Cuba Gooding Jr

When you think back on the O.J. Simpson case, you’re likely to immediately conjure up two images in your brain: a white Bronco and an ill-fitting glove. Both were once-innocuous objects that are now forever associated with the trial but while the glove factors in later and was important to the acquittal, it’s the Bronco that will always feel like the most important symbol. A white Bronco is no longer a white Bronco. It is forever linked with O.J. Simpson, with those overhead shots from news cameras above the highway, and with the urgency of crowding around the television watching this strange spectacle take place. The vehicle will always be closely associated with Simpson’s most famous run: not any of his athletic displays on the football field but his run away from the police and toward possible suicide, a run that he had to have known would be proved futile—and a run that, for most viewers, only made him look even guiltier than before.

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The Bronco Chase—an event that feels like it demands capitalization—certainly needed an entire episode devoted to it. “The Run Of His Life,” titled after the Jeffrey Toobins’ book the series is based on, continues with the frenetic pacing and tension that first appeared in the pilot episode. It’s yet another surprisingly solid episode, one that both factors in the larger plots—the chase—with the overarching themes—racial tensions, particularly between black citizens and police officers—by weaving them together.

Even if you watched the Bronco Chase, as I did, it’s still not hard to get sucked into the drama and tension that “The Run Of His Life” provides—especially if you were on the younger side, as I was, and don’t fully remember all the details. I vaguely remember watching the chase, was somewhat familiar with the trial through background noise on the TV and newspapers in the grocery store, and distinctly remember my teacher expectantly announcing the verdict to a classroom full of [redacted]-year-olds who mostly stared back at her blankly, unaware of what this development meant or not understanding why we should care. When watching this episode for the first time, I suddenly realized that I had no idea that Simpson had a gun with him in the car, and that he was contemplating suicide. (For a long time, I didn’t even know that O.J. wasn’t actually driving the car himself.) Maybe that’s why I was full with unease during all the shots of O.J. practically curled up into himself in the backseat, clutching his gun like a lifeboat, listening to the cheers of supporters (or anti-police folks) on the overpass as he reminisces about the cheers of the crowd while he played football in a stadium. Granted, we all know that O.J. isn’t going to kill himself in the backseat of the car—spoiler alert! He’s still alive!—but that doesn’t make the scene any less anxious or uneasy because so far the writers are doing a remarkable job at making known facts seem unknown, and of building a suspenseful narrative around a story that already has a set ending.

The big moments in the episode all land nicely: the actual chase and the crowds cheering him on or crowding the car just to feel like part of history in the making, the subsequent surrender at O.J.’s Brentwood mansion (Cuba Gooding Jr. does a good job of depicting the total mental and physical exhaustion of O.J. when he finally exits the vehicle, practically collapsing in the doorway of the house), the press conference and reading of O.J.’s letter, and so on.

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Once again, however, it’s the smaller exchanges that stick around after the episode is over. Almost as interesting as the chase itself is the impact it had on the world around it. Everything and everyone seemed to stop. “The Run Of His Life” shows these effects, ranging from the breaking news live feed interrupting a basketball game to how the chase resulted in boosting Domino sales. There were the prepared eulogies just in case, and Cochran’s live commentary that put these preparations into context: “Whenever I see a black man being chased by armed officers, my guard goes up. … The police shoot first and offer sloppy apologies afterward.”

In one scene, Christopher chats with his (fellow black) neighbors and expresses the popular sentiment about how O.J. should barely be considered black considering the fact that he bailed on his home and background in favor of yukking it up with the rich and famous (and white, and employed as police officers), and that he didn’t exactly try to give back to the community. “Once O.J. made his money, he split and never came back. He became white,” Christopher says. “Well, he’s got the cops chasing him,” a neighbor retorts, “He’s black now.”

But then it’s over as quickly as it started. The episode gets through the chase start to finish, ending with O.J. apologizing over and over (an apology that feels like it’s directed to the police officers, as if he’s sorry to interrupt their day) and eventually being led away in handcuffs. We see Marcia, coolly smoking a cigarette—as she did so often and obsessively—and remarking, “We’re taking him to trial.” And we see Christopher being warned to “stay the hell away from this,” advice that we know isn’t going to take. O.J. stopped running, but the series is just getting started.

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Stray observations

  • Bob Shapiro, always making it about himself.
  • Muppet Babies Kardashian Moments of the Week: The group sitting around the television chanting/singing “K-A-R-D-A-S-H-I-A-N” as if little adorable robots.
  • Honestly can’t believe Dominos isn’t trying to do some tie-in with this series. Aren’t all brands shameless nowadays?
  • In response to O.J. claiming he felt “like a battered husband”: “He cut his hand while he was killing her.”
  • Did we all share our “Where were you during the Bronco chase?” stories last week or can we do that now? (I don’t fully remember exactly my whereabouts, but I do remember my primary interest was less about O.J. Simpson and more about the Bronco—my first car was a Ford Bronco (but red) that I’ve had from birth; my family still owns it but I still don’t have a driver’s license.

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