'People v. O.J. Simpson' recap: Playing the 'Race Card'
Mar 02, 2016 | 9:29 AM
All is fair in love and legal war. In Episode 5 of "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," the attorneys take center stage as the defense and the prosecution collide in the courtroom.
A police officer is treating Johnnie Cochran unfairly when we begin this episode, titled "Race Card." Cochran is pulled over because he did not signal before changing lanes, accused of car theft and cuffed for his hostile attitude. It is quite the heavy-handed start to the show.
We are then taken to a church, at a televised sermon for Johnnie Cochran.
"Great, now Jesus is on their side, too," Marcia Clark says.
Bob Shapiro is still acting like a child after his ousting last episode. He calls F. Lee Bailey Judas, and Bailey fires back by asking if that makes Shapiro Jesus. If I were Robert Shapiro, I would not look upon John Travolta's portrayal favorably.
What follows is a montage depicting the prosecution's case and the defense's response for everything the prosecution has. While it is hilarious to think that something like this actually happened, it is interesting to see how these attorneys were able to deconstruct and overcome all the evidence that points to O.J.'s guilt. If only they would stop the dramatic camera zooms and motions so I would not be nauseous while watching.
The prosecution makes their only black attorney, Chris Darden, prep Mark Fuhrman — the cop who found evidence at O.J.'s house — for the stand. Fuhrman has shown racist tendencies, and it is clear the prosecution is exploiting Darden's race for the case. The writers did well to make Fuhrman appear as a guy who gets a little more rigid around black people. He appears to be choosing his words carefully.
Darden approaches Cochran before a hearing and asks him to act professional and respectful.
"I'm not trying to be respectful," Cochran responds, "I want to win."
It was an uncharacteristically aggressive thing for Cochran to say, but it does make me sympathize with the prosecution. The prosecution, in general, is portrayed as the sympathetic side, which is unfortunate because we all know how the trial plays out.
Chris Darden takes the stand and asks that Fuhrman's racially insensitive comments made 15 years earlier be deemed inadmissible. Cochran responds with an impassioned speech about the n-word and the ability of black people to be objective.
It was an interesting back-and-forth regarding race and its pertinence to the case. However, the last comment by Cochran tarnished the genuinely exciting moment.
Cochran turns from the microphone, looks at Darden and says, "[N-word], please."
This is a line that was apparently actually said by Cochran after his speech, which makes it a truly amazing moment. Unfortunately, so much creative license is taken with the show, and the show is so over the top, when I saw it I was sure that it never happened.
We then are graced with an inside look into the bedroom of Johnnie Cochran. Before we get to see Cochran consummate his relationship, he gets a call about Shapiro's staff not sending their witness list. Cochran pushes the blame onto one of his staff, once again showing sliminess.
During Cochran's opening statement, he listed the witnesses that the prosecution never received. Prosecuting attorney Bill Hodgman objects in a feverish rage.
"What is this? Opening statement by ambush?" Hodgman says with a faltering voice.
The stress of the witness list gets the best of Hodgman, who collapses in the courtroom. The scene was undeniably entertaining and it was an incredible aspect of the case that I was not formerly aware of — even though it did not actually happen in the courtroom.
Cochran continues to show how devious he is by literally changing the crime scene. It is fascinating to see how far Cochran was willing to go to win this case. He literally redecorates O.J. house, adding family photos and African-style artwork.
Cochran educates O.J. about the redecorating. This leads to O.J.'s monologue about how far he has come. He said he did not leave anyone behind; he just did not give handouts. And he did not apologize for buying a nice house in a nice neighborhood.
"You should see the house I bought my mama, it had a pool and everything," said Simspon.
We are taken to the crime scenes and the prosecution identifies how the scene has been tampered with right away. O.J. snaps at Darden for sitting on his bench and Cochran takes the opportunity to play mind games.
"Don't do Fuhrman," Cochran says. "Let the white people do him."
Darden is rattled by this move. It is always fascinating to see the interplay between the attorneys. It is a true war that was held in the courtroom, and the more this show reveals about the battle, the better the show gets. Regardless, Darden gives Fuhrman to Marcia Clark.
"What's so difficult? He's just a cop on a stand," Clark says.
The final scene answers the question. Fuhrman is polishing off his World War II rack of medals and the camera pans down to reveal a Nazi war medal. This scene, paired with the patriotic anthem it is set up against, is a beautiful way to end the episode. It is justly over the top and dramatic, and it puts the camera movement to good use. It is also slightly dark and comedic.
This episode was stronger than the last few episodes, but it still suffers the same problems the show has had since the first episode.
Someone has to do something about the camera movement. I would not be surprised if every shot in this episode had camera movement in it. Most of the movement was zooming in on someone as they say a line. Steady movement often creates a greater sense of drama, but when everything is dramatic it is exhausting.
Moreover, the show continues to be incredibly over the top. Each character is exaggerated and each moment is given incredible dramatic weight.
This episode did focus more on the conflict between the prosecutor and the defense, which is what I am most fascinated by. The infighting among the teams has been done away with, and now it is time for war. This episode also had three great moments: Cochran's speech about the n-word, Hodgman's heart attack and the Nazi reveal. All in all, this is a step in the right direction for the show.