Netflix’s new original series Making a Murderer has been causing quite a stir in the news over the past few months. The show follows the story of Steven Avery, a convicted murderer, and his experience dealing with the law force of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.
The premise of the show itself is extremely captivating—it begins with Avery, falsely convicted of rape, coming out of jail after 18 years in custody for a crime he did not commit. A few episodes in, however, Avery is again convicted by the same law force for the murder of Teresa Halbach, which Avery claims he had no part in. The first few installments are genius in both setting up the case against Manitowoc County, and garnering sympathy toward the Avery family, who are well-known in the small community, and do not carry the best of reputations.
Those first few episodes are very captivating. Not only do the creators present a story that is unique and fascinating to experience, but they also do a good job of bringing in members of the Avery family to get a full sense on what is happening beyond the surface of the trial. You get to meet Avery’s mother, father, sister, nephew, and a whole slew of extended family members, which really creates an accurate picture of what the family is like.
After learning of the trials and tribulations of Avery’s wrongful conviction, there is a seamless segway into his murder conviction, as the audience is already suspicious of the Manitowoc County Police Department for their treatment of the rape sentence. This, I feel, is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, it makes it easier to believe the case that Avery is innocent, but at the same time, the documentary does skew the perception of the police department in favor of Avery.
It is almost impossible to watch Making a Murderer and believe that Avery is guilty of murder. Every time a prosecuting law enforcer of Manitowoc County or the sheriff’s department tries to bring in some form of crucial evidence against him, the producers of the documentary quickly dampen the validity of those claims by cutting to the defense attorney for Avery, or showing another part of the trial.
It becomes difficult to differentiate between what the producers of the show want you to see and believe versus what actually happened. Upon watching outside, current interviews surrounding the case while simultaneously watching the documentary, it became clear to me that the producers were leaving some aspects about Avery and his family out of production to keep a good image surrounding the family and a negative one associated with the county’s law enforcement officials.
The documentary also has a tendency to become quite repetitive, with 10+ hour segments detailing Avery’s story when about half as much could have sufficed. I found myself becoming bored with the constant circles that the documentary had me going in, but I still watched because I wanted to find out what happened to Avery—something that I think had to do with the engaging and stimulating story of Avery, rather than the producers’ skills in making an engaging and stimulating documentary series.
Whether the validity of Making a Murderer should be taken 100% seriously is still up for debate in my opinion. It is definitely a documentary series that sparks discussion and questioning, something the world can always use more of. What I do think is just as important though, is to look at other sources before making a definite conclusion about Avery’s conviction. I still do not know whether Avery is guilty in the murder of Teresa Halbach, something I expected to walk away with after finishing the series. What the documentary does do, however, is present a story in which you begin to question everything: the prosecution, Manitowoc County’s involvement, and even the producers of the documentary itself. And that, I think, is the show’s most compelling quality.