Tuesday, April 5, 2016

REVIEW: 'The People v. O.J. Simpson' - The Trial Reaches Its Conclusion & Everyone Has a Reaction in 'The Verdict'

FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story - Episode 1.10 "The Verdict"

The prosecution and defense make their closing statements, the jurors deliberate, and the verdict comes down.

Throughout its ten episode run, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story has chosen not to take a stance on O.J. Simpson's guilt or innocence in the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. This case elicited so many passionate emotions across the entire country. The trial itself was much more the spectacle than the murders. This series choose to dramatize all of the facts of this case and how all of them built up to O.J.'s acquittal for these crimes. This show has analyzed the point-of-view of every major character affiliated with the case. It's been phenomenal to watch every week because it has shown a willingness to dig deep into these real-life people during this very heightened circumstance. The O.J. murder case was this big thing that changed the entire country. The themes present during the proceedings are still very relevant in today's society. And that's what ultimately made this season so thrilling and engaging to watch.

The prosecution and the defense have laid out their cases for the jury. After a very long journey together, it's finally time for the jury to deliberate and come to a decision regarding this case. All the work that Marcia, Chris, Johnnie and Shapiro have done has been building to this moment. In those closing arguments, both sides are filled with so much passion and emotion. This case started as a slam dunk for conviction. The D.A.'s office believed there was no way a jury could be presented with all of this evidence and not convict the man clearly responsible. And yet, the evidence wasn't the deciding factor of this case. O.J.'s celebrity forced much more resonant and troubling ideals to the surface. It became a case about emotion and the systemic racial problems of the LAPD. It had become a great showcase for Johnnie Cochran and the issues he fights against in this world.

Marcia and Chris were a tad slow to see this case for what it truly was. All of the media attention that swirled already them was largely negative because of how wildly popular O.J. Simpson was. They had to adapt to their surroundings in order to have any hope of a conviction. Their closing statements are very powerful. They have both had great moments and mistakes in the courtroom. They fought to have the jury hear everything that was relevant to this case and challenged every distraction that Johnnie's team threw their way. However, Marcia played a key role in assembling the jury for this case and Chris asked O.J. to try on the gloves that were found at the crime scene. All of the over-the-top antics dominated this case. The closing arguments were Marcia, Chris and Johnnie's last chance to prove their case. All three of them have terrific monologues as well. They are all filled with so much emotion. They truly believe that they are on the right side of this case. They give it their all one last time for the jury.

That's what makes it so surprising that the jury comes back with a verdict in less than four hours. All of the lawyers figured they had some time to actually rest and relax. They all wanted to enjoy a vacation after this long and arduous process. And yet, Johnnie's final words really stuck with the jury. It's startling to see just how simple that final deliberation actually was. So much of it boiled down to whether or not the prosecution made their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Johnnie's strategy worked and placed so much doubt in the jury's minds. It was a lot of noise. This process hasn't been easy on the jury. But again, they just didn't believe that Marcia and Chris made their case for a conviction.

The verdict was huge in this case. It was a shocking moment to those who believed O.J. did this crime and a celebratory one for those who didn't. The LAPD was prepared for more riots to break out because of the passionate emotions regarding this case. The weight of the entire world is in the courtroom as the verdict is read. O.J. is found not guilty. It's the end that the audience knew was coming all along. But it's still so gripping to watch - especially because the show then explores what this verdict actually means for all of the characters moving forward. This trial has been a life-changing event for all involved. Their lives will not be the same as they were before. They have each had many victories. But this case has been very personal and destructive as well. Opinions have changed over the course of these ten hours. So much has happened that has changed the world. That basically ensured that the show had to analyze what all of this meant for the future of these characters' lives.

Marcia, Chris and Gil are devastated by this loss. They have failed to find justice for Nicole and Ron's murders. Their lives will forever be known for not being able to convict O.J. Simpson for this crime. They somehow failed to prove a case that was seen as an easy conviction. They failed the families of Nicole and Ron who won't be able to have closure for their murders. Marcia doesn't know how to make sense of any of this. She believes in the justice system because it gives a voice for the victims of these horrific crimes. She wants to believe that the jury will always have sympathy for the victims. But in this case, that wasn't what happened. They were too captivated by O.J. and what he personally meant to all of them. They didn't care about the deaths of two people. They were too caught up in the spectacle of it all - even though they've talked less about this case than the rest of America.

Meanwhile, the entire defense team is celebrating this victory. Johnnie sees this not only as a win for his client but a win for the entire African American community. He helped expose just how fundamentally racist the LAPD has been for years. His actions got President Clinton to address the nation on how race relations need to be handled moving forward. That's the best part of this victory. Johnnie won for his community. He believes that the future will be better because of what he did with this case. Of course, that's his perspective at the moment. As the audience can attest, race relations in this country are still very precarious and filled with tension. They are still prominent in today's society which is why this story is still so relevant. That makes the scene where Chris and Johnnie meet after the verdict the most poignant of the hour. Johnnie wants to believe his actions will lead to meaningful change. He got a black man acquitted for murder. But things don't fall perfectly down these racial lines. Chris still sees himself as a part of the community even though he believes O.J. is guilty. These two men can't have a friendship moving forward because of their feelings about this case and what it means for the future.

But of course, all of this has to eventually circle back to O.J. Simpson himself. He was the man on trial here and was proven not guilty of killing his ex-wife and her friend. He is a free man once more. The show has sometimes struggled digging deeper into O.J.'s emotional state throughout all of this case because it didn't want to say if he was guilty or not. His actions have largely defined the character but that hasn't made the performance that engaging. However, Cuba Gooding Jr. does some amazing work at the end of this finale. O.J. has won. He is able to return home and be with his family again. He wants to believe that everything can go back to normal. And yet, it can't. Nothing will ever be the same. His legacy will forever be tarnished by this trial - even though he has found not guilty. His celebrity status meant everyone had an opinion about this case. Some friends stayed with him throughout the entire trial. But at the end of the day, he only really has his family to fall back on. He goes through the motions of caring about finding the real killers. But he still just wants to party and celebrate this victory. However, his former life is now over. He is now living in a world where the public is violently split over this verdict. That will shape him for the rest of his life. That's why we are still talking about it in 2016. It's more popular than ever before because of this show. And these ten episodes have done a fantastic job at showing all the nuances that were a part of this historic moment in time.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Verdict" was written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski and directed by Ryan Murphy.
  • It's great that both sides take a moment after learning that the jury has reached a verdict to accept that they may have won this case. It shows what was racing through their minds leading up to that reveal.
  • All of the stuff with the death threats against Johnnie and the need for extra security was probably very accurate. It was just a little too awkwardly placed throughout this finale.
  • Even in the end, Robert Shapiro was always doing his best to pivot the conversation around to whatever makes him look good. Here, that's presented in an interview with Barbara Walters after the verdict on why he changed strategies in this case.
  • Sarah Paulson has had a number of great moments this season. She has yet another one here when Marcia tells Chris about the time she was raped and how that fuels her with this job. It's a fantastic moment that peels back that extra layer to the character. It doesn't change any of her actions but it's still a relevant detail about who this woman was throughout all of this.
  • The parallel between crowds of cheering fans outside the courthouse and the protestors outside of O.J.'s home in Brentwood was really great. The trial had importance with race but O.J. was still a wealthy black men hoping to return to an affluent lifestyle after all of this was done.
  • It seemed inevitable that the season would end with the show telling the audience what happened to all of these people in the years since the trial - accompanied by pictures showing the actor next to the person. And yet, it was still a very emotional ending because of how resonant these names still are in today's culture.
  • It's understandable why the final montage includes Kato Kaelin, Faye Resnick and Kris Jenner because of the careers and successes they've had after the trial. But it's weird that they get a moment but Johnnie's assistants, Carl E. Douglas and Shawn Chapman, don't.
  • Those final moments also note how O.J. Simpson had a relatively easy existence for a decade after the trial - until he was convicted of kidnapping and robbery in 2008. It's also interesting that the season ends with a message saying he's eligible for parole next year.