‘The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story’ episode 9 review: The Mark Fuhrman tapes and various performances

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There was no question going into the ninth episode of “The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story” that we were looking at a work of the utmost quality. In between brilliant performances and captivating moments, there was nothing else out there of equal measure on television.

After watching Tuesday night’s new episode of the series, from our vantage point there is almost no questioning that these feelings have been amplified and then some. Tuesday night’s installment was in many ways beyond sensational, as it depicted a point in which unrest was higher than ever before thanks to one simple subject and the handling of it: The Mark Fuhrman tapes. In these tapes, what we effectively heard was an employee of the Los Angeles Police Department use horrific language and racial slurs in reference to the African-American community, which Johnnie Cochran latched onto as a way to show the jury more than ever before that OJ Simpson was the victim of a setup and discrimination by the force.

The brilliance in this episode was not in the defense or the prosecution’s work, but in the layers. For Cochran, there was a side of this where you could look at him as a courageous freedom fighter, as someone willing to right great wrongs in society and bring justice to a man who committed great racial atrocity; however, at the same exact time you have to remember that his job was to find Simpson not guilty, and in between the press conferences and his monologues in court, they were all means to that end. He galvanized the public in such a way that the case was unavoidable, and it led to a particularly emotional moment for Christopher Darden.

Let’s make it clear: Sterling K. Brown should be a favorite for Emmy Award for this role. While Sarah Paulson and Courtney B. Vance were each outstanding, Darden’s speech to Judge Ito was the first moment in this case where we trembled. He is the man in the most complicated place of all: An African-American working under the same organization that employed Fuhrman, and having to fight to keep the tapes out of the trial. He called Cochran’s actions a “circus,” but at the same time felt like his own voice as a black man was being ignored. The scene with him and Marcia Clark airing out their issues and mistakes was as poignant as we’ve seen.

With Clark learning at the end of the hour that she had sole custody of her children, maybe we had there the smallest of victories for her. It’s a shame that it just happened to come surrounded by so much chaos, unrest, and answers that were far from cut-and-dry. Watching this episode is another chilling reminder of why this case captured so much attention two decades ago. Grade: A.

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