The second season of the Netflix original true-crime documentary is even less satisfying than the first.
True crime has grown from a niche sub-genre to mainstream entertainment in recent years. It’s juicy gossip, hooking you in with a good mystery and satiating the desire to play detective before wrapping up in a tidy, horrifying conclusion.
However, certain true crime stories — usually those of cold cases or ongoing investigations — leave viewers unsatisfied. They promise answers but only provide minutiae, while exploiting the lives of the people involved. We see this in Making a Murderer Part 2, which left many wondering, “Why did I spend ten hours watching that?”
This season slogs along, presenting in excruciating detail new exculpatory evidence for Steven Avery and promising trial updates for his nephew Brendan Dassey, until eventually delivering a tough blow: these two men will likely spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Part 1, which dropped in 2015, set the stage by explaining Steven Avery’s history with law enforcement (including a wrongful conviction for which he served 18 years in prison), Teresa Halbach’s murder, and Avery and Dassey’s first trial.
Part 2 introduces some new characters — Steven Avery’s post-conviction lawyer, the no-nonsense Kathleen Zellner and Brendan Dassey’s team at the Center for Wrongful Conviction of Youth — and gives trial updates from the last 3 years, and somehow manages to stretch that into ten new episodes.
After hearing the new information Zellner uncovers by obtaining the exact model of Halbach’s car, consulting with experts, conducting blood splatter and ballistics tests and reenacting the timeline of the murder (all to the tune of $600,000 while Avery’s family struggles to make ends meet), we learn that Avery’s request for a new trial is denied.
Meanwhile, the CWCY succeeds in convincing a three-judge panel of an appeals court that Dassey, who was 16 at the time of questioning and considered “below average intellectual ability” by a federal judge, was coerced into giving a false confession and should be released, but ultimately fails to convince the full court. The CWCY appeals, but the Supreme Court decides not to hear Dassey’s case.
Part 1 left us feeling hopeful that Avery and Dassey could get another trial. Part 2 feels grim. As entertainment, it lacks a satisfying arc. As investigative journalism, it tells a one-sided story and fails to address information that doesn’t support the hypothesis that Avery is innocent.
If the series dealt with the unfavorable arguments, viewers might not feel compelled to speculate endlessly on online forums.
A more productive response to this series, especially in Wisconsin, would be to answer the filmmakers’ implied call to action and apply public pressure to scales of justice — and we certainly must do something because the filmmakers are considering a Part 3.