This American Crime Story review contains spoilers.
American Crime Story: Season 1 Episode 7
At best, conspiracy theories are diverting fun, an exercise in coming up with an outlandish explanation for a seemingly straightforward situation. At worst, they can derail investigation of the truth, and overshadow the hard evidence that’s simply less interesting.
The defense’s theory about the LAPD planting the blood in O.J.’s Bronco is joined by another, even more bonkers, idea: Faye Resnick was involved with the Colombian cartel operating out of the local eatery, and they slaughtered Nicole and Ronald. (Sadly, this did not mean we got an appearance from Connie Britton.) It’s completely ludicrous, yet what it demonstrates is much more serious: Johnnie Cochran is giving the jury the ol’ razzle-dazzle, coming up with as many alternate explanations as possible.
“But who else could have done it?” a desperate Robert Kardashian asks A.C. Cowlings. That’s the point we keep coming back to: There is no other suspect who makes as much sense as O.J. While David Schwimmer’s portrayal of Kardashian has made him out to be mostly ineffectual, he’s the closest thing the defense has to a moral core–and he’s clearly starting to unravel. He doesn’t want to doubt his friend, but there really is no other decent explanation. It doesn’t help that Shapiro is spooking poor Kardashian into thinking he’s somehow an accessory, with his possession of O.J.’s golf bag–which, of course, is empty. So, is that nothing more than mind games on Shapiro’s part?
Conspiracy theories are mind games: You have to convince yourself and others of your theory, no matter how much it stretches the limits of logic. This case is riddled with them, from micro to macro: Someone (could it be Shapiro or Clark?) plants the story about Johnnie Cochran’s double life with his ex-wife and another woman, which is the first thing to truly rattle Cochran. Later, F. Lee Bailey insults Darden’s balls (or lack thereof), leading our episode into its downward spiral.
While last week’s “Marcia Marcia Marcia” had us all verklempt over Marcia’s attempts to be a figure of respect and not ridicule for the press, this week was all Darden’s struggle. Well, I should mention that Marcia kills it at a party in Oakland in which she schools two of Darden’s friends who still believe the LAPD framed O.J. But this is still Darden’s story; he invites Marcia to spend the weekend with him in Oakland to unwind, during which time she gets along with his friends swimmingly and sends him flirty glances. “Tonight’s the night,” his friends say with meaningful looks… but Darden, ever the professional, resists the urge to act on his and Marcia’s clear attraction.
Unfortunately, Marcia’s disappointment has hardened her against her partner, and she reminds him that this is her case, and he’s working for her. It’s emasculating and spiteful, so you can’t really blame Darden for going forward with the one thing Marcia expressly told him not to do: Have O.J. try on the gloves found at the crime scene and at his home.
As much as all of this subterfuge is an act, people want to be dazzled. The jury, as sequestered as they are, still craves the same entertainment as the viewers at home. It’s the choice between sticking with the hard evidence (i.e., Brown bought O.J. the gloves, and they have the receipts to prove it), and a more cinematic demonstration. Had Marcia respected Darden going the safe route by not drunkenly kissing her, maybe he wouldn’t have felt the need to overcompensate by having O.J. try on the gloves.
Instead, we get the infamous moment of O.J. Simpson struggling to pull on gloves that are clearly too small and flashing the audience a look that’s part “so sorry to waste your time” and “I told you so.” We won’t hear Cochran’s famous quip “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” until closing arguments, but the prosecution was just dealt a mighty blow. The series’ best mind game has just been played.