Airtime: Tuesdays at 10PM on FX
Episode: Season 1, Episode 10 (S01E010)
Tweetable Takeaway: The verdict we knew was coming has arrived in the @ACSFX “#PeopleVOJ finale Tweet
We all knew it was coming. We know how this case ended famously in a Not Guilty verdict for O.J. Simpson in the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. So why was is so hard to watch? Why was my girlfriend actually nervous sitting on the couch next to me as we both watched, squeezing my hand as the bailiff handed the verdict documents to the jury foreman? It is a testament to the sheer brilliance of the show producers, writers, directors, the cast, and all others involved that something we knew would happen from the get go, in fact information we’ve had going on two decades, can still shock, appall, and move us.
Last night’s finale, though a bit quieter than I would have liked, was a more than fitting conclusion for this ten episode first season of AMERICAN CRIME STORY. Considering the expansive cast and emotional plot threads, it is impressive that it could have wrapped up as satisfyingly as it did. I’ll tackle the conclusion by each character.
First, Rob Kardashian played expertly by David Schwimmer had maybe the most satisfying conclusion of the evening. I’ll admit, at first this character was a joke to me, like a lot of viewers (Did you see the supercut of every time he says the word “Juice?” Classic.) All I could see was Ross Geller with a white stripe in his hair. But as the season went on he won me over, especially as the annoying Kardashian children references fell by the wayside. Kardashian’s character ended up having the clearest arc, though. He started as a fiercely loyal friend to O.J., his faith in his pal’s innocence unfaltering. But as the prosecution laid out the facts and evidence, he wavered. And in the end, at O.J.’s extravagant party he held after his acquittal, we see Kardashian has had enough. He walks out, leaving the Bible his friend had gave him smack on a table. He couldn’t be party to who he believed with good reason to be a murderer. I cheered a little inside.
I cheered a little less so for Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) and Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson), but still cheered. First of all for two of the best television performances I’ve seen in a long time. Both of their closing statements in the courtroom are Emmy worthy if you ask me. And although they lost, and were essentially humiliated (Paulson’s performance as she hung her head in shame at the DA’s office, weeping, was maybe the most moving point of an already emotional episode) they still walked away heads held high, knowing that they had fought the good fight. And they had each other. I have to admit, I fell in love with the relationship these two had over the season, and am sorry the characters end here (I would watch an entire spin-off series for sure). In the end Marcia has custody of her children. And Darden was able to take a little jab back at Johnny Cochran (Courtney B. Vance). When Cochran offers to help Darden get back in with the black community, Darden says he never left, and that whatever win Cochran thinks he made for black people is all imagined; cops will still beat them, arrest them for wrong reasons. All he did was let a murderer go free. That deserved a cheer.
As for Johnny himself, he obviously won the day and celebrated. He gets called into a meeting room where they have the news playing. Everyone is talking about the case and Johnny’s big win. When the station is changed and President Bill Clinton is speaking about the case, Johnny is taken aback. Clinton went on to say that this case was good for getting the discussion going about race in America, and that the only way we can move forward is to listen to each other and actually hear each other. And although I despised the villainous Cochran for most of the series, I have to admit I was a little moved at the tear he shed at hearing the president say this. It reminded me that he was human, and probably actually believed he was doing a good thing.
And finally, O.J. himself. He gets out ready for a good time. He throws an epic bash at his house. But he can’t find any of his true friends there. When a guy comes up to him and tells him he knew he was innocent the entire time, O.J asks if they had played golf together. It was a waiter. O.J. is grasping at straws. He later finds out that his favorite restaurant won’t take a reservation from him. He thought that he could get out of jail and go back to the perfect life. However, he is despaired to realize that it will never be the same. This, you get the feeling, is the TRUE loss O.J is feeling, not for his ex-wife.
I started watching this show thinking it would be complete Lifetime-esque campy crap. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find this was fantastic television, start to finish. I would highly recommend it to anyone, familiar or unfamiliar with the O.J. case. I’m only sad there won’t be a season two following these same characters.
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