We start off with a flashback of Johnnie and his daughters, as Johnnie gets pulled over for being a black man in a nice neighborhood, basically. This is the third time in a week and, sadly, his daughters have a mantra for dealing with cops. The man is cuffed and everything, only released because the cop realizes he's dealing with the assistant to the D.A. The scene is extremely effective at creating sympathy with the audience and also helping to understand where Cochran is coming from.
Now we're back to present day, at church. Afterwards, Cochran holds a press conference, questioning the sudden appearance of a black man on the prosecution team. I'm glad they have this aside in as Chris's sudden appearance cannot have looked good. But there's so much drama in the Dream Team as Shapiro refuses to be in the room with Lee, there's no time to enjoy any victories. Their exchange is hilarious and I'm surprised that Nathan Lane and John Travolta are the comic reliefs here.
On the prosecution side, Darden sits down with Fuhrman for the first time. Steve Pasquale is excellent and probably too pretty to be playing racist, piece of shit Fuhrman (I just watched episode nine, fuck that guy). Also not in the best light here (though to a much lesser degree): Ito, who seems way too happy with how much attention he's getting with this trial - Arsenio Hall?? It also seems weird to me that judges pick out seat assignments. Surely they have better things to do?
We also get the first hints at the Darden/Cochran relationship in this episode and it's fantastic. Darden tries to the be the bigger man with his mentor, only for Cochran to tell him he's just here to win. But then, moments later, after Darden's N-word speech, Cochran refers to Darden as a friend and respected colleague. And that N-word speech... I understand Darden's point and it definitely had to come from the prosecution's only black lawyer, but damn, maybe they should have left that alone enitrely. But it's great to see Cochran just tear him apart afterwards. Jessica mentions it on GFY - Cochran is the lawyer you want on your side.
Darden starts to suggest getting rid of Fuhrman. An interview with Clarke claims this was never really a question, but, having just seen episode nine, it really would have been a good idea to involve him as little as possible. There are a lot of what if's that come to me as we get into the trial itself. What would have happened if Fuhrman's involvement in the case would have been limited to as little as possible? Also, Darden's speech about Affirmative Action is excellent as he wonders if he's Marcia's Affirmative Action. While Marcia seems to really believe in his abilities, he can't be the only person wondering this.
And we have opening statements. It says something about this show that they've taken the time and effort and built the people involved that we don't actually get to the Trial of the Century until halfway through the series.
Both teams seem to think they've got an easy win. Marcia's opening statement is overwhelming, just a long laundry list of the evidence they have against O.J. But she's missing any clear narrative, which Cochran offers beautifully, painting a distinctive picture, starting off with a quote from MLK Jr. He smoothly makes this not about whether this one man killed these two people but about a much larger racism issue. This will be a theme for the series as Marcia repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, tries to bring the trial back down to earth and Goldman and Brown.
And then we have the totally made-up heart attack. Some trials might be dry and need manufactured drama, but this is not one of them.
The jury is going to go to Nicole's and then O.J.'s homes. This seems crazy, right? Why is this necessary? But apparently it really happened! And like Marcia, I find the changes that have been made since the actual events in questions took place extremely frustrating. I want to get a glass of wine and bitch about it with her. At Nicole's, all of her things have been removed, removing any connection the jury could have made with Nicole and any reminders of Nicole's family and life. At O.J.'s, Cochran has turned O.J's bachelor pad into one of a scion of the black community. And O.J. is pissed at Cochran for making these changes as he insists he isn't going to apologize for buying a nice house in a nice neighborhood - he manifested himself.
While the jurors are checking out the house, and O.J. yells at Darden in front of them, Cochran advises Darden to let the white people take on Fuhrman. While this is excellent advice given what we find out about Fuhrman, you have to wonder, as Darden does, if this is really advice or manipulation. This episode really demonstrates Cochran's skill - great person to have on your team, a terror to be against.
There's a random scene in this episode that feels like it belongs in another show, where Vanity Fair's Dunne gossips with his other old, rich, white friends about the trial. What was the purpose of this? There's a brief reinforcement of racism, as they go totally quite while the black servants come in, but there are plenty of those already.
And then there's the end of the episode, where we discover that 'World War II medals' really means Nazi memorabilia. Wow, impressive! The show does a great job of building up to this moment with Fuhrman, until we zoom in on that swastika. A small sampling of things to come from this asshat.
Mostly, though, this episode makes me think about what if? Every decision the prosecution makes, what if they had gone the other direction. Should they have promoted Chris? Should Chris have done an interview?
- At GFY, Jessica reiterates what we all know: Vance and Brown are great.
- The fact checking is a little more complicated. At Vulture, it seems that they added in the collapse at the courtroom, Cochran's off-mic comment to Darden, the quid pro quo with Vanity Fair, and the self-belief of the defense.