TV Review: “Making a Murderer” — Passionate, But Problematic

Written by Michelle Young February 01, 2016

making a murderer

In the world of documentaries, the idea of truth is paramount. The ultimate judgment of quality comes down to how well a documentary can reveal a truth and the decisive “truthfulness” of that revelation. I think that it is perhaps on this point where “Making a Murderer” ends up becoming fuzzy in terms of its effectiveness.

“Making a Murderer” is the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man previously imprisoned 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit, now on trial again for murder. A murder he claims he did not commit. The filmmakers have tracked Avery’s story over 10 years in intense detail, incorporating an immense catalogue of personal testimonies, recorded phone calls, public documents, and trial recordings into this 10-episode investigation.

“I ain’t gonna give up. When you know you’re innocent, you keep on going.”

The sheer magnitude and scope of the series is impressive in its own. To be able to form something this intricate and grand into something coherent and comprehensible demonstrates the filmmaker’s skill. But at the same time, I have to wonder what was omitted and even more critically, why it was left out? Steven Avery’s trial alone, which spanned a couple weeks, was condensed into a few episodes. To not question which parts were taken out would be irresponsible.

making a murderer

This brings me to perhaps my biggest criticism of the series: I don’t think that it serves to function convincingly as a document of truth. When it comes to “Making a Murderer”, and other true-crime documentaries, we need to be excessively wary of the argument they put forward and how they go about presenting it. We, as the audience, are ultimately subjected to the gaze of the filmmakers and what they, either consciously or subconsciously, view as relevant to the truth.

“Reasonable doubt is for the innocent.”

In “Making a Murderer”, I found it particularly difficult to look past just how much they were humanizing the Avery family in comparison to everyone else involved in the case. This is not to say that they didn’t deserve to be humanized or that their family wasn’t taken advantage of, but in terms of the effectiveness of the document, to largely exclude (whether purposefully or not) oppositional voices detracts from the overall ethos of the argument.

making a murderer

What I think results is an unbalanced documentary of extraordinary passion, ultimately unable to reach the “truthfulness” they clearly aspired to. “Making a Murderer” is without a doubt provocative and it certainly does pose some serious questions about the state of the American Criminal Justice System, which do I find particularly admirable.

My Rating: 6.5/10

making a murderer

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