Yesterday, I had to endure a jammed up commute, a long day’s work, my annual co-op board meeting, and the New Hampshire primary broadcast. None of these were unreasonably unpleasant, but they were really draining.
I was looking forward to last night’s episode of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, if only to see a portrayal of a guy who was far more exhausted than I could ever even imagine being.
We left off last week’s premiere with some dead bodies, Simpson in cuffs, a few key Simpson freak-outs, a media circus, a suicide attempt in Lil’ Kim Kardashian’s room, a daring escape, and then, of course, the white Bronco—cruising down the freeway toward one of the most memorable media moments of the decade. It was like a human Hindenburg disaster when we were watching it live. We were witnessing an icon, a legend, self-immolate on every channel.
This week’s story starts with OJ’s lawyer Robert Shapiro, creepily portrayed by Travolta—whose plastic surgery seems more and more like modeling clay each week. Maybe they're transitioning to the Madame Tussauds version of John Travolta, which might be as effective and less creepy.
Shapiro is joined by an overwrought Robert Kardashian, portrayed by a limp David Schwimmer who seems to be in this because he needs rent money. They read over a suicide note that OJ left behind before he bailed, to which Shapiro asks, “Who the hell signs a suicide note with a happy face?”
The next few scenes are a scramble of media types getting into their cars and cops mobilizing a manhunt.
Sarah Paulson (from FX’s American Horror Story) continues her ice queen portrayal of prosecutor Marcia Clark, rifling off this arm-hair raising line:
“He can’t hide forever. Everyone knows his face.”
Brrrrrrrr. She is killing it as the mean girl, and I think I’m developing a crush on her. It’s the 80’s soccer mom Jheri Curl look. She’s working it.
Cut to a flower-strewn graveside memorial for Simpson’s murdered wife Nicole Brown. The white Bronco appears in the background like a hungry spectral bear, ominously idling for the camera.
There are some amusing moments where the legal team for the prosecution holds a press conference and warns the media professionals present that if they assisted Simpson in any way, they will be brought up on charges. Is that like a thing? Do prosecutors have to actually tell media professionals not to interfere in investigations of famous people?
Cut to Courtney B. Vance making his appearance as Johnny Cochran watching the case unfold and finally seeming to take interest. There’s a great scene where he calls Shapiro a prick for running his own press conference while his client is a fugitive from the law.
Travolta really pours on the greasy creep vibes. At the end of Shapiro’s press conference, he looks directly into the camera and asks for OJ’s surrender. When asked what OJ’s last words to him were, Shapiro volunteers, “He thanked me for everything I did for him.”
Gyhhhaaaaa! My hackles rose skyward. As if the creep-o-meter isn’t pinned at red already!
We then watch Kardashian read OJ’s death note, and for no apparent reason, we cut to Kardashian’s kids at home, cheering that their daddy is on TV reading a suicide letter.
Now, the next action sequence starts with the Beastie Boys “Sabotage” as a soundtrack. This song is soon to become the most overused soundtrack song in the history of action sequences. Man, I used to love this song. Please stop trying to reset it to every movie scene that reminds you of the video!
The white Bronco emerges behind a hippy couple, driving a VW bus. The hippies recognize Simpson. They pull over to a service phone and narc Simpson to the man, which goes to show you—you should never judge a slacker by their jalopy. They sold out the Juice!
OJ is being driven down the highway by his friend Allen Cowlings, AKA AC (played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner aka Theo Huxtable), with several police cars in pursuit. When the police, flabbergasted at the scope of the situation, finally corner Simpson, he gets away again. The officer in charge states
“I’m not shooting at OJ Simpson unless somebody authorizes it.”
We then watch Robert Kardashian losing it in his car—screaming silently like some weird David Lynch homage. We find out this is due to him having to tell OJ’s family that Simpson is suspected dead at this point. His announcement is interrupted by the news that Simpson is still, in fact, alive and careening back toward his home.
When Shapiro sees the same broadcast, his first reaction isn’t, “OH THANK GOD!” His reaction is, “He’s still alive?” And then he says, “Good for you OJ—you’re still in the game.” The creepy is strong in this one.
There’s a lot of back and forth between OJ and AC in the car while OJ waves around a pistol—kill myself, don’t kill myself, cry, freak out, I want my momma. Then, the network decides to cut the NBA playoffs to broadcast the Bronco. Cut to the shocked silence of a bar full of spectators watching it roll out—it's like they read my review last week. That could have been me in that bar. Get me a writing credit!
Throughout this episode, we’ve also been seeing a lot of soon-to-be-prosecutor Chris Darden (played by Sterling K. Brown) taking some sideways swipes at OJ. During one soliloquy, he goes on about how football legend Jim Brown was a greater man than Simpson for being an activist and an athlete. He goes as far as to say OJ became white when he became rich. To which a friend replies, “Cops chasing him. He black now.” There was also an ominous warning from Darden’s dad not to touch this case.
Back to Marcia Clark, who we will refer to from here on end as Cruella Deville: “I want him to finish this day alive. I want him to pay for what he’s done.”
BRRRRRRRRR again! No seriously—she just keeps getting hotter…in like a stern schoolmistress kind of way! And her chain smoking just extenuates it!
Oof, where was I? OK moving on…
We finally get back to the Simpson home in an episode that felt like it spent way too much time in the back seat of a car. OJ agrees to surrender only if they arrest him off camera.
We receive our “saw-it-coming” moment, when one of the cops mistakes the picture of his kids OJ was clutching for a gun. OK now, really?
OJ galumphs into his home like a pouty kindergartner stumbling toward his time-out corner. He calls his mom and asks for some orange juice. We leave this week’s installment with OJ in cuffs again heading toward trial.
This week’s episode was high on plot tension, but seemed to flit from people watching the news broadcast to OJ in the Bronco. There was some level of monotony that I hope we can avoid moving into the court scenes.
We just can’t wait to see Kato take the stand.
Spyridon P. Panousopoulos spends his time whittling sharp sticks out of blunt ones. He has written for Flavorwire.com, The NY Press, and Gen Art in the past. He has 3 cats that all hate him. Follow him @TheRevSpyro.