American Crime Story: Episode 5

*Contains Spoilers*

Murder trials are divisive contests. A juror sees the defence battling the prosecution over even the most trivial of details. And behind closed doors, members of the same legal teams engage in internal disputes. Both of these coalitions were the subject of the drama in the fifth episode of Ryan Murphy’s The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

Central to this week’s storyline was the ongoing rivalry between prosecutor Christopher Darden (Sterling K Brown) and defence attorney Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B Vance). Since both lawyers are African-American, the fact that they are on opposing sides only furthers the tension; Cochran wishes Darden would defend because he’s black, Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) wants Darden to prosecute because he’s black. When Clark’s co-prosecutor, William Hodgman (Christian Clemenson) unexpectedly and dramatically falls to the ground of a heart attack, Darden is elevated to Hodgman’s earlier position – an action that acts as a catalyst for later disagreements.

The emotion Sterling K Brown has brought to the courtroom as Christopher Darden, especially in this episode, is unparalleled. He’s defensive and committed, but ultimately, he’s vulnerable. In this episode, he becomes your favourite character. The viewer feels sympathy for him when Cochran publicly rebukes him in court and later mocks him for speaking out for what he feels is right. Brown’s character was also largely responsible for translating the heavily discriminatory way in which black people have been treated for years onto our screens. In a scene where Darden is explaining (and failing in doing so) to Clark why LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) is far from the ideal candidate to testify against Simpson, we see the intense investment Darden has in the case; an investment which will later prove to have been worthwhile had Clark understood it. Fuhrman’s testimony is often cited as one of the reasons Simpson was eventually acquitted. Next week’s episode will see Ryan Murphy and D. V. DeVincentis’ take on that critical day in court.

The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story continues next Monday (21/03/16) at 9pm on BBC Two.