‘American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson': Premiere Episode Recap
There has come to be a certain level of flamboyance and camp associated with Ryan Murphy productions; a certain off-the-charts oddness or pizzazz of which the series revolves around. On top of that, there tends to a level of shock value to his work, always in the hopes of becoming a must-see TV event. American Horror Story had ghosts and murders, Glee had show-stopping musical numbers, and Scream Queens had elements of both, making it a sassy, quotable show to talk about each week.
American Crime Story finds itself simultaneously a victim of the Murphy mantra but also a standalone show, free of those aforementioned expectations.
The shock of ACS is understated. After all, this is the dramatization of a real life event. It’s not about finding out the verdict. The riveting moments are what happened behind-the-scenes of the trial. The shine doesn’t come in cheerleading uniforms or confetti cannons; it comes from the fact that this trial is one of the most famous trials of all time, often dubbed the trial of the century.
After an opening of found footage from the Rodney King LAPD assaults, the audience is thrown right into the case of double homicide by watching O.J. Simpson, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., get into a town car on his way to Chicago. While the football star drives on what’s assumed to be an escape of sorts, the brutally decimated body of his ex wife, Nicole Simpson, is found by a neighbor and his nosey little dog.
The cops stroll in to examine the house and deduce that this is a double homicide, with Nicole Simpson being the first body and Ron Goldman, a waiter, being the second. The audience follows the detectives as they go through the Simpson house, with the kids sleeping, and watches as they stumble upon evidence, including the infamous White Bronco and trail of blood.
The shots start to intersperse in between Simpson being notified of the murder and the respondents looking for more evidence, which leads to the only piece of evidence more iconic than the Bronco: the black glove. And so, as said by one of the cops: “This is now a crime scene.”
The other key player in ACS is Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson), the head prosecutor in the trial. As soon as she’s introduced to the case, she decides Simpson is guilty of something. She starts to go through the evidence, pictures of the body, attempting to put herself in the shoes and mindset of the killer. Soon after, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) turns up outside Simpson’s gated house, accompanied by an iota of the media circus this trial will eventually acquire.
Simpson, on his way back from the airport, rolls into his property in the safety of a town car, only to be escorted to the back by police. Unbeknownst to him, a paparazzi hound has secured himself a sneaky spot inside the bushes to capture the damning moment of O.J. being put in cuffs. Though he has nothing to hide, it’s a damning image.
The story flashes back to Marcia Clark who, not even halfway through the first half of the first episode, is a woman on a mission. Every detail she learns puts yet another nail in O.J.’s coffin: from the eight calls to 911 to Simpson’s record of domestic abuse, Clark becomes infuriated at the fact that this man, this famous man, has gotten away with so much abuse and hurt.
The audio recording of Simpson’s interview with the police only sets her warrior heart on fire, since O.J. is not a reliable narrator of his own story by any stretch of the imagination. Now inside the Simpson house, O.J. (who is referred to as Juice about seventy times in the hour) is surrounded by individuals, including his family members and Robert Kardashian, but most notably absent is his lawyer. Between popping pills, angry outbursts, and being mesmerized by the coverage of his own peril, Simpson is convinced by Kardashian that he’s in dire need of new legal representation. Cue Robert Shapiro, played by John Travolta, with a tight face and eyebrows that look like two deceased caterpillars.
The way Shapiro is introduced is slimy, manipulative…and exactly the kind of man Simpson seemingly wants as his lawyer, since he hires him.
Shapiro and Kardashian join forces to help ol’ Juice out of this pickle. Shapiro banishes Kardashian from the room before asking Simpson if he did it, to which Simpson obviously replies with a “no.” Cross is still assembling evidence against Simpson, including the two testimonies of witnesses that can place Simpson after the time of the double homicide, with one even placing him as the erratic driver behind the White Bronco.
Cross and her partner create an adequate timeline of Simpson’s whereabouts before, during and after the murder, seemingly painting the picture that Simpson had the time to commit the double homicide in question. This scene leads to Simpson taking a polygraph, at the request of Shapiro, during which he scores a -24, only furthering the idea that Simpson is guilty. Slowly, the doubt in Simpson’s innocence starts to creep in.
The media frenzy has only increased as Simpson, with Shapiro in tow, shows up to the open casket funeral of his ex-wife Nicole, the woman he may or may not have murdered. While everyone is dressed in black and Nicole’s body lies in an exquisite casket surrounded by various flower arrangements, the whispers begin, spearheaded by Faye Resnick (Connie Britton) and Kris Kardashian (Selma Blair).
The hate for Simpson is thick in the air; eyes staring at him as the murderer he very well may be, but this doesn’t faze Simpson who removes his mourning sunglasses and kisses Nicole’s forehead as a silent means of paying his respects.
The tests on the evidence come back to Marcia Clark with blood matching Simpson’s type and the glove being linked to Simpson as well, so an order for his arrest is issued, much to the behest of Shapiro. Shapiro does buy some time for Simpson however, allowing him to be examined doctors and professionals who constitute as “the best defense money can buy.”
Simpson is simultaneously despondent and frantic over the thought of going to jail. He’s a man at his wit’s end, crafting a will for his children and a statement to fans in a erratic, pill-influenced state. Kardashian goes to check on him only to realize that Simpson is manically suicidal, whipping out a gun and holding it to his temple. Kardashian talks him off the ledge, pleading with him to not kill himself in baby Kim’s room.
Marcia Clark, fed up with Shapiro’s stalling tactics, sends the police to arrest Simpson. Upon their arrival, Simpson escapes out of the back of his estate into the driver’s seat of his White Bronco, and the first episode of American Crime Story ends as O.J. drives away to seek freedom. But as we all know, his escape only leads to the infamous chase.
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