It was just last November that Netflix announced an original documentary series, Making a Murderer, would premiere on December 18th. And true to form, I glossed over the press release and didn’t think much about it.
Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. My Sunday nights are free as I’m never tied to episodes of Game of Thrones or Walking Dead. It’s not that these aren’t great shows (people sure love them); it’s just that I’ve stayed oblivious to them for years and I’m not sure they would really click with me anyway.
What I do tend to like is funny movies and original series (both of which I can find on Netflix), edgy dramas, dystopian sci-fi, and true crime. Back in the day, 20/20 and 48 Hours were regular staples for me even when it wasn’t cool to watch television. I only had one problem with these shows.
True crime shows do a great job of building background, unfolding the story, and usually catching you with a surprise ending. But the worst is when it’s an unknown ending. Something like… “Jim Smith still awaits trial while his lawyer appeals his case.”
I hate that because I know that when the story is over, I’ll think about it and forget about it and I’ll never know how it ended. That’s pretty much how our short term attention span works these days. In fact, I always tell people that when there’s a major online brouhaha over a current issue or event, just wait two weeks. That’s about how long our outrage (or even interest) lasts.
But if the story is a really compelling one and gets the viewer (or reader or listener) really drawn in, they have a vested interest in the story and in the continuing developments.
What makes a good true crime story?
Serial was a great example of this type of true crime storytelling. It was a 12-episode podcast chronicling the death of high school student, Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of her former boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for the murder. What made it so interesting? We knew the crime from Episode 1. And we already knew who was held legally responsible.
But did they catch the right guy? It’s a brilliant unraveling of shoddy police work, fuzzy testimony, weak alibis, and an era before the massive amount of informational evidence we have today. The only problem with the story is that we never know the answer to that question. Did he do it or not? And if he didn’t do it, who did? Is there enough evidence to overturn his conviction?
These questions are still being answered with lots of legal work and follow up podcasts like Undisclosed but I think most audiences are ready for a dramatic conclusion. Something we may never get.
The Success of Making a Murderer
It was hot on the heels of this podcast that we were introduced to Steven Avery via the Netflix Original series, Making a Murderer. It was a documentary filmed over ten years that showed us the wrongful conviction and subsequent release of Steven Avery for a crime he didn’t commit. I remember watching the first episode and thinking, Well, that happened quickly. What are they going to do for the other nine episodes?
I truly watched the show blind (which is sometimes the best way to do it) and watched the story and evidence unfold in front of me. He was tried and convicted for another crime that the State proved he did do.
Like Serial, I went from “oh, he definitely did it” to “there’s no way he did it” often in the same episode. And like Serial, I was left with none of my questions fully satisfied.
What struck me at the end of the series was the last update (in 2012, I believe) that showed Avery’s day to day life. Out of money, he’s taken to spending all of his time n the legal library trying to learn and prepare his own appeals. I still find it hard to believe that an uneducated, guilty man would spend all of his days trying to learn more about the legal system that has screwed him over. And even though the evidence seemed to prove his guilt, I never completely bought it.
What’s next for Steven Avery?
In January, tough lawyer Kathleen Zellner agreed to take on Avery’s case after watching the Netflix documentary. She’s known for exonerating wrongfully convicted criminals but doesn’t take her cases lightly. Newsweek quoting her as telling an inmate during a meeting, “Don’t hire me if you’re guilty, because I will find out.”
Shortly after Zellner took on the case, Rolling Stone covered the story citing new evidence that could free Avery making a retrial unnecessary. Back in May, The Wrap wrote an article highlighting six key updates in regards to Making a Murderer. And defense attorneys Dean Strang and Jerry Buting were so popular in the series, they’ve developed a cult following and now participate in speaking tours.
Netflix continues Making A Murderer
We got just enough of Steven Avery and his world to become vested in this outcome. And luckily, Netflix saw that. Just yesterday, they shared a press release that should have true crime fans those interested in the Steven Avery case salivating just a bit.
Netflix today announces that Executive Producers / Directors, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, are in production on new episodes of the Emmy-nominatedMaking a Murderer. The new installments will take fans of the acclaimed documentary series back inside the story of convicted murderer Steven Avery, and his co-defendant, Brendan Dassey, as their respective investigative and legal teams challenge their convictions and the State fights to have the convictions and life sentences upheld.
This next chapter will provide an in-depth look at the high-stakes post-conviction process, as well as, the emotional toll the process takes on all involved.
The episodes will offer exclusive access to Avery’s new lawyer Kathleen Zellner and Dassey’s legal team, led by Laura Nirider and Steve Drizin, as well as intimate access to the families and characters close to the case.
“We are extremely grateful for the tremendous response to, and support of, the series. The viewers’ interest and attention has ensured that the story is not over, and we are fully committed to continuing to document events as they unfold” said creators, Ricciardi and Demos.
“Because of Ricciardi’s and Demos’ incredible vision, commitment and keen eye, audiences around the globe became completely captivated by the personal stories of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey and the unique lens their experiences provide into the criminal justice system” said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix VP of Original Documentary Programming. “We’re thrilled to be continuing our longstanding relationship with the filmmakers, and look forward to giving our global viewers eagerly anticipated updates on this story.”
No word yet on when the additional episodes will premiere on Netflix but at least we know that the next chapter is beginning. This time, I’m hoping for a satisfying ending.
This post was written as part of my role on the Netflix Stream Team. Topics, selections, and all opinions are my own.