I remember the jury taking very little time to come up with a verdict but could you have imagined a worse group of people to simply disregard so much evidence and the statistics?
I understand that finding a jury for this case was going to be impossible and DNA evidence wasn’t nearly understood like it is today, but damn, this show did them no favors.
ACS makes it look like they didn’t want to do their job, they just wanted to go home. It reminds you of this nation’s government.
AN: Yes! Nobody wants to do the heavy lifting and analyze data anymore. They were over it and the white jurors didn’t have the patience, will or the stones to go up against the others ready to set him sailing free.
I really think that they were in trial too long and it just wore them all out and made them more angry with the prosecution for their own imprisonment.
EE: The jury’s blissfully ignorant work and verdict was tough enough to sit through but then the press conference for the prosecution was absolutely brutal. It was hard not to get through this part without your arms folded.
You just wanted there to be justice for the victims and whenever I hear “catch the real killer,” whether it came out of a reporter or O.J. himself, to this day, it sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
AN: Yes, Faye’s Colombians are out there somewhere guilty as charged for two murders, getting away with it. The scene that bothered me was the raised black power arm that older juror did to OJ when he was leaving.
It would be like if someone did some sort of KKK secret handshake in front of everyone while filing out. Not cool.
EE: I almost forgot about that, nice point. The exchange between Cochran and Darden was also very poignant. Cochran’s condescending offer to help Darden “back into the community” deserved a left hook.
Darden’s response, “you haven’t changed anything for black people, unless you’re a rich one in Brentwood,” speaks volumes today, especially those who have enough intellect to understand the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
AN: Right. The ability to discern truth from hype is lost. Case in point, there was a viral video of a Black female student going off on a white guy who had dreads and braids. Vikings had these hairstyles well before.
The “stealing from my culture” argument obfuscates the real issues that need to be address and just divide and turn people off on that movement in total. When that shit happens, it tunes out the wider audience from the salient message.
EE: You’ve brought karma up as being some kind executioner for the defense team. Yet I do think the immediate lives afterwards, prior to their deaths are every bit as fascinating.
Kardashian severed his ties with O.J. and publicly questioned his innocence. Imagine what really went on behind his closed doors?
Cochran went on to represent Abner Louima after he was brutally abused in police custody, and of course he had many A-List clients, but he did fight for the underdog in many cases, and got them justice.
His Cochran Firm has a strong foothold in many metropolitan cities and while his role in this case is crucial for the defense, he did manage to write his own legacy. Robert Shapiro went on to help create LegalZoom and of all things, ShoeDazzle.
This isn’t the stuff that becomes TV series, but their lives didn’t end with O.J. and despite their brushes with cancer, one could argue that their association with the trial of the century didn’t steal their thunder like it did the prosecution team at least as legal professionals.
AN: I have issues with all of them, despite Cochran’s “good work” and Kim Kardashian being the first major investor of ShoeDazzle, that Kardashian thread runs deep here. I still think that they defended and manipulated the courts for their guilty client. A
nd I would not be able to sleep at night if it were me. At the end of the day the biggest changes occured in the LAPD and the examination of cops like Furhman, which was a positive.
No cloistered brotherhood of police (regardless of race) is immune to abuse, but at least I think today there is a lot more awareness in many municipal departments. Perfect? No. Better? Yes.
EE: The show never goes into the civil trial which the Goldmans brought up against O.J. and got a little bit of justice back.
I’d sooner fast forward through all of the anger-inducing drama of the verdict and get to what eventually broke this man down, how he got so desperate on his luck and committed a stupid act to eventually land himself in jail.
There are hints of it at the end when he sees people turning their back on him. I just think it would’ve given Cuba Gooding Jr. some more material to work with than what he had.
I know he’s the central figure in this series but the other leads, Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown, along with Sarah Paulson deserve all of the acting praise. Should anyone clamor for Gooding Jr., I would personally feel it’s undeserved, but his co-stars should be in line for a nomination or two.
AN: People didn’t just turn their backs, he became a freaking pariah! He knew it. He moved shortly too. As far as acting awards, Gooding was good but Sterling K Brown, Sarah Paulson and Courtney Vance were AMAZING.
The civil trial at least gave the Goldman’s some sort of public retribution, but their son was gone, and that is such a life-changing tragedy.
EE: There’s an important date coming up, where Simpson will be eligible for parole. It makes me wonder if Ryan Murphy pushed to get this done now just so that it could get out in the atmosphere again and be fresh in the minds of those in charge of his parole. You have to admit, the timing is interesting.
AN: I was totally thinking that too! The timing is really important because this series awakened a lot of perspective that was lacking from watching it as a spectator years ago.
We became active participants and you can bet that people will be pressured to keep him off the streets. How all of this has not killed OJ from the weight of it is beyond me.
EE: The series closes on a bunch of “Where are they now” cards. I think the most interesting ones they showed were Barry Sheck who wound up creating a whole new career getting people free because of DNA evidence when he’s the one who came up with the theory to cloud the confidence of DNA here. Makes you shake your head.
Then the other one is Fuhrman, who is working for Fox News as a forensic and crime scene expert, as if if there’s any more reason to hate that cesspool of a network.
That he landed there shows the lack of integrity Fox News has and hey, there’s always the chance that he could appear on a panel with fellow pundit Stacey Dash and sing “Kumbayah My Lord”. Were you amused by where these “characters” ended up?
AN: Good old FOX News, Sarah Palin and now Furhman as an expert. Totally shaking my head. Don’t paint Dash with the same fucktard brush as Fuhrman as she may have some enemies in the media and the “community” but I have met and spoken with her and she’s alright, smart and entitled to her worldview and opinion.
Not all black people are in lock step about every issue, just like whites or anyone. Sheck’s repairing his bad karma and he should be helping, as so many people are being found innocent who have lost decades in jail unfairly. That’s good work he is doing.
EE: I felt this was the least Ryan Murphy-esque thing he’s done because he didn’t have an opportunity to let the imagination run wild. He had to be restrained, and much of the scenery was that ugly brown courtroom and the drab walls of legal rooms.
Still, I was captivated by the performances and got a better grasp on what was going through the minds of all of the various players were in this trial. The verdict was never going to change but hopefully some minds out there are more sensitive to the other side.
In other words, it would be nice to see whites walk away from this understanding why acquittal was celebrated by blacks and hopefully blacks walk away understanding why justice for this particular case wasn’t served.
It’s heartbreaking though to still see police brutality and corruption go unchecked in so many areas, as if no lessons were learned from this trial.
It’s idealistic to think this changed anything but hopefully it continues to start more conversations and open, civil discussions on how to address positive change. Got any last thoughts about The People vs. O.J. Simpson, April?
AN: Great series, one of the tops for the year so far. I hope the three aforementioned actors get Emmy, Critics’ Choice and TCA noms. From my understanding, Ryan Murphy had very little influence with this entire project, except for EPing it.
He had fantastic writers Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander who spent years researching and preparing this script and making sure the accuracies were spot on.
As a white person I totally “get” why blacks were elated this black guy got off scott free. But let’s not forget O.J. was a black man with rage issues who preferred white women, white pals and white neighborhoods to hanging with the homies. Forget race for a moment.
When you give a man/woman a gun and you give them the authority to mess with another’s freedom, that kind of power, abuse will happen. It gets better when the neighborhoods are policed by people who look like them, but if you think bad black officers aren’t fucking over some people like bad white cops…please!
Also statistics bear out that blacks commit violent crimes against whites more than the other way around given the ratio of how many blacks and whites are in America. So will this TV drama change perceptions? I don’t think so.
The answer is improving our education standards, giving teachers more of a platform to command their classrooms unfettered by distractions and investing in poor neighborhoods to give kids a beacon of hope and opportunity, and better vetting of ANYONE who carries a gun.
Poverty is the underscore to all of this sadness. People who feel invested in and respected act accordingly and rise to the occasion more often than not.