Thursday, 14 January 2016

Making a Murderer (2015) Review - Spoilers!

Making A Murderer Title.jpg

It seems strange to warn of spoilers for a documentary regarding a criminal case that had its final verdict given 9 years ago now, with every detail of its trial and investigation available online for all to research and pass judgement on. This point is also critical in the documentary - because the information is handed to the viewer in a relatively simple, easy-to-understand manner, every viewer feels they have seen enough to pass an informed decision on Avery’s whole case. The petition that has now garnered 300,000 signatures to free Avery is kind of ridiculous. Was he given a fair trial? No. Does this mean he should be given a “get out of jail free” card because people like him and dislike the state? No. What if he is guilty? The trial seemed to neither prove nor disprove his innocence (which in terms of the law should mean he was found innocent – because he was not guilty beyond reasonable doubt. But anyway...) It’s such a confusing case though, because for every person saying, “He must be guilty! Remember this piece of evidence?” another person can answer, “No way! That’s not incriminating, because remember this?” There is always a counter-answer for any question, whether it is pro-Avery or anti-Avery. It just depends on how deep the conspiracy can be seen to go on either side.  

Personally, I fail to understand why someone with a strong possibility of winning $39 million dollars in a lawsuit against the state police department (revenge), who had experienced the hardship of American jail for eighteen years (wrongfully so) and knew the consequences of a serious crime firsthand, who was engaged to be married, who had just been reunited with his children and grandchildren, would possibly commit a crime at that point in his life. But I’ve seen arguments saying prison unlocked something murderous within his psyche while spending 18 years there, or if it was sexually motivated the fact his partner had been in prison for seven months preceding the murder could explain that, or he felt invincible because he had already been wrongfully convicted and had the public and the government’s support, and that he was prone to violence and crime all his life and it was bound to happen at some point or another. So who can say?

All of this text so far and I haven’t even begun reviewing the program. It’s a hard one to pass judgement on because while you’re watching, you’re sucked in to the case. It is more of an experience than a television series. It’s personal and you can’t help but feel “what if that were me?” I’ve probably never watched a series so engrossing from the very first episode. Making a Murderer (MaM) has gripped the world with its emotional, distressing, frustrating, disheartening, insightful rollercoaster ride. It’s an event that no one can stop talking about. You almost forget it’s a program because of how well put-together and edited it is, you’re just totally encased by it. On more than one occasion, you will probably stand up and start shouting at your television/laptop because of how unfair it all is. You will probably go to bed every night while you’re watching it until (and after) you finish it, wondering about what will happen and how it will end. Because to their credit, the filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos don’t use any foreshadowing in the first episode or in any episode to let you guess the ending. The title of the show, I suppose, implies Avery is made a murderer; either by the state and their planting of evidence, or by the years he spent in prison that would undoubtedly change a person in whatever way, or by the unfair conviction, or by his circumstances in life by virtue of being an Avery with an extremely low IQ and an outsider. It’s gripping and that’s only exemplified by the fact it is real life. Ricciardi and Demos somehow twist and turn real life events into a narrative that sounds almost fictional. They play with your emotions, expertly set up your expectations mostly to dash them, and delve deeply into most aspects of Avery and the case that allow you to feel you have a wide perspective on everything to do with the case. Although we don’t. Very little is said about Theresa as a person before she died, all we know her job and we see two clips she filmed of herself which themselves create questions that are never really answered and probably never will be.

It is strange to read the responses to the program and see people saying the same things you thought while watching it that weren’t necessarily intended by the filmmakers. For example, while watching the show whether right or wrong I immediately found suspicious Theresa’s brother Michael. From the off he was instantly fatalistic when talking about Theresa, who at the time was only reported as missing the day before. He said something to the effect of the grieving process possibly lasting years, and wanting to find Theresa so they could move on, then hastily added that it would be hopefully with Theresa in their lives. Her voicemail password (which, by the way, he somehow knew. And “someone” deleted her voicemails from during the time when a persistent caller was hounding her shortly before she died. But because of the third party protection that was enforced during the trial no other suspects could be named, only alluded to.) was her sisters’ birthdays. In her self-recorded video she states how much she loves her sisters, her parents, her friends. No mention of her brothers. He seemed overjoyed when Avery and Dassey were found guilty, even though anyone in their right mind could see how Dassey obviously had a reduced mental age and should not have been trialled as an adult, if at all (Steven’s case threw his statements out because they were conflicting. Yet Brendan was charged because of them. Even though both cases were based on totally different theories; Theresa being killed in the garage (Steven’s trial) and in the bedroom (Brendan’s case) and while I’m aware they were two separate cases, they were regarding the same murder. Completely nonsensical.) I guess the murder of your sibling would change you, and being in the spotlight during such a difficult time is bound to make anyone act strangely. But I just found him very strange, along with the ex-boyfriend who he was nearly always with and who’s interactions regarding Theresa leading up to and after her disappearance and death seemed very suspicious to me.

So I named this a review, but I’m not sure I fulfilled that promise. For the time being I’m afraid I delved just about as deep as I’m willing to on my blog, where everything I type is made permanent and public. As easy as it would be to throw theories around slating the police, or tarnishing Avery’s already tarnished name, I want to see a fair retrial take place. The real murderer must be found with undeniable evidence and guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, unlike Avery. Everyone who has experienced this documentary needs closure. Theresa deserves proper justice. The police deserve to either be punished or apologised to. One thing I can say with certainty, though we’re only fourteen days into the year, is that this will undoubtedly be the most gripping, thought-provoking television series of the year. Ricciardi and Demos deserve the utmost credit for their hard work and dedication over the last ten years for bringing light to the injustice of the American law system. If you’re rich, you’re okay. Unless you’re not white. That’s what this series highlights more than the Avery case specifically; how many changes need to be made in America to eradicate injustice and social bias.

Even three days after finishing MaM, I’m still haunted by the thought of Brendan Dassey (I won’t go into more detail. If you’ve seen it, you know how utterly devastating everything to do with Dassey is, and how wrongful his conviction was, and how unfairly he was treated as a sixteen year old boy), and frustrated by the lack of a definitive conclusion to the series. But, that’s because the cases of Avery and Dassey aren’t even nearly finished with yet. Three days ago Avery submitted a request for bail and for a retrial based on new evidence. Some are saying it’s because the jury were pressured into a guilty verdict by more pushy members, some are saying its new evidence to do with Theresa’s phone records and voicemails, others are saying it’s to do with the blood in the car and whether it had preservatives in it or not. No one will really know until court reaches a verdict. As one of the many thousands of people now emotionally invested into this mysterious case, I know what I hope the answer will be. I can only assume in reality it will be “no”... but there’s still hope yet. A follow-up documentary in a few years, anyone?


 For now, I will leave you with my favourite meme as a consequence of this series: