Welcome to our new feature, Netflix Diaries. This is where we’ll pick something out from our Netflix watch list and share it with you. This could be in the form of a review, or maybe just a casual impressions piece. These articles may be on the latest programmes and films, or maybe something older that we think you might want to take a look at. Kicking things off, Pete Gallagher dives into that new series that you’ve probably seen on your New Arrivals tab recently, the documentary series, Making a Murderer.
Summary: After serving 18 years for a crime he did not commit, Steven Avery returns home to make up for lost time and to pursue legal action against the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department – the people responsible for his unjust incarceration. Yet he is barely out of prison six months before he is arrested on the suspicion of murdering a young woman, Teresa Halbach, by the very same police department that wrongly convicted him 18 years prior.
If you are one of the few people not to have watched this gripping ten-part documentary series on Netflix, now is the time.
It’s incredibly difficult to discuss without getting into spoiler territory, but I can say I was totally gripped throughout and found each episode more intense than the last. The structure of each episode always leaves you wanting to watch the next. I have never seen a documentary series that has gripped me in quite this way.
You are always given all the right information at the right time, so as you follow the trial, you are always aware of what’s going on and what is at stake – namely a man’s entire freedom. What making a murderer fantastically establishes its key characters, this makes it easy to get into and connect with.
Steven himself does not come across as a saint, just an average guy defending himself from charges he knows he is not guilty of. His defence lawyers, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, are the underdog heroes of this story, defending a man almost totally abandoned by the justice system and with an uphill battle to prove his innocence.
Their case, that the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s department deliberately planted evidence and framed Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach, initially sounds absurd. Yet as you progress through the trial, the evidence for their argument gets stronger and stronger and seems unbelievable – the truth in this case really does seem stranger than fiction.
The district attorney, Ken Kratz, a hideous grinning slimy oaf, is as hateable and memorable as any movie villain – and more disturbing because of course he is a real person who, as do all memorable fictional bad guys, believes he is doing good. His continual stating of ‘the facts’ that later turn out to be bare faced lies is remarkable.
As gripping entertainment as it is, you never lose sight of the fact that these are real people’s lives you see falling apart before your eyes. Be prepared to get angry as well, as the series goes on it clearly shows a justice system rife with corruption. Ideas such as innocent till proven guilty and reasonable doubt no longer seem to apply, or at least not in Steven Avery’s case. The only force at work here seems to be the use of power by individuals who are fully aware they cannot be touched.
Making a Murderer is not a series for everyone, the very nature of it means that some may be put off, I did struggle to watch in places – but overall I felt it was worth watching to the end simply because this is a true story and one that deserves to be told.
The quality of this series took me totally by surprise – it’s a shocking, gripping true story that deserves to be seen before someone ruins it for you. If I was going to nitpick, I would say that the series peaked in interest for me by episode eight, and the subsequent episodes lacked impact.
It’s also possible that, as with all documentaries, it is not telling us the whole truth. It’s very much from Steven Avery’s side and perhaps suffers balancing issues without a look at the trial from the prosecution’s side. Perhaps all documentaries are like this though, constructed with a clear bias and message in mind.
The series as a whole though is superb, it makes a change to have your jaw on the floor and be rendered speechless not by amazing visuals but simply by events that transpired that are so crazy you wish it was a movie. Recommended viewing even if you don’t usually watch documentaries. Making a Murderer is a must see.
Article written by Pete Gallagher