The 12th Victim: 5 Things To Know Before You Watch The True Crime Series

Caril Ann Fugate in The 12th Victim
(Image credit: Showtime)

Though committed more than 60 years ago, the Starkweather Spree Killings are still very fresh in the collective consciousness of today’s society, as a string of 11 brutal murders in Nebraska and Wyoming carried out in 1958 have inspired movies like Badlands, True Romance, and Natural Born Killers. However, for the most part, these movies portray Charles Starkweather as an idealistic rebel, a James Dean like character, while his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate has been treated as anyone from a willing accomplice to a seductress leading the 19-year-old to kill nearly a dozen people, including her family.

The new Showtime original docuseries, The 12th Victim, challenges that notion and sets out to tell Fugate’s story in an attempt to clear her name decades after being convicted. But, before you watch the new series, there are some things to keep in mind…

The 12th Victim Chronicles The Starkweather Spree Killings

Based on Linda M. Battisti’s novel of the same name, The 12th Victim chronicles the Starkweather Spree Killings, breaking down each of the murders and the victims who had the misfortune of crossing paths with Charles Starkweather. Most of the first episode provides a day-by-day recounting of the case, which proves to be crucial later on in the series, when director Nicola Marsh begins to dissect the perception of Caril Ann Fugate. Even if you are familiar with the case, this quick history lesson provides a great deal of insight into the slew of killings that rocked a region.

The Main Focus Of The Docuseries Is Combating The Narrative That Caril Ann Fugate Was An Accomplice

The main focus of The 12th Victim is to combat the narrative that Caril Ann Fugate was an accomplice, hence the name of the docuseries. Throughout the series, interviews with people who have known Fugate, now Caril Ann Clair, as well as archival footage from her arrest and murder trial help make a compelling case for her innocence. Though there are a lot of details presented, it never feels overwhelming.

The 12th Victim Also Dives Into How The Case Has Been Depicted In Film, TV, And Music

Over the years, the killings have been presented as loose adaptations or as the basis for movies like Terrence Mallick’s Badlands, Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, and countless other films of lesser prominence. This aspect of the case is a major focus throughout The 12th Victim, and large sections of later episodes are spent breaking down why so many filmmakers decided to adapt the case over the years, what they got right, and what they got terribly wrong. But, this doesn’t stop with film adaptations, as the docuseries also dives into how the case has been presented in other forms of media over the years, most notably in the title track from Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 classic, Nebraska

All Four Episodes Are Streaming Now On Paramount+ With Showtime, But Air Weekly On Showtime

Those with access to a Paramount+ subscription with the Showtime add-on (or just a Showtime account) can watch all four episodes of The 12th Victim right now, as the full docuseries became available to stream on Friday, February 17. The series is also being broadcast on Showtime at 8 p.m. each Friday night for the next four weeks.

Each episode touches on a different aspect of Fugate’s story, and ranges anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour in length.

The 12th Victim Is Rated TV-MA

Like a lot of other true crime docuseries out there today, this one is rated TV-MA. This is due to the various depictions of violence, and the language throughout the series. The docuseries doesn’t hold back with its descriptions of the acts Charles Starkweather carried out, so know that going in.

Hopefully, this helps you make sense of The 12th Victim and decide if you want to check out the latest Showtime original series. If you’re looking for more upcoming shows, check out our 2023 TV schedule for the latest on all the new and returning series.

Stream The 12th Victim on Showtime.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.