Review: Netflix Original “Making a Murderer”

When the podcast Serial debuted in 2014, it become a cultural touchstone. People who had never downloaded a podcast suddenly became absorbed in the discussion over Adnan’s guilt or innocence. It even spawned an SNL spoof. But, it also caught the attention of the big content creators, who asked themselves “How can we come up with our own version of Serial and capitalize on the public’s demand for this type of content?”

Enter Netflix. Making a Murderer centers around Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who was wrongly convicted of rape in 1985 and spent 18 years of his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. A multitude of evidence existed that could have freed him at several points during his incarceration, but, he remained behind bars until DNA testing freed him on September 11, 2003

Steven quickly became somewhat of a celebrity and the poster boy for the Wisconsin Innocence ProjectPoliticians couldn’t wait to have their pictures taken with Steven as they pushed legislation that would (allegedly) help people from being convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. Meanwhile, efforts to hold officials in Manitowoc County responsible for convicting Steven were fruitless. So, Steven filed a civil suit that would have made some officials in the county personally liable and put a price tag of $36 million on it

And then, they arrested him again

 

Did he or didn't he?
Did he or didn’t he?

 

When young Teresa Halbach goes missing after meeting with Steven, cops scour Steven’s properties and eventually come up with Teresa’s charred remains. After a ghastly confession (outlining hair-curling allegations of sexual violence and cold-blooded murder) from Steven’s nephew Brendan Dassey, both Steven and Brendan are put on trial and the media eats it up with gusto

And that’s all I am going to tell you. I want this series to unfold for you as it did for me. I think you’ll find it as surprising and satisfying as Serial. I would point your attention towards a couple of “stars” who appear throughout:

  1. Delores Avery, Steven’s beleaguered mother, who reminds us that mothers will do anything for their children. She attempts to put on a brave face against insurmountable odds and becomes head cheerleader, co-counsel, psychiatrist, anchorwoman, and analyst for the effort to help her son. As she trudges along, it’s hard not to sympathize with this poor woman who is looking straight at a second conviction of her baby boy
  2. Dean Strang, Steven’s attorney, who comes off as a man who believes deeply in a legal system that continues to disappoint him. As time goes on, he finds his faith in the system continually being challenged. At various times, towards the end of the series, he seems exasperated and unsure why he ever thought Steven might get a fair shake

Making a Murderer addresses a number of larger issues, such as the burden of the State when taking away the liberties of the individual. Have we made the burden of the State too great? Have we not? Do we have a system that is truly fair? Are the victims given proper consideration?

If nothing else, Making a Murderer will make you pony up a few extra bucks for a nice gift next Mother’s Day