Netflix’s ‘Murderer’ is the Grimmest Docuseries of the Year

making a murderer steven avery

At the end of the first episode of Netflix’s Making a Murderer, I wondered how much story was left to tell, and whether each episode of this 10-episode series involved a new story because Steven Avery’s was wrapping up rather nicely.

Toward the conclusion of this first episode titled “Eighteen Years Lost,” Steven Avery’s wrongful rape conviction is turned over after new DNA evidence reveals Avery as the wrong perpetrator, and it appears there’s somewhat of a happy ending. Even though he’s spent 18 years in prison, Steven Avery gets out in 2003 and is with his family.

But his wrongful conviction is only a prologue in a much bigger story involving police corruption, including tampered evidence, confessions without a lawyer present, and an unfiled 1994 detective report that supports Avery’s innocence. Without spoiling the entire series, Avery sues law enforcement for his time in prison as an innocent man, and just as it appears he’s about to win, a body mysteriously shows up on his property, putting him at the center of a homicide.

Making a Murderer is an addictive series, but becomes challenging to watch toward the end, not for its lackluster filmmaking or storytelling, but because of the dread it carries with each step toward the finish line. Where Serial offers hope, MaM doesn’t; where HBO’s The Jinx incites riotous reaction, MaM makes you sink your shoulders like a slow-witted teenager on trial for murder.

Filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi spent more than 10 years on this project (before even Netflix or bingeing were things), and the film was originally intended to be a feature-length documentary. If you haven’t been digging season 2 of Serial, you may want to put your earbuds down and binge this series instead. Although despite the holiday season, it won’t put you in a merry mood.

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