Episode 2: The Run of His Life
It’s difficult for well-known actors to transcend their name recognition and embody a character who actually existed. I see David Schwimmer and John Travolta onscreen, I’m seeing David Schwimmer and John Travolta with wigs on. Travolta is fun to watch doing Shapiro, but I still am seeing John Travolta. Same deal with Schwimmer. Yet… I’m still watching.
Okay, full disclosure… I fell asleep during this episode the first time. Cuba Gooding Jr and Malcolm Jamal Warner started yelling at each other — I mean, OJ and Al started yelling at each other — and they woke me up.
Anyway, I watched it a second time.
This episode wins with the story of the chase. Oddly, watching that Ford Bronco slowly drive around with a motorcade of police cars and helicopters above united the entire country though television. It was a big sports day, the NBA finals, and apparently golf legend Arnold Palmer’s final golf match. Takeout pizza places ran out of pizza so many people were riveted to their TV’s and ordering.
The stars of this episode are the media and the people. Press conferences and news reports drive the action forward and the shots of the crowds measure the emotional temperature of that day perfectly. We see groups of lawyers in the DA’s office and Johnnie Cochran’s office watching. We see people in bars, in convenience stores, and on highway walkways watching and cheering. All races and genders watching a slow speed chase. Most support this former football star with posters that say, “The Juice is Loose.” They chant, “We Love You OJ!”
But wait… maybe this episode should be called black men yelling in a white Ford Bronco. OJ Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and his buddy Al Cowlings (Malcolm Jamal Warner) in this episode are equally grating as they drive around LA yelling at each other and everybody they come into contact with. It’s actually comical to see police with guns drawn prevented from shooting by Cowlings yelling, “OJ’s in the back of the truck with a gun to his head!!!”
During his distress, it’s fascinating that OJ refers to his life with Nicole as his family. His family with his first wife seems to be invisible in his mind, even though they sit tensely by the television deeply concerned for OJ’s well being. When OJ calls, he does not ask to speak to any of his kids, he speaks to Kardashian and gives him a list of famous friends to say farewell to. But OJ does love his Momma, hold a gun to his head and he screams take me home to Momma!!
The slow speed car chase makes armchair quarterbacks out of the entire country. One of my favorite scenes takes place in a Black neighborhood in LA, where Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) schools his neighbors on where OJ actually stands with the Black Community.
“You don’t see any schools or community centers with his name on them. OJ left the community to be white” His neighbors answer,”Well he’s being chased by the police…he’s black now!”
Courtney B. Vance’s Johnnie Cochran is the best part of this series so far. I’m looking forward to seeing how he becomes involved with the case.
We all know where this is headed. Experiencing the journey to the trial has been a good one, once I woke up from my nap.