People v O.J. Finale

The People v. O.J. Simpson Recap: The Verdict Is In — Plus: Grade the Finale

If Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the co-creators of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, ever decide to write a book on the art of running a show, we’d like to suggest they title it How to Craft a Compelling Season Finale… Even When Everyone Already Knows the Ending.

Although the FX drama has already earned its place on countless end-of-year Top 10 lists, given its provocative source material and superb cast, Tuesday’s final installment had the peculiar challenge of keeping viewers on the edge of their seats, when just about all of us already knew O.J. Simpson was found not guilty in 1995. Whether or not the creative team behind People v. O.J. succeeded is up to you, but first, a brief rundown of the episode’s events:

The 90-minute season ender begins by taking us through the tense closing arguments from both the defense and prosecution. And as the bulk of the trial comes to a close, Marcia Clark, Johnnie Cochran & Co. are at least looking forward to a few weeks’ vacation, assuming that the jury will need at least that long to determine whether Simpson is innocent or guilty.

People v OJ Simpson FinaleBut, as with many things in the O.J. trial, the lawyers’ time off doesn’t pan out exactly as they’d planned.

After deliberating for just four hours — which included a lunch break, defense team member Barry Scheck notes — the 12 men and women deciding O.J.’s fate had turned their initial 10-2 tally into a unanimous decision for his acquittal. (And although the verdict is hardly a shocking plot point, the moments leading up to its announcement — from the court reporter’s slight flub while reading the defendant’s name, to O.J.’s nervous fidgeting under the table — are so tense, you might have forgotten altogether that you already knew the outcome.)

Throughout its 10-episode run, The People v. O.J. Simpson has had a responsibility to show the home audience those “classic” moments from O.J.’s legal battle, including the infamous Bronco chase and Cochran’s “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” line during closing arguments. But where the series has succeeded even more is in the quieter moments, the rare conversations and emotional breakdowns that cameras (somehow) didn’t catch.

Tuesday’s finale was arguably no different. Although O.J.’s innocent verdict is a highlight of the episode (made all the more fascinating by a montage of real-life news footage taken from the day he was pronounced not guilty), the more compelling scenes happen immediately after he is set free.

After wrapping an emotional press conference, Clark and Darden commiserate over their major loss and opt to simply get a drink; upon meeting Cochran in the courtroom hallway, Darden urges the defense attorney to understand that he has done nothing to help black people, despite O.J.’s acquittal; and moments later, Cochran allows himself a short, tearful celebration, as he realizes that the national conversation on race relations has gone as far up the chain as President Clinton.

And then there’s O.J. himself. Though he sheds a few tears in private, O.J.’s immediate reaction to the verdict is, “Let’s party!” But it isn’t until that evening, when his “rager” isn’t attended by a single close friend, that O.J. begins to see the effects of his year-long imbroglio. Realizing just how ostracized he’s become from society, O.J. chooses to step outside of his own Brentwood bash and give the backyard statue of himself a long, hard look.

Now that you’ve seen the verdict play out (again), it’s time to give us yours. Grade The People v. O.J. Simpson‘s finale in our poll below, then hit the comments with your thoughts on the season overall.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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28 Comments
  1. GeoDiva says:

    Honestly one of the best shows on television! The cast pictures with their real-life counterparts was chilling.

  2. Lisa says:

    Well done. David Schwimmer really brought it in this episode. This whole series has be so phenomenal. Im intrigued by the Hurricane Katrina topic for next year too, does anyone know what specifically theyll be covering? And whether any of the actors from this season will be back? Thanks

    • Amelia says:

      The only thing I read was that each episode will deal with a different situation, like one episode with the Superdome, one episode bussing people out. It made it sound like it will be different characters in each episode. I’m sure some of the actors will return but seems like only for an episode or so.

  3. GuessWhat says:

    really good storytelling, great casting and excellent acting
    kudos to all involved!

    and RIP Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman
    remember the victims

  4. Hellas13 says:

    Revisionist theory totally pro-prosecution. In real life they simply dropped the ball. Wouldn’t have been shocked if on the series they had shown it as he was found guilty… But it was a fictional show, so what can one expect.

  5. Tammy says:

    For some odd reason, our Directv stops before the recording is done. Only for this show and it happened on at least three episodes. It records the whole thing but the delete message comes up with anywhere for 15-20 mins left. We are recording it again so we can see the end, it cut off as president Clinton was being shown. Never happens with any other show on either the same channel or a different channel. I just hopes this works so I don’t have to dump it off On Demand again. You can’t FF with that.

  6. Stefany says:

    Sorry to be the legal police, (I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV), but the verdict in the trial (and the retelling) was ‘not guilty’, which is vastly different from ‘innocent’. Not guilty indicates there was reasonable doubt, usually due to weaknesses in the case. It is not a declaration of innocence, which is extremely rare in the American justice system and requires a different kind of proceeding.

  7. Patrick says:

    Im not sure how well next season will work out with the Katrina story line. This season was amazing because we were familiar with all the players as well as the story. That made for interesting behind the scenes – I dont know how compelling it will be when its unknown characters (that said, we dont know plot points so it could be about the president for all we know)

    • CK says:

      I’m guessing that they may focus on the Danziger Bridge Shooting, but I’m not sure if I want them to until the retrials are held/concluded.

    • Ken says:

      I’m sure they will focus on the real life politicians who screwed it up – Bush, Brownie, the mayor of N.O. as well as ordinary citizens caught up in that horrible mess.

  8. Walkie says:

    The show was way too cartoonish. Murphy can’t help himself sometimes. Outside of a couple of actors, the show was completely miscast.

  9. Dude says:

    Fantastic end to a fantastic series. Really well crafted ending.

    • Say what you will about his other endeavors, Ryan Murphy should be applauded for this series. As much as I loved Fargo and American Crime this year, I would not be disappointed if this wins the Emmy for Limited Series.

  10. JScout says:

    All things O.J. Simpson are disgusting including this needless rehash. It was hideous they way this dominated the country for a year when it happened. Why bring all up again? Awful

  11. Cate53 says:

    Fantastic end to a fantastic series. It is amazing how it all unfolded and was about so much more than the physical evidence, These days with so many CSI or Law &Order type films/tv shows us average tv viewer would think all that blood evidence would have to be considered a bit more strongly. From my tv/ film viewings, doesn’t the judge usually sum up the case and lay out the evidence – and remind the jury to make a decision based in that evidence. Did this happen in the OJ trial?

    Fantastic performances throughout. I know Travolta is the biggest star, so was that why he was the only one to get a producer credit? Was that how they signed him? I hope the awards season doesn’t get dazzled by the Travolta movie star factor. His mannered performance may well have been accurate of what Shapiro was like but I found him distracting

  12. Gayle kaye says:

    One of the best shows in the last ten years of television. Great cast. I love Cuba Gooding but couldn’t believe he was cast as OJ…….by the series end, I was a believer! John Travolta as Shapiro…..truly amazing. The TV judge Ito was more like the real than the real thing! Chris Dardin was played by someone I am not familiar with, but I’ll be following him now. He did a wonderful job. An excellent actress played Marsha Clark. For an hour you forgot you were watching TV instead of the real thing. Even tho I knew most the story having followed the trial religiously, it still had me on the edge my seat. Absolutely GREAT series!

  13. Yoko says:

    Sterling K Brown in the role of Christopher Darden should win an Emmy. He was fantastic. Sarah Paulson too! Thought all the actors were great. Having lived through the endless obsession of this case, I still came to the same conclusion. He did it. No question. If this had happened in 2016 a different outcome. I’m sad he will possibly be out of jail next year. Nicole and Ron never received any justice in our court system until the civil suit. May they rest in peace.