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Today is the day that Netflix put out its first true crime docu-series Making a Murderer, and there’s a damned good chance that anyone who starts watching will be finished with it by the time the weekend is over, especially if those people are fans of recent projects such as HBO’s The Jinx and the podcast Serial. I’m not willing to say that on the record, though, because I’m currently as unnerved by the criminal justice system as can be.
Even though the holidays are admittedly not an ideal time to devote attention to heinous crimes and the equally heinous way those crimes are handled, here are three big reasons why you need to start watching Making a Murderer immediately. Consider it a present to yourself. Vague spoilers about the series and the real-life events are below.
The Central Cases are InsaneMaking a Murderer is predominantly centered on Steven Avery, a not-exactly-prize citizen of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. In 1985, when Avery was a 23-year-old husband and father, he was arrested and convicted for a selection of crimes, one of which was the rape of a certain woman. Avery claimed innocence in the rape case for many years, and he was eventually released in 2003 after evidence was reviewed and put to better use by the Innocence Project. But there is no happily ever after, as the two years following his release involved a whole lot of hindsight-attention paid to how bungled Avery’s investigation was. And just when it looked like Avery was about to get his own slice of justice, he’s suddenly arrested for another grisly crime, once again claiming he had nothing to do with it. But did he?
It’s One of the Densest TV Shows Out ThereWhile The Jinx was intentionally polished by director Andrew Jarecki, and Serial was intentionally subjective thanks to host Sarah Koenig, Making a Murderer’s filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos are almost too intent on keeping their opinions and input out of the docuseries, instead offering up a vast abundance of footage and audio to tell this sordid tale. The duo first got invested in the case in 2005, and they’ve spent the last decade compiling everything imaginable to get this story told, and that includes news coverage from both cases, interviews with different members of the Avery family (including his depressingly dedicated mother), deposition videos from police and other officials from Manitowoc County, telephone conversations, photographs and much more. All that means Avery doesn’t become a central character as Robert Durst and Adnan Syed did – which is fine – and that helps to keep viewers somewhat objective as they watch.
You Will Feel Almost Every Emotion While WatchingAs Making a Murderer unravels its many layers, viewers will undoubtedly run the emotional gamut, which also helps to keep judgment on Avery and everyone else constantly in flux. (Okay, if we’re being honest, the “mirth” side of the emotional scale is absent.) There’s the aggravation-turned-rage that comes along with watching the police indignantly ignore anything that doesn’t fit their own preconceived idea of what happened, and the arguable coercions that occur. There’s the disgust-turned-despair that comes as Making a Murderer makes it clear this is a case that relies on class issues and rampant bias as much as tangible evidence and proof. There’s also confusion, helplessness, empathy, horror, incredulity and everything else you can imagine attached to a story that involves more than 30 years of details. Similar to the West Memphis Three documentaries, Making a Murdererconstantly makes you aware of how close we all might be from a possibly wrongful conviction.
All 10 episodes of Making a Murderer are currently available for streaming on Netflix. There are definitely far more than just three reasons why you should be watching, but I didn’t want to stand in your way any longer.