Author’s note: Four of the ten episodes were provided by Netflix for review. Making A Murderer: Part Two launches today.
When Making A Murderer premiered at the end of 2015 on Netflix, it garnered a wave of attention and fans, a show with immense buzz and critical acclaim. There was also a sizable audience who found the show manipulative, and perhaps one-sided, skating over pieces of the story or diminishing other significant factors. In Making A Murderer: Part Two, the documentarians take an extended view of a shorter period of time, but more importantly, shine a light on the justice system and evidence process in a broader sense.
Everyone comes down on one side or another, if Steven Avery, the subject of this series, murdered Teresa Halbach in 2005 in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. The first season certainly made its perspective clear, as does most documentaries, using the ten-part narrative to sow doubt and concern at the conviction and trial process. But in doing so, it was a fascinating and powerfully told series which used its power to show incompetence at best and corruption at worst in broad daylight. In Part Two, at least in these initial four episodes, it dives in deeper, looking at the post-conviction process through appeals and attempting to prove innocence when already found guilty. This is done in similar style to the first season, but now with the fresh perspective of Kathleen Zellner, Avery’s post-conviction attorney.
Zellner is a driving force in the telling of this season as she searches for answers. She does this through thorough plausibility, taking a closer look at the evidence and trying to find the truth in re-enactments, new science, testing that should have been done a long time ago, and looking at how the system failed, pre- and post-trial. And with this comes a more detailed look at the impact of those affected by the tragedy, an updated look at what a bigger spotlight has brought upon those grieving. It’s effective storytelling, the way the episodes play out, but at times it can feel like getting too far into the minutiae.
This is mostly driven by such a shorter window of time for the series to be delving into. At times, that minutiae is fascinating and downright necessary, while at others, it’s a lot of wondering why this was chosen to stay in. Some points already made in the previous season are made again and underlined. But the human element, the factors of both sides of the tragedy, are always the focus, moving a little more toward being less one-sided, as previously accused. Framing the damaged system around this one case is a perfect framing device, but sometimes it can be overshadowed by the damage done to lives.
New information, new avenues of piecing together a mystery, are the push as Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey face new challenges behind bars in their fight for freedom. The show continues to show the breakdown of the justice system and does so with the same level of force the first part provided. But the stumbling blocks of running a similar stretch with less information can prove trying, at least in these four hours. But Making A Murderer: Part Two is still worthy of investment, as an update to what may be a long and near-impossible battle ahead.