The People v. O.J. Simpson: The Verdict

"Given what they threw at you, there were a lot of temptations to play their game. But you didn't."

Despite the lack of suspense that probably should have run through 'The Verdict' (hell, the whole series), the finale manages to be as riveting, if not more so, as anything we've been treated to so far because wonderful execution.

Seriously, this show could school all others about pacing. It's almost magical, meaning if I tried to study the structure very closely, the creatives' technique may still evade. Being masterful with pacing was a huge necessity though for a show that's fueled on unparalleled dramatic irony. There is no more dramatic an irony than in their last episode, 'The Verdict'. Yet this episode had more tension than it had the right to! Amazing.

The DA's closing statements blew me away. They were like a laser of authenticity, hitting all of the key pieces of evidence and nuance that should have, well, left little to no doubt. Another sign that they probably never had a shot. Paulson and Brown (sounds like a great law firm!) have repeatedly struck a balance of passion, emotion, intelligence and clear-headedness as Clark and Darden. Their contribution, in my estimation, has made our investment in them worth every moment. They've elevated the intention of the show in ways that are beyond words. It's never not been endearing, knowing their fate.

And with all of that, they were still outshined by Johnnie Cochran. Incredible. His capacity to shape a narrative has, of course, already gone down in history. And we witnessed it through this series. As much as it was steeped in manipulation, maybe even coercion, him telling the jury that they were empowered was also something he truly believed. I think that's what made this portrayal of Cochran so interesting. He was as Darden described him to Marcia when the trial first started: real. He talks like a preacher, because he goes to church every Sunday. And Cochran was holding an effectively radioactive explosive before the Fuhrman tapes even surfaced. Through the whole series, Courtney B. did this thing with his body that came off as totally in the moment but might have been rehearsed to within an inch of its life, I don't even know. It's like he couldn't contain his charisma in the boundary of his skin. It's a level of magnetism that can move mountains.

'The Verdict', in its own nuanced way, made it clear that the victims and winners of this trial were not black and white. (Though that final still of Nicole and Ron pointed out, indisputably, that these two lives were lost to the world.) Kardashian throwing up in the sink at the courthouse after the verdict was announced was a powerful image even without it being bookended by him conscientiously leaving the 'party of the century'. Seeing O.J.'s rejection from the community of which he longed to be a part (and we only saw the beginning of that in this episode) leaves a mark, too. But I thought the most poignant example of this was in the conversation between Marcia and Chris where she talks about her personal motivation to being a prosecutor. The jury (and many who celebrated the verdict) did feel it was vengeance for a victim. And with that even O.J. was a representation of victims -- plural, that were justified by this verdict. To me, this might be the most provocative concept the series successfully submitted to us.

I want to remember Paulson's Marcia and Brown's Chris Darden in their most teary heartbreaking moments here. Both the post-verdict meeting in Gil's office and the press conference were the culmination of both actors' astonishing emotional maps. (I love the look Brown's Darden shoots Greenwood's Garcetti when Marcia breaks down as if to say DO SOMETHING.) This series had a lot of spinning plates, we would have walked away from this impressive display wowed, but not moved, without really really smart actors. Really, what a joy it's been to watch this show, bring on season two.

Closing Statement

* So glad they went out on Black Box's 'Everybody'.

* The two dissenting jurors were wrecked, too. Shit.

* A bunch of psychopaths helping each other out. (I do not mean the lawyers from the Cochran firm either!)

* This shot killed.

* I really hope this show's success encourages TV creators to be as interesting as this show managed to be. The People v. O.J. Simpson creators, Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander did everything they set out to do. Bless.

Quotes (in which I wanted to put the complete transcripts of both sides' closing statements.)

Marcia: "You want to address misrepresentations about you and Nicole, take a seat in the blue chair, and we can have a discussion."

Johnnie: "'If the glove's too small, easy call.'"

Marcia: "The blood on the rear gate at Bundy matches the defendant at rate of one-in-57-billion. There are only five billion people on the planet."

Darden: "This case is not about the 'N' word. It is about O.J. Simpson and the 'M' word, 'murder'. I'm not afraid to point to him and say he did it. Why not? The evidence all points to him."

Johnnie: "Now, you may not know this, but you are... empowered. Your decision has a major implication both in this courtroom and outside of it. Things happen for a reason in life. Maybe that's why we're gathered together. Something in your background, your character, helps you to know that this is wrong. Maybe you're the right people at the right time to be able to say, "No more. We can't have this.""

Juror: "I will never, ever think they proved it."

Ito: (after only four hours of deliberation, finding out that the jury reached a verdict) "Are you shitting me?"

Shapiro: "This verdict... you arrive with strident black extremists."

Marcia: "I'm not going to say it."
Darden: "Then I will. Marcia, what if we won?"

Mrs. Robertson: "...a felony upon Ronald Lyle Goldman (and Nicole Brown Simpson), a human being, as charged..."

Darden: "You haven't changed anything for black people here. Unless, of course, you're a famous, rich one in Brentwood."

Clinton: "In terms of the way Americans see the world differently generally based on their race... uh... that troubles me. I think the only answer to that is for us to spend more time listening to each other. And try to under... try to put ourselves in each other's shoes and understand why we see the world in different ways, uh, and keep trying to overcome that. I would say that, uh, even though it's disturbing..." (He was always pretty great with words.)
Johnnie: "That's the victory."

Marcia: "Everyone wants justice for victims, right?"


sunbunny said...

My mom always says that her most enduring memory of the trial is the look on Robert Kardashian's face when the verdict came in. I had no idea the deliberations were that quick. That shocked me. And, like you said, I felt seriously tense and anxious while awaiting the verdict despite knowing damn well what it was going to be. That is some superior storytelling.

ChrisB said...

What a terrific ending to a wonderful series. I was on the edge of my seat, although I already knew the outcome. Everything about this series was excellent and it should be the gauge on how shows are done moving forward.

Great series of reviews, Heather. Thank you for giving us a place to discuss this as we went through it.

Josie Kafka said...

So, am I still allowed to say that I hate Ryan Murphy shows even though I loved this?