Next to a certain glove that didn’t fit, perhaps the most iconic moment of the O.J. Simpson trial was the infamous White Bronco chase that unfolded on June 17, 1994. Intense and almost inherently cinematic, the event became a nationwide fascination as people (95 million, in fact) crowded around their televisions to watch the highway pursuit.
It’s no surprise, then, that “American Crime Story” devoted its entire second episode to depicting this event, capturing the frantic efforts on both sides of Simpson’s (Cuba Gooding Jr., “Jerry Maguire”) case alongside the almost perverse, yet unsurprising obsession of the general public.
Everyone scrambles to pick up the pieces in the episode. Robert Shapiro (John Travolta, “Pulp Fiction”) tries to salvage his reputation; the LAPD tries not to create an even bigger fiasco and Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer, “Friends”) tries desperately to make sure his friend makes it out of the situation alive. Everyone outside of Kardashian is in damage control as Simpson himself fades to the background, not appearing on screen until more than 10 minutes into the episode.
While director Ryan Murphy (“The Normal Heart”) is able to capture the tension of the chase throughout the episode, Simpson’s surrender being a particular standout; the episode most excels when it turns its camera on the public and how they decipher the event. Foreshadowing the divisive nature of the trial, people interpret the pursuit through the lens of their own experience, the most profound being race.
Meanwhile, twisted captivation glues people’s eyes to the screen like a sporting event. It may be warped pleasure, but the audience isn’t exempt from the same urges, as we realize the fascination that drew people in more than 20 years ago is the very same that attracts us to “American Crime Story.”