Across The Universe: ‘Making a Murderer’ is must-see TV
January 20, 2016
If you haven't yet seen the Netflix Original TV series "Making A Murderer" that was released a week before Christmas, I highly suggest you take the time to check it out.
The gripping series borrows the approach of countless whodunit-type TV documentaries exposing a mysterious murder or cold case. Like those shows, "Making A Murderer" splices interviews with attorneys, the accused and the victim's family members with real-life crime scene and trial footage in an effort to come up with the most accurate portrayal of a situation.
Where "Making A Murderer" is different, however, is the sheer depth by which it unfurls its incredible tale. This show is 10 episodes long, an opus that spans a decade of shooting and recording.
After months and months of editing, its final package is a 10-part thriller — 10 hour-or-more-long episodes revolving around the same people (Steven Avery, of Manitowac County, Wisc., and his nephew, Brendan Dassey) and the crime of which they are accused: the brutal rape and murder of a 25-year-old freelance photographer named Teresa Halbach.
Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, writers and directors of the series, ought to win every documentary award category possible in 2016 for this extraordinary series. They pulled off an unprecedented feat by creating something the world has never seen before.
For me, I was hooked from the start, and definitely chose to skip a few hours of sleep here and there to finish the series over the course of the last few weeks. There might not be a better real-life TV show that's ever been created — the drama moves along at fever pitch, and the whole rated-R ordeal is exactly what it's supposed to be: good television.
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Despite this all being real and a true story, I won't go into further detail about the series itself, due to the obvious "spoilers" too much commentary can reveal (I was able to resist temptation and not Google it all before finishing the series, something everyone should do if they plan to watch).
What I will say is the series will definitely shed a new light for you on how the American justice system works (or doesn't work, depending on your view). Many critics are using "Making A Murderer" as the best real-life example of how damaged the process can be.
"The 10-part documentary illuminates deep flaws in the U.S. criminal justice system by putting on display a panoply of questionable behavior from police and prosecutors," writes The Huffington Post's Matt Ferner in a Jan. 19 story. "While the series' revelations may be shocking to some, the truth is they're all too common."
Ferner's article is among hundreds, if not thousands, of reports and opinion pieces published since the series premiered on Dec. 18 that calls out how we as a society judge suspected criminals, and exposes our legal system for its at-times backward approach to that centuries-old axiom of "innocent until proven guilty."
The series reeks of accusations of evidence planting and tampering, unethical witness coercion, and corruption between law enforcement and the DA's office. Despite the directors' assertion that the series is objective, it very much implies the authorities screwed up, big time, and did so with clear vendettas.
At the same time, it asks viewers to sympathize with the accused and question with veracity just how well the burden of proof can be reached. Even the title, "Making A Murderer," suggests the prosecution and others made things up to further an agenda.
But then again, perhaps it's the accused who made things up to endorse the idea of their innocence.
"Making A Murderer" is in some ways a work of fiction, and if ever there was a Hollywood tagline to describe its plot, it's the words of attorney Dean Strang as quoted from the series: "You may never commit a crime, but that doesn't mean you won't be accused."
It's worth your time to find out why.
Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He may be reached for comment at email@example.com.