Marcia: Guess we should've listened to each other.YES!! This would have made everything less complicated.
I can't believe this!This was an actual Case!
8.1/10. This one was something of a sequel to “The Race Card” which was, more or less, the best episode of this show so far, so it’s not surprising that by digging back into both the race-related issues that permeated the trial, and the racial tensions and personal relationships boiling over internally on both sides of the case, the show put out its new finest hour. It’s the exploration of these sorts of issues that made the greatly superior O.J. Simpsons: Made in America documentary soar, and it’s no coincidence that People vs. O.J. wrings its best material from the same subject.
The powerhouse of this show is Courtney B. Vance as Johnny Cochran, an so having him anchor this episode, and use him to explore notions of prejudice in the justice system, both judicially and in terms of the police force, gives “Manna From Heaven” real strength. Details like his inability to “play in Dixie” as F. Lee Bailey puts it, the way that hearing what’s on those Furman tapes goes beyond O.J. and into major issues with the LAPD and the black community, and his rallying that community to support his cause strengthen that theme here.
But if Vance is the powerhouse, Clark and Darden are the heart of the show, and having their personal story intertwine with the race-related issues at play here is a nice touch. The sequence of events where Darden accuses Clark of wanting “a black face but not a black” voice, and then Clark offers her apology and appreciation in the form of standing up for Darden when he’s about to be held in contempt, is the strongest emotional material in the episode, and perhaps the show. Their reconciliation after the tapes are released and doom seems imminent, and Darden’s struggles to be angry at Furman, angry at Johnny, and angry at himself, is potent stuff that really works.
What also works surprisingly well is the Ito material. He’s mostly been something of a buffoon on the show, or at least someone who’s depicted as trying to punch above his weight class. But here, you have real sympathy for him, doing the right thing by giving the decision of whether the case should proceed to another judge, trying to be fair by making the content of the tapes public but limiting what goes before the jury, and conducting uncomfortable personal business in open court. The guy still arguably botches a lot, but he seems like a well-meaning human being rather than a fame-focused ninny, and that goes a long way.
As I’ve said before, People vs. O.J. does not deal in subtlety, so there’s a lot of yelling and declaring what the point is and obvious symbolism like Ito’s hourglass (not to mention winking commentary like “you wouldn’t believe this plot twist in an airport paper back” and “the public won’t be talking about O.J. Simpson by March”), but again, the core of the episode is strong, and even if, as ACS is wont to do, it goes very very big, this is as tense, thematically rich, and emotional powerful an episode as the series has pulled off thus far.