American Crime Story: Episode 2
The second thrilling episode of Ryan Murphy’s latest crime biopic expertly positions its viewers in a 1994 bar, watching the famous police chase of O.J. Simpson unfold. The entire episode was essentially one long car chase, and is one of the most memorable things about the O. J. palaver. The rolling news following the police pursuit of an armed and suicidal O.J. even interrupted the NBC coverage of the NBA Finals to bring the latest in the biggest “news, entertainment and sports” story in a long time, as seen in this episode of The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
In this episode we really got to grips with some of the characters on the former NBA star’s defence team. Robert Shapiro (John Travolta), for example, was exposed for being the narcissist that he is often described as. Fellow lawyer and media personality Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) criticises Shapiro for focussing “on his number one priority: Robert Shapiro.” Travolta’s character is loud, vain and self-absorbed, but ultimately, a character that viewers can really enjoy watching. He’s entertaining in the role and brings to the defence the camp, dramatic humour that lawyers would normally try to steer clear of, and this is really fun to watch.
There is naturally a big focus on O. J. in the second episode. Having escaped the police on the threat of arrest, most of his scenes take place in the back of his friend’s car with a gun to his head. Cuba Gooding Jr.’s vulnerability in this role really opens him up to viewer sympathy. Did he do it? Didn’t he do it? We thought history already gave us the (probable) answers to these questions, but Ryan Murphy’s direction is making us doubt our own judgements; and this is one of the unique and intelligent qualities of the show that make it different to other ‘crime stories’. In an emotionally intense and unforgettable scene towards the end of the second episode, the distraught and fearful son of O. J. Simpson, Jason (Tye White), runs out to the car where his father is threatening suicide and begs him not to take his own life, “Dad, put down the gun!” This, perhaps, is the reason Simpson eventually accepts arrest and is taken into custody; he knew that his children had already lost one parent (through fault of his own?), he didn’t want to double their loss. It was also great to see, at the end of this episode, Marcia Clark puffing on a cigarette, watching the rolling news with the rest of the nation, lean forward and utter “We’re taking him to trial.” This is a classic Murphy one-liner, the sassy utterances he gives all his female leads mark in this series where the real excitement will begin. Episode three is going to be the best one yet.
The 45 minute episode ends with Simpson taken into custody charged with the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goodman, but it’s still left open – viewers still haven’t been assured that he did it. This leads me to the question – will we ever find out in this series if Simpson did do it? Court cases never found Simpson conclusively responsible for the murders in real life, so will this be altered in the series or will it be up to the viewers to decide? Perhaps then, the show is more ‘American Accused Story’ than the actual American Crime Story it claims to be, but viewers have yet to find out. With eight episodes still to air, all could change.
The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story continues on BBC Two next Monday (29/02/16) at 9pm.