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The People v. O.J. Simpson Finale: The Verdict Is In

How the FX drama put its own spin on the trial's outcome

Liz Raftery

Well, we all knew what was coming, but Tuesday's finale of FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story put its own spin on the outcome of the O.J. Simpson trial. Is a spoiler warning necessary when everyone watching knows how a TV series will end?

Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) and Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) present their respective arguments about why O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.) should and shouldn't be allowed to address the court. Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) allows it, and Simpson makes a dramatic plea that he just wants to see his children again, while praising the members of the jury for their "stamina" and "integrity."

Much of the first half of the episode is devoted to both sides' closing arguments (after we get a winking shot of Cochran dreaming up the infamous, "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit" line). In Clark's, she lambasts Mark Fuhrman, reiterates the DNA evidence, and picks apart the defense's case piece by piece. Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) blanches. Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) reminds the jury that the case is not about the N-word, but rather the M-word: murder. Johnnie Cochran's is a razzle-dazzle piece of performance art that provides more entertainment value than anything else.

What can we learn from The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story?

Expecting a lengthy break, lawyers on both sides plan vacations. Clark is heading to Santa Barbara, Cochran is heading to San Francisco, and F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) is heading to Laguna Beach. No one cares where Bob Shapiro's (John Travolta) going, as he's ostracized from the defense team once and for all.

But even before starting deliberations, the jury takes a straw poll and the result is 10-2 in favor of acquittal. No one is prepared for a quick verdict, but the jury has one after just four hours of deliberations. Both the defense and the prosecution think this is a good sign for their team. "They discussed this case less than anybody in America," Shapiro notes. Cochran, who's been receiving death threats, struts into court with bodyguards from the Nation of Islam, to Shapiro's dismay. Meanwhile, one of the prison guards outside O.J.'s cell asks him for an autograph, and tells him he's heard rumors that the verdict is going to go his way.

As the verdict is read, we get glimpses, in split screens, of reaction shots both inside and outside the courtroom. Robert Kardashian is stunned, and later throws up in a bathroom sink. Ronald Goldman's sister Kim screams. Clark looks like she's about to burst into tears - and later does, saying she's "so ashamed." Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) knows his career is over. In the public, reactions are mixed, but mostly divided along racial lines - white people can't believe it, and black people are jubilant. Oprah stands glaring with her arms folded in front of her studio audience, who are having mixed reactions.

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At the subsequent press conference, Clark makes an impassioned plea to female domestic violence victims, saying she hopes this doesn't cause them to lose faith in the system. Darden apologizes to the Goldmans, but starts crying before he can finish his remarks.

Cochran later compliments Darden for the "superb job" he did on the case, and offers to "bring [Darden] back into the [black] community." But Darden has nothing but contempt for his onetime mentor, and assures Cochran the verdict isn't going to change anything for black people who aren't famous or rich. But Cochran is treating it as a victory, especially after President Clinton addresses the decision on national television and says he hopes it fosters a discussion about race.

Clark is disgusted at the celebrations that are going on outside the DA's office, and Darden hands in his resignation. Clark encourages Darden to keep fighting the good fight, and reveals that she was raped by a waiter in Italy at age 17. "What happened to the waiter?" Darden asks. "The same thing that happened today," she replies. They walk out of the office arm in arm, heading out to get a drink - but later, both end up resigning.

O.J. walks out of the prison a free man, and is greeted by Robert Kardashian. "You were always there for me," he tells his friend. "You never doubted." He returns the Bible Kardashian loaned him when he was first arrested. O.J.'s ebullient, cracking jokes and talking about the "rager" they have planned for that night, apparently forgetting the fact that his ex-wife is still dead.

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But his joy quickly shifts, once he gets into Brentwood and is greeted by protestors waving signs calling him a killer, and worse. In fact, the only people cheering are the other members of Simpson's defense team and his family members.

After he's gotten cleaned up, O.J. cries in his house. Are those tears of relief, or of sadness that he's become a pariah in his own community? His eldest son, Jason, also gives him an adorable puppy. "I just wanted to make sure you always had a friend," he says. Ouch.

Bob Shapiro gets interviewed by Barbara Walters. "We not only played the race card, we dealt it from the bottom of the deck," he admits, throwing Cochran under the bus. Simpson snaps off the TV and heads off to his party. The house is packed, but mostly with hangers-on and friends of friends. None of Simpson's old pals from the country club, etc., bother to show up. Simpson gives a speech in which he says his "primary goal in life" is now to find the real killer or killers. "They're out there somewhere. Whatever it takes, I will bring them in." Cue tepid applause.

Robert Kardashian walks out of the party at that point, telling Jason he's "done," and leaving his Bible on a side table on his way out. He and Simpson stop speaking. Shortly after Kardashian makes his exit, the manager at O.J.'s preferred hotspot, The Riviera, says he's unable to accept Simpson's reservation for that night.

The series ends, fittingly, with Simpson standing alone in his backyard, gazing up at a massive statue of himself at the height of his glory days. The music from the party is drowned out by the sounds in his head, of a large crowd chanting, "O.J.! O.J.!"