A review of tonight's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story coming up just as soon as we never talk about your hair again…
“They want it to be entertainment.” -Alan Dershowitz
Christopher Darden's insistence on having O.J. Simpson try on the gloves is one of the great legal blunders of our time, and a big turning point in the trial. So it makes sense that “Conspiracy Theories” would devote most of its running time to building up to that moment, as Cochran's defense team spins one conspiracy theory after another to amuse the court, while the jurors seem barely awake for the various pieces of hard, seemingly daming evidence that Darden and Clark keep presenting to them. In a more staid, traditional trial, Darden might not have risen to take the bait from Bailey and Cochran (and how funny was it when Johnnie declined to object once Darden had fallen into his trap?). In this one, he feels enormous pressure to become part of the circus atmosphere, and to top his former mentor's many stunts with one of his own. More than perhaps any other People v. O.J. moment so far, this episode's climax demonstrated that surprise isn't necessarily to generate suspense: I knew exactly how this fiasco was going to play out(*), but that only made the wait more excruciating.
(*) There's some embellishment with the moment where Shapiro tries on the gloves while nobody's looking that's not in Toobin's book – in reality, both sides suspected the gloves would be too small, especially if O.J. had to wear rubber gloves under them – but it helps dramatize the idea better than a series of conversations likely would have.
And what makes Darden's implosion particularly painful is the earlier scene at the bar in Oakland, where Marcia schools all of Chris's friends about the obvious holes in Johnnie's many conspiracy theories. Where was that women in court day after day? Was it just that the rules and structures of the trial made it harder for her to play ringmaster, too? Throughout the series, we've seen that the off-camera Marcia Clark is confident and wryly funny, but the second she walks into that courtroom, she's rendered the humorless scold who can't compete with the flash of Cochran and the rest of the Dream Team.
(The Oakland trip also pushes the Clark/Darden relationship as far as I'm guessing the show will, with a window very clearly being open for Chris, and him declining to go through it, to the embarrassment of both parties. Great, crackling scene, with buckets of chemistry between Paulson and Brown.)
The conspiracy theories, meanwhile, have an unexpectedly poignant effect on Bob Kardashian. Until now, he's been portrayed as willfully ignorant about the possibility that Uncle Juice could have murdered his wife, but as Cochran and the others trot out one ridiculous concept after the next, it seems to finally dawn on Kardashian that there is no plausible alternative suspect, and that crushes him. Though his role in the series overall has receded since the first few episodes, this is an excellent showcase for David Schwimmer, particularly in the scene where Kardashian and AC go through O.J.'s bag and are surprised and relieved to not find the murder weapon in it.
What did everybody else think?