Airtime: Tuesdays at 10PM on FX
Episode: Season 1, Episode 9 (S01E09)
Tweetable Takeaway: The case comes crumbling down in the penultimate ep of #PeopleVOJ Tweet
It’s hard to imagine that next week’s season finale can be better TV than this episode of AMERICAN CRIME STORY. All season we’ve watched tensions in the courtroom simmer, and this episode they finally boiled over, causing for some massive eruptions, particularly between the defense’s Johnny Cochran and the prosecution’s Christopher Darden.
Again I found myself astonished that all this really happened in real life. I’d forgotten (or just never known) so much of this story that with every turn I find myself gasping–“That can’t be real!” But it is. It was. It’s so strange how so many elements and plot twists played into this case as though a master storyteller were crafting a compelling tale from above, yet the biggest most unbelievable plot twists are all true. Johnny Cochran said it best when he called the audiotapes of Mark Fuhrman’s racist rants “Manna from Heaven.” I was certainly on TV Cloud Nine.
It turns out that an aspiring screenwriter had interviewed officer Mark Fuhrman a few years back while gathering info for a screenplay. This is why she has tapes of Fuhrman making frequent use of the N word, and spilling secrets about the corruption in the LAPD, about how they would beat suspects, and “frame n*ggers.” Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden know that this is a death blow for their case. Cochran and his defense team know that this is the final nail in the coffin if they can get it admitted as evidence.
And yet a further kink is thrown in the chain when it comes out that Fuhrman badmouths none other than Judge Ito’s wife on the tapes! We knew something was up when earlier this season we saw It’s wife hesitate at Fuhrman’s name when she has to sign off that there is no conflict of interest with any people involved in the case (she is an LAPD sargeant). Turns out she actually had to reprimand him once when Fuhrman wrote “KKK” on a Martin Luther King Jr. poster… Seems like something she would remember.
This leads the case dangerously towards a mistrial, which is disaster for BOTH sides. Starting over for the defense means that case could be moved to Santa Monica, where a mostly white jury could be picked. Also Fuhrman, the gloves, and all their other big wins would be erased. For the D.A, it means millions of taxpayers’ dollars and a year’s worth of effort down the drain.
The stakes have never been higher at this trial, and the strain shows on the characters. It has to be said again (and can’t be said enough in my opinion) that the spectacular cast is what truly elevates this show, which is already great across the board. Special notes must be made of Sterling K. Brown for his performance as Christopher Darden, Sarah Paulsen as Marcia Clark, and Courtney B. Vance as Johnny Cochran. When Darden and Cochran spar verbally in the courtroom, Darden finally sticking up for himself after ceaseless prodding from Cochran, it was one of the most tense, frustrating, and captivating moments on the show. And when Marcia gets full custody of her children at the end of the episode, it is one of the most heartfelt. These three actors are just tremendous.
Next week we know how the trial ends, and I suspect it will be devastating to watch our defense team lose. But I am nonetheless looking forward to what is sure to be a fitting and entertaining conclusion, as after this episode the show is going into its finale firing on all cylinders.
Paul co-created and writes for SHOWoff, a game that lets players predict what happens next on their favorite TV shows, earn points for what they get right, and see where they stack up against friends and the world (free in the iOS App store). Check out the SHOWoff app at playSHOWoff.com
Paul Gulyas | Contributor