American Crime Story: ‘From The Ashes Of Tragedy’ Review

American Crime Story 'The Case of the Century'

“He got away with beating her. He is not going to get away with killing her.” -Marcia Clark

The People v. OJ Simpson was easily one of the most insane and controversial trials of the 1990s, if not the century. American Crime Story seeks to bring us that story in its entirety and I am thrilled. While I was just a little 12-year old kid when the real events of this case were taking place, I think the timing for this series is perfect given the fact that the entire legal system has been put under a microscope, especially when you consider the number of people who have been outraged after watching Netflix’s Making a Murderer. God damn you, Manitowoc County!

Interestingly, the OJ Simpson trial offers a completely opposite tale from that of Making a Murderer. For the most part, I think the evidence clearly indicates that OJ was involved in the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman and yet the criminal justice system failed in a sense by letting a guilty man walk free. Many people were outraged at the final verdict and I can’t say that I blame them because it definitely appeared as though justice was not served.

I also want everyone to keep in mind that these murders actually did occur and it’s very difficult to talk about this case at times because of the victims. I imagine that most of the series is going to focus on OJ Simpson and the trial itself, but we must never forget that real people lost their lives in this tragedy. For those that have read some of my previous reviews, you know that I tend to add humor and sarcasm to all of my reviews but this one might be a bit more difficult given the realness of the story.

That said, at least we have Kato! And who doesn’t remember Pauly Shore’s famous line from Jury Duty, “Say hi to Judge Ito!” Memories, right? Enjoy the review!

Nobody Gets Killed In Brentwood

The opening scene of the series premiere of ACS was brilliantly executed, taking us back to the 1992 race riots that all started when Rodney King was viciously assaulted by a number of LAPD police officers. This really sets the tone for the series as a whole because race is clearly going to play a major role in the inevitable trial of OJ Simpson.

The premiere gets straight to the point after we see OJ leave his home for Chicago and we’re also given a glimpse of the man who found Nicole Simpson’s body. I loved how the entire series starts off at this point because it’s probably not something we remember when all of this was going on in 1994.

Mark Fuhrman, an LAPD detective, arrives at the scene of the crime and we get some insight into some of the evidence that was found at the Simpson residence. They find  a clean heel print from a shoe, a glove and an envelope. There is also a set of bloody shoe prints that exit through the rear of Nicole Brown Simpson’s home. It’s also worth noting that Mr. Fuhrman was involved with a domestic dispute at the Simpson residence years ago, a history that will surely come into play during the trial.

It should also be noted that OJ and Nicole were separated which is why the LAPD end up at OJ’s home. They end up finding a speck of blood on OJ’s white Ford Bronco:

Exhibit 'A': A Trace of Blood

This would appear to be damaging evidence if they can confirm that this is related to Nicole’s death in any way and, as we’ll soon see, there is going to be a TON of controversial evidence presented during the trial. Of course, the LAPD are definitely not the sharpest knives in the drawer because they probably should not be on OJ’s property without a warrant.

The premiere also introduced us to a majority of the superstar cast, starting with Kato Kaelin. For anyone not familiar with the OJ Simpson case, this guy is the definition of airhead and his first interaction with the LAPD totally proves that in every way. He even admits that he’s not an official person. Agreed!

"Was there an earthquake last night?" -Kato Kaelin

Kato informs the LAPD that OJ is currently in Chicago and that he heard some loud thumps on his air conditioner to the point that he thought his walls were going to collapse. Even more bizarre is the conversation the LAPD has with OJ on the phone. Now, I’m not sure if this is what was actually said the night of the murders, but I’ll let you all form your own opinions regarding this dialogue:

Detective Tom Lange: I have some bad news. Your ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, has been killed.
OJ: Oh my god. Nicole has been killed? Oh my god, is she dead?
Detective Tom Lange: Yes. I’m so sorry Mr. Simpson.

I’m no detective, but that was a very weird thing to say to the LAPD, including the fact that he didn’t ask them how she died. Also, I’m pretty sure when the detective said she was killed that means she’s dead, OJ. Props to Cuba Gooding Jr. who has some big shoes to fill in his role as OJ. If anyone did follow the case back the ’90s, then you already know that Cuba’s performance is spot on and I am thoroughly impressed so far.

The detective’s also uncover one of the most infamous pieces of clothing on OJ’s property…the glove:

Exhibit 'B': The Glove

As you can see, there is going to be a lot of elements to this case so I’ll do my best to recap some of the more important pieces of evidence and witnesses as the case advances. Things are definitely going to get bat shit crazy.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

The premiere introduced us to a ton of characters but for me, the most compelling was that of Marcia Clark, played by Sarah Paulson. Marcia was the prosecutor in the OJ case and I can honestly say that I don’t know too much about her story so it’s refreshing to see this series spend a lot of time with her. The one thing we learn very early on is that pop culture does not seem to be one of Marcia’s specialties. She has no idea just how famous OJ is and I think it is fairly evident that she is going to have her hands full dealing with the publicity that will come with this case.

"Well, this prosecutor says go get him." -Marcia Clark

One of the more heartbreaking moments from the episode comes when Nicole’s daughter calls her home and wants to know where she is. These kids are obviously much to young to understand the finality of what happened to their mother but it really sets the tone and is a reminder that there were a lot of victims from this incident, including the family members of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.

Marcia is heading up the case against OJ and we learn that the murders took place at some time between 10 and 11 PM, while OJ left for Chicago at 11:45 PM. At this point, the relationship between Nicole and Ron is unclear but given OJ’s past, it seems quite possible that he walked in on the two of them and completely lost his marbles in a jealous rage. And OJ also has a prior record of abuse when it comes to Nicole. Marcia’s reaction couldn’t be more on point:

Marcia reacts to the evidence

Meanwhile, OJ has arrived back at his home and it’s definitely a media circus. Not even his close friend Robert Kardashian can get through the crowd of police. OJ is led away by the LAPD upon is arrival so they can have a quick chat with him. Luckily, a camera man records this conversation and it’s extremely important going forward, especially once the race card comes into play. The LAPD officers end up handcuffing OJ for no real good reason and, while I don’t remember much from the actual case, I do have a hunch that this move by the LAPD will ultimately come back to bite them in the ass.

Exhibit 'C': OJ In Cuffs

Also, I’m pretty sure that cameraman is about to get a MASSIVE raise for shooting this footage. Good for you, camera dude!

Marcia is pretty livid about the entire case, especially when we consider the fact that the police were called eight times over domestic disputes with her ex hubby. I absolutely love Marcia’s passion here and she appears to be the perfect person for the job. A tape arrives at her office and it’s a recorded conversation between OJ and the 5-0 but all of his responses were extremely vague. Marcia is definitely right when she offers up these words of advice: “Lock him to a time frame, pin him to a version of the story he can’t change later.”

House of Lies?

It’s also important to note how OJ cut his left hand. He explains that he doesn’t really know how he was cut but he does remember breaking a glass and once again, his recollection of this event is very blurry. Marcia is super pissed about how the LAPD handled this interrogation and doesn’t understand the whole ‘celebrity’ factor, possibly because she doesn’t watch or care about football. I will say this though…Marcia Clark really enjoys smoking cigarettes.

Smoke and Mirrors

Lawyer Up

As you probably already know, OJ will end up hiring a team of lawyers referred to as “The Dream Team” by the media and we were introduced to Johnnie Cochran during the premiere. I will be the first to admit, Courtney Vance was the perfect actor for the part and the resemblance between these two is pretty spot on. Whoever was in charge of casting for this series deserves several raises because not only are these actors and actresses completely crushing it with their performances but the resemblance to the real-life people they are portraying is uncanny. Good job, show!

Also, I’m not sure how many people caught this, but when we first meet Mr. Cochran, he’s talking about one of his celebrity clients, the King of Pop himself Michael Jackson, who is apparently afraid of the color lime green. But apparently purple is not going to work either:

"I don't wanna look like no grape!" -Johnnie Cochran

Meanwhile, OJ is extremely pissed off about this entire situation. The media has footage of him in handcuffs and the police ended up interviewing him without his lawyer being present. Again, how the police go about their investigation is going to take center stage at the trial which is why I continue to bring these points up. This is one helluva complicated and bizarre case so I’ll do my best to recap what I think are the more important pieces of evidence as we move along.

OJ is in desperate need of some legal help so he ends up getting Robert Shapiro, played by the awesome John Travolta, to take his case. They also enlist his good friend Robert Kardashian, played by Ross Geller, to help as well.

With respect to this particular scene, I was very intrigued. I used to be a lawyer and decided to get the hell out because of how disabled the criminal justice system truly is but I found Shapiro asking OJ if he did the crime to be an interesting question to ask his client.

"So OJ, did you do it?" -Robert Shapiro

This is something that I think all criminal defense attorney’s truly struggle with. If you were a lawyer, would you be able to defend someone who you know is guilty of committing the crime in question? Personally, I have no idea how criminal defense lawyers are able to balance this knowledge with their job, it is something that must cause a great a deal of discomfort. Hell, I’m not even sure I would want to know if the client did, in fact, commit the crime they are being accused of. OJ obviously denies any involvement in the crime but knowing what we know about the case, I think it would have been extremely difficult to defend this man from an ethical and moral standpoint.

Context is also very important in understanding what truly happened with this case and I think the premiere episode did a remarkable job getting that point across. Tensions were extremely high after the Rodney King verdict and people from all over the country were questioning the LAPD’s behavior in handling the case, which is why the footage of OJ being put in handcuffs before being accused of the crimes is so important.

Later, OJ is hooked up to a lie detector by his lawyers but he obviously fails miserably. In fact, the results are pretty much the worst possible score you can get. Regardless, the results of a lie detector test are not admissible at trial due to their lack of credibility so I’m not even quite sure why Shapiro decided to do this in the first place. If anything, it is only going to make his job more difficult knowing that OJ might be guilty.

"Why am I paying your ass?"

Media Circus

Nicole’s funeral provides us with the backdrop for just how bat shit crazy this case was. The media was everywhere and anywhere and I don’t know if OJ showing up for the funeral was the greatest idea but I guess if you are innocent, you would definitely be there. We also meet Kris Jenner and Faye Resnick, who were friends of Nicole’s, and they provided us with a different perspective regarding Nicole and OJ’s relationship.

Faye Resnick and Kris Jenner

It’s pretty obvious that the prosecution is going to use OJ’s temper and these past incidents of domestic abuse to prove motive in the case but I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have any knowledge of how Faye and Kris factor into the overall case. This is why I am finding this series so compelling because we will get to see how everything plays out from each person’s point of view and it was pretty obvious from Faye and Kris’s conversation that OJ did have a history of abuse when he was with Nicole.

It was also revealed that the DNA on the gloves found at OJ’s and the crime scene were a match with OJ and Nicole’s DNA which should give the DA enough evidence to arrest OJ. Luckily for OJ, Shapiro is already working his magic and he buys OJ enough time so they can start collecting their own expert evidence before OJ ends up behind bars. I think what I found most interesting about this entire part of the story is the fact that we probably don’t remember what actually happened leading up to the infamous Bronco chase so it was eye-opening to see how this all played out.

A ton of experts arrive so the defense can obtain all sorts of their own expert evidence related to the case before OJ’s arrest and I have to admit, this was a very savvy move by Shapiro. He knows that once OJ is arrested, he won’t have another opportunity like this so I completely understand the delay in handing OJ over to the LAPD.

Of course, after OJ is informed he is going to be arrested for the murders of Nicole and Ron, he immediately loses his shit and not in a good way.

OJ pulls out a gun

I’m no expert, but I don’t think this is how an innocent man would react in this situation. Obviously OJ is not in his right mind after attending Nicole’s funeral but I just can’t imagine that an innocent man would be contemplating suicide here. Luckily, Kardashian talks him out of killing himself but OJ has other plans once his good friend A.C. Cowlings arrives with the white Bronco.

"We all love you. God loves you." -Robert Kardashian

Meanwhile, Shapiro is trying to stall the DA from arresting OJ but he’s running out of time and eventually has to give Marcia their whereabouts. This entire scene was amazingly tense and really did a remarkable job of attempting to put us in OJ’s shoes. He is obviously freaking out about his imminent arrest, he’s a well known celebrity and is definitely going to be all over the news regarding the murders and he is looking for a way out of this mess. Still, I truly don’t believe an innocent man would have reacted in this way which could be seen as further proof of OJ’s guilt. So OJ and A.C. take off before the LAPD can arrive and escape in the white Ford Bronco that has become an iconic moment from this case.

The Ride of his Life

This was the perfect ending to a solid premiere and it looks like next week, we’re going to relive the memorable chase scene that took everyone by surprise. Even though I was just a young’n at the time, I will never ever forget turning on the news and watching this wild ride play out.

And one last thing…even though this is obviously going to be a very serious drama that explores race, class and the criminal justice system, we will always have Kato Kaelin for comedy relief.

"I am an idiot."

The Verdict

Episode Score: MIKEY LIKES IT

Mikey Likes ItAmerican Crime Story has definitely raised the bar for television because this premiere was phenomenal. Taking on such a high profile case is no easy task, especially considering that most of us already know the final outcome. That said, this entire series of events are beyond fascinating in the sense that there is no possible way anyone could have put together a story quite like this. I admire the creators of this show because of how complicated and bizarre the entire case was and I am thrilled to learn about each and every person who was involved.

The acting was sheer brilliance and this cast of all-stars should take a bow. I’m quite amazed at how spot on each character looks compared to their real-life counterparts and I must give props to the casting director here. For me, Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr., and John Travolta were the stars of the premiere and if this is a glimpse of things to come, we are definitely going to be in for a treat. Absolutely amazing stuff!

Lastly, because this is an anthology series, the possibilities for future seasons are endless. Personally, I would love to see the Nancy Kerrigan/Tanya Harding fiasco that put figure skating on the map back in the ’90s. This was another one of those bizarre cases that would fit perfectly with the entire concept of American Crime Story. While it may be a little too early to speculate about future seasons, you might recall that Jeffrey Dahmer’s name was mentioned during the premiere and, if this is anything like American Horror Story, I am willing to bet that Ryan Murphy could already be dropping clues as to what next season’s case will be exploring. Just throwing that out there but I’d absolutely LOVE to hear what you would like to see on future seasons of American Crime Story so please enlighten us all in the comments.

So what did everyone think of the premiere episode of American Crime Story? Did it make you feel sorry for OJ Simpson? Is that even possible? Or are you getting in a bronco with the intention of leaving town for good? Let us know your thoughts and theories in the comments and thanks for reading!