Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story 1x10 Review: “The Verdict” (It’s Over) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

“The Verdict”
Original Airdate: April 5, 2016

Two people are dead, the country has been overtaken by months and months of trial, and all of it was over after just four hours of jury deliberation. Actually, it takes an hour to fill out the forms and probably they took a break for lunch, so deliberations were even less than four hours. As Bob Shapiro said, this jury talked about this case less than anybody in America. Much like Chris, I need a minute to recover after all of this.

The show did an excellent job setting up the verdict to be as tense as it would be if I didn’t know how it was going to go. By showing everyone slowly and painstakingly prepare for court that day, it both drew the viewer into the preparations and prolonged the inevitable.


Marcia and Chris have done all the preparing they can, and now it’s time to finally give the last word on the case that has taken over both their lives. (Of course, it will never be the last word; this case will always be looming over them.) Gil Garcetti needlessly tells Marcia that she needs to nail it today -- I think she knows that, Gil -- and then Chris and Marcia head into the lion’s den.

Similar to when Chris and Johnnie had their N-word debate, as Chris and Marcia were both making their closing statements, I found myself following along and agreeing. I did cringe a little when Marcia pulled out a complicated pyramid, full of timelines and images, because I knew that the defense’s statements wouldn’t need any kind of diagram. But then Johnnie started talking, and it was all over. The prosecution had all the evidence, but they were never able to turn that into a crystal clear narrative. No amount of posters can change that.


Johnnie prepares for closing statements by taking out his oft-used legal pad and beginning to jot down catchy turns of phrase to try to make one last big impact with the jury. As he’s working out phrases about O.J.’s gloves, the camera cuts away right as you can see things begin to click. You know what he’s going to say, so we don’t even need to hear him say it. And keeping it back from the viewer until he’s in front of the jury gives it even more power when he finally does say, three times, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Ultimately, that phrase and Johnnie’s booming voice is what sticks with the jurors -- not Marcia’s facts and figures. All of Johnnie’s charades and showmanship worked and has left the jury with plenty of reasonable doubt. It seems like turning the courtroom into a circus worked after all.


Raise your hand if you couldn’t wait to see how the jurors voted in the first round of voting guilty or not guilty? Even though I knew what their final decision would be, and how quickly it would come, I wanted to see what their first impression was so bad. I shouldn’t have even wondered though: Johnnie was right. In their straw poll to see where everyone stood, it was 10 votes of not guilty to two votes of guilty.

But one of the guilty votes was the juror nicknamed the Demon, and she was known for swinging a jury before. (See how I was hoping again, even though I know the facts? Johnnie’s strategy of making a story more powerful than the truth is even working on me.) The Demon doesn’t argue -- or if she does, it’s not for long. The jury decides that even if they think he did it, the prosecution didn’t prove it. They decide to vote O.J. Simpson not guilty.

I knew it would go this way, but still I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that they didn’t even sleep on it before deciding to acquit someone accused of killing two people. Do you think any of them regret their decision? Wish it went differently, even if they came to the same verdict? I don’t know how they couldn’t. Part of me thinks that the months and months of trials and indignities wore them down and they just wanted to get it over with.

After the jury came to their decision, the next step was telling the world. Right when the people involved with the case expected to get a break from the trial that took over their lives, they were called to come back into court to hear the verdict.

Upon hearing this news, Judge Ito swore loudly on the phone, Johnnie called in bodyguards, and Chris sat quietly steeling himself. Having the verdict come later that same day didn’t give anyone time to cool off or compose themselves -- it just shoved them right back into the hell they thought they had escaped. Tensions are high, and hopes are higher. Both sides think that they have a shot, and when Chris says out loud “What if we win?,” it was heartbreaking, not heartening.

The show has routinely cut back and forth between the prosecution and defense to show them reacting to the same events, and it took this visual trick a step further during the verdict by using a split screen. I wasn’t sure where to look -- every face was celebrating or despondent, relieved or broken, and no one’s reaction made me feel any better about the outcome. It was entirely overwhelming, which is probably how everyone involved with the trial also felt.


Bobby Kardashian was especially heartbreaking to watch. He looked like was an empty shell all episode, and no wonder after months of moral quandary. He stumbled out of the courtroom, as everyone else was rushing off to make a new deadline, and he immediately became physically ill. His worldview is shattered, his relationship with his best friend is beyond repair, and his family has been torn apart. Bobby’s journey from helpful friend to empty husk epitomizes the toll the trial took on everyone.

Also heartbreaking were the Goldmans, and Marcia and Chris picking up the pieces of their shattered lives. Chris is ready to resign, and he can’t even get through a press conference without breaking down and hugging the Goldmans. “What do we do now?” is the question on everyone’s lips, but there are no easy answers.

O.J. has a party -- that’s how he moves on. (The amount of champagne and confetti after a murder trial where no killer was held to justice made me feel very squeamish.) Johnnie gets noticed by the president, who spoke on racism in America, and to Johnnie, that made the trial worth it. (Do you think he had any regrets, later on?) People flock to the streets to celebrate O.J., and Marcia and Chris turn off the lights and walk away from the courtroom for the last time. (Marcia never prosecuted another trial.)

The verdict has been given, but America is still not over the trial of the century -- it wasn’t that day and it isn’t 20 years later. The consequences are still being dissected and analyzed, and Americans are still dealing with the repercussions. And still, no one has been found guilty of killing Ron and Nicole.

Notes from the case file:
  • Not that I wanted People v. O.J. Simpson to end early, but in my opinion the scene of Chris and Marcia leaving and turning out the lights would have been a pretty perfect closing scene. 
  • “I’d like to help bring you back into the community.” “I’ve never left.” That scene of Johnnie and Chris meeting in the hallway after the trial was so good. 
  • I love the way they cut real news coverage into the show. Oprah! Barbara Walters! 
  • “What if nothing happens?“ “Then call me in a month to say hi.” This exchange between Marcia and Chris was unreal. And then Chris’ face as the elevator closed, oh my goodness.
  • When Marcia cries, I cry.
  • I love “where are they now” montages and was very pleased with the one at the end of this episode. I also am glad they ended with images of Nicole and Ron.
  • It has been a pleasure writing these reviews and watching this show. Now it’s your turn, what did you guys think?


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