We’re in the thick of the trial now, with the prosecution putting its witnesses on the stand. While there’s still plenty of infighting within the Dream Team, Johnnie Cochran’s focus on telling the jury the best story about what might have happened that night keeps the case moving forward.
But who cares about them? If you’re wondering who this episode is about, they put her name in the title three times. This week, between the twists thrown at her in court, the media slamming her appearance, the ongoing custody battle with her second ex-husband Gordon and her first ex-husband leaking topless photos, Marcia Clark gets put through the ringer — and it maybe nearly breaks her, in the end. “I don’t know how to do this,” she sobs, confidence shattered, leaning on Christopher Darden.
Star Witness (Best Actor)
Confession: The only reason that Sarah Paulson wasn’t recognized earlier in this category is that we knew this episode was coming. All season long, this steadfast member of the Ryan Murphy ensemble has been turning in captivating work, but she just broke our hearts this week, as insult upon insult upon injury piled up on her psyche. Will Marcia be able to bounce back? We hope so. Just because she’s showing some vulnerability this week doesn’t mean our hard-drinking chain-smoker is out of the game. Which is good, because there’s plenty more trial to come.
I Didn’t Know That…
The topless photo came as a surprise, for sure. Here’s an Associated Press story on it from 1995 about it, in case you were at all in doubt. But this is really the episode where two things came together: one, just how much of a mess Marcia Clark’s life was when the trial was happening, and two, just how close she and Christopher Darden got. Especially after losing Bill as co-council, it really was just them against the world, and between a late night slow dance and some desperately needed emotional support, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” has taken their story and found in it a very delicate sort of romance.
Here’s an unpublished bit from our recent interview with Sarah Paulson, in which she shares her understanding of what really happened between Clark and Darden, as played by Sterling K. Brown:
“We both knew what our characters really felt about each other, how in-the-trenches they felt they were with each other… It was wonderful to be able to have a partner in crime there, for a lack of a better way of putting it. It was a very lonely experience for everyone involved, but at least they had each other… I don’t think enough of us know too much about what they felt for each other in their hearts. What I can say with confidence is that they were in a war together and that bond will forever be.”
The Most ’90s Moment
Oh, Seal. If you’re looking for the perfect musical accompaniment to a tragically ’90s haircut, you can’t do much better than the former Mr. Heidi Klum’s over-the-top power ballad, “Kiss From A Rose.” We have yet to catch Murphy and team use any anachronistic music (to the point where keeping an eye on that is becoming a full-on hobby), but this pick was particularly true to the time. (If you are too young or too old to have no sweaty junior high school memories of slow-dancing to this song, consider yourself very lucky.)
“On the Air, On the Radio…”
Beyond the love theme from “Batman Forever” making its almost inevitable appearance, most of the music this week came from before the year 1994, as “American Crime Story” leaned heavily on the rhythm and blues. Otis Redding’s “Chained and Bound,” The Isley Brothers’ “Work to Do” and most especially “Who’s That Lady” serve as the soundtrack for the growing bond between Clark, Darden and the law.
Remember, This Really Happened
A personal note: This episode triggered some awkward memories in me because here’s the thing: My memories of the original trial are mushy with age. I’ve been learning a lot more than I’ve been remembering, the last six weeks. Yet the fact that during the trial Marcia Clark got a haircut and everyone hated it was something I recall with great clarity, 21 years later.
Thinking about why this happens to be one of the only things I really remember about the case just speaks to the idea that thanks to the media circus surrounding the case, the one fact I absorbed at that time, at least subconsciously, was that a woman’s appearance is an intrinsic element of her value. Even if she’s just a lawyer trying to do her job, she’s going to be treated differently, based on her relative attractiveness. It’s a lesson that gets beaten into us, over and over again, and while sometimes it feels like we’re making some progress on the issue, Marcia’s plight this week still feels very, very relatable.
Honestly, it feels like the show can move on from beating Johnnie Cochran’s drum about constructing the best narrative to establish reasonable doubt. That point feels very well-made already.
Also, with each week we get deeper and deeper into the personalities central to the case… with the exception of Judge Lance Ito. For someone so key to the goings-on, Kenneth Choi isn’t getting a lot to do, and while the odds are decent that he’ll get more development in the weeks to come, we’re saying now that it would be great to see his character get a layer or two beyond gavel-wielding “media whore.”
“If the Glove Don’t Fit…” (Best Line)
– Marcia’s hairdresser and Marcia
There are some great quips and moments in “Marcia Marcia Marcia,” but something about this exchange really had an impact, especially when you think about how when Marcia Clark was a young woman, Farrah Fawcett was an iconic sex symbol. A dramatic haircut can be a life-changing thing — or so we want to believe. The way Paulson breathes Fawcett’s name while touching her hair speaks to the sort of power she was hoping a new ‘do might give her. Alas.
The Key Takeaway
Was Marcia Clark naive? Arrogant? Frumpy? A bad mother? That’s not what matters. What matters is that she was judged more viciously than anyone else involved with the case — her professional reputation and her personal life suffering countless blows. Watching “Marcia Marcia Marcia” serves as a valued reminder that this world can often be cruel, and unfairly so to a woman who tries to defy the expectations thrust upon her because of her gender. Sure, Christopher Darden received no shortage of criticism from the African-American community for his involvement with the case, but his hair choices weren’t resulting in radio DJs making “bitch or babe?” polls about him.
(That said, we do love Darden, as depicted here, casting the correct vote.)
It’s genuinely hard to find any flaws in this particular installment, which so thoroughly committed to depicting Marcia’s chaotic life and inner state. In a cast packed with great performances, Paulson became the real star of the show, and the only thing that worries us is the notion that after headlining this episode, we’ll see less of Marcia in the weeks to come.
And honestly, about that? We’re not too worried.