“Making a Murderer” Review: Perplexing Questions

Karina Kosmala, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Nail-biting, eyes glued to the TV, and puzzling over questions – with one endlessly repeating every time – why? These are reactions that any viewer might encounter while watching, “Making a Murderer.” Even those who mindlessly clicked on the title because of the cover will be hooked within the first minutes because of the 10-episode documentary tension and mysterious truth.

“Making a Murderer,” the Netflix original series, tells the story of Steven Avery, a Manitowoc county resident in Wisconsin, who served 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and who, just two years after his release, stands accused of murder.

Why this man?

The case of Steven Avery is bizarre. Viewers first find out that Avery was no angel: he was a man who committed small crimes here and there, but he served the time he needed in jail. He also confessed, truthfully admitting to those small crimes without hesitation. But then he was convicted of sexual assault that he passionately denies. Still, he’s sentenced to prison and serves 18 years. But then DNA evidence exonerates him, and his release shines a light on clear misconduct on the part of the police, some of it purposeful.

So when he’s arrested again, the clear question is this: is he being set up again?

The documentary is really the story of this second trial. It moves forward from his arrest: exploring hidden loopholes, potential cover ups, potentially false allegations or accusations. The directors also show how Avery’s case only received attention from the news for a large portion of the trials, until one reporter discovered information that turned the tables to some degree on the accusers.

Throughout every episode, I had this perpetual feeling that the police were simply trying to correct the misconduct that was present in Avery’s first case, to correct their reputation, and to prove to the residents of Manitowoc that their previous accusations were not completely unjustified. In other words, they knew Avery was a troubled man all along.

While viewers will be tempted to assume the police are once again up to no good, the second case features an important fact, which makes for a compelling plot twist. In the murder of Teresa Halbach, the DNA evidence works against Avery. Through interviews with family, attorneys, and reporters, the series tells a story by attempting to piece together from both sides, which shows how not every piece of it fits together smoothly.

One clear impression the filmmakers make is this: Avery, his family, and reporters looking for answers can’t threaten the State. The State of Wisconsin, the authorities, are dominant throughout, and Avery is placed at a disadvantage throughout the documentary: manipulations, rights withheld, and evidence that will question the “coincidental” factor.

And that’s the lasting idea, regardless of Avery’s guilt. According to Laura Ricciardi, the filmmaker of the documentary series, “We set out to examine the criminal justice system and how it’s functioning today.” The tension between citizens and this authority of the justice system thickens with every episode. Viewing the series is a great way to engage with thought-provoking questions about how much power the justice system and the police really have?

Watch “Making a Murderer” on Netflix to examine their power, and determine for yourself whether Steven Avery, is indeed, guilty.