Warning: Spoilers Below
Ahead of the finale, I’m filling in for Tommy to review the penultimate episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson, and oh, what an episode it is. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.
I was too young to even be able to follow the murder case when it happened. Before watching this show I only knew about the things pretty much everybody knows about, like the acquittal, the impact of race, and the glove. But it’s so clear to me now that the case was so much bigger than its highlights. And even though it reads like fiction, stuff like the leaking of Marcia Clark’s naked photo and Fuhrman’s racism coming to light really happened.
Fuhrman’s past was mentioned before, but it makes its biggest impact in this episode; the Mark Fuhrman tapes are a game changer. While the glove not fitting hurt the prosecution a lot, the tapes not only provide a reason for Fuhrman to frame Simpson, but evidence that Judge Ito should not be presiding over the trial. The very first scene Ito was in showed that his wife was a police officer, but that seemed largely inconsequential to the plot. Nope. Turns out that she was Fuhrman’s superior, and to make matters worse, he makes disparaging remarks about her on the same tapes that paint him as a racist.
Obviously there isn’t a mistrial, but the fact that it’s even a possibility is a huge deal, considering how the previous episode detailed the jurors’ months of isolation. The situation makes you feel something for everyone involved. On one side, it’s hard to not get at least somewhat swept up in Johnnie’s moral crusade. As he says, “This is what black people have always known.” On the other side, Marcia’s plea to Judge Ito to keep the tapes out of the trial is absolutely heartbreaking. Not only does playing them risk setting a murderer free, it risks making the months of personal and professional attacks that she has endured all for nothing.
As it turns out, the defense and the prosecution both sort of lose when it comes to the tapes. Ito decides that the jury can hear the tapes, but only two short passages. If there’s any silver lining for Johnnie, it’s that others got to listen to more. Marcia, on the other hand, gets a more definite victory, though it’s not in the O.J. trial; she gets primary custody of her children in her divorce case. Though it’s clear she’s been out-lawyered by Johnnie, she’s without a doubt the hero of the series, which will make Simpson’s acquittal in the finale all the more crushing for the audience.
Once it’s over, I’m going to miss The People v. O.J. Simpson. By no means has it been perfect; Travolta’s portrayal of Robert Shapiro is surreal and the show obviously takes dramatic license with some of the situations (though that’s normal). But despite the series’ ups and downs, every episode has been good and memorable. American Crime Story is going to be nominated for lots of Emmys. Look no further than this episode for award-winning work; simply recapping it doesn’t do it justice. They might as well start engraving Sarah Paulson and Courtney B. Vance’s statuettes now.
RATING: 9 OUT OF 10 (AMAZING)
Aaron Sarnecky is Pop-Break’s television editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, among other things. He is a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in television and film. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed. Follow him on Twitter: @AaronSarnecky