MAKING A MURDERER: PART TWO
NEW YORK TIMES
The adage that the documentarian’s camera affects the events it records has never been more self-evidently true. Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, who wrote and directed both seasons, open the new series with a news clip montage demonstrating the impact of the original. As they continue the stories of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, both serving life sentences in Wisconsin for a 2005 murder, TV news crews are ever-present. The attention drawn by Making a Murderer even creates its own spoiler problem: Anyone who has followed Mr Avery’s and Mr Dassey’s cases since the first season is likely to know the outcomes of the hearings and appeals that are supposed to provide much of the suspense this time around.
Part 2 still offers its share of the mystery and surprise that made the original so compelling. It has an A plot, in which Mr Avery’s new lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, conducts an exhaustive re-examination of his case. And it has a B plot, in which Mr Dassey’s lawyers try to prove that he was convicted because of a coerced confession. Bridging the two are scenes with the men’s intertwined families that can be repetitive but at their best are powerfully emotional. VULTURE
Ricciardi and Demos apply the same stylistic touches to Making a Murderer Part Two as they did to the first, lingering on close-ups of bird feeders or holding on overhead views of the expanse of land in Manitowoc County that give the series an artsy air. Having seen American Vandal,
the true-crime parody that riffed on Making a Murderer, some of the filmmakers’ choices registered as far more comical to me than they did during the first go-round.
The most damning comments about the police investigation are saved for the final episode, when the filmmakers speak to Debra Kakatsch, who was acting as the county coroner at the time of Halbach’s homicide. What she says speaks very clearly to some kind of cover-up and corruption on the part of police in the case. Whether that, or anything else, will eventually change things for Dassey or Avery remains to be seen. Despite all of the obstacles in their way, the accused killers and their committed attorneys believe that the arc of history bends toward justice. But if Making a Murderer Part Two teaches us anything, it’s that finding justice can take a long damn time. VARIETY Perhaps the show would have played out differently had the family of the victim chosen to participate; as it stands, we see only Avery and Dassey, watching their lives tick away as they and their families get older and wearier of waiting for a freedom that seems ever-more elusive. They can’t help but become sympathetic, and the viewer can’t help but coming to his or her own opinion about what really happened. It’s easy to see why so many have signed petitions for the pair’s release, and to understand why prosecutors view it as free advertising for Avery’s and Dassey’s cause.
In her least responsible moments, Zellner floats an entirely new theory of the case to cameras. It’s a hail-Mary play attempting to find a new way towards freedom even as every door seems closed; that it threatens to break apart the Avery-Dassey family is trundled past quickly by Zellner. If anything, the show seems to have made it more difficult for Avery to be exonerated. Many already-ruined lives seem yet worse off under the camera’s glare, and the alreadyvengeful court system is yet more opposed to whatever compromise might have been found under other circumstances.
One episode is essentially given over to the practicalities of burning a body, another to how Teresa Halbach’s blood ended up on the back door of her car. Both are as gruesome as they are revelatory. It is a sharp reminder that with crime, there is always a victim.
The reaction of the viewing public to the case is mesmerising. Avery’s dedicated supporters campaign for his release, but they also write to him and send pictures. One made a scrapbook for Avery’s mother, another a quilt pieced together from photographs of Dassey. At one point we see two furious groups of protesters outside the courtroom, shouting for and against the pair. In this age of anger, it seemed familiar and crude; it made for one of the more unsettling scenes.
Those who watched the first season are likely to have followed the coverage since, and will know the current state of Avery and Dassey, which somewhat dulls the tension. And there is an issue of balance: this has been made by people on Avery and Dassey’s side. At the end of each episode is a list of people who declined to be interviewed, or did not respond to requests. It is 79 names long, and six of those are Halbachs.
Steven Avery’s attorney Kathleen Zellner faces the press in Making a Murderer: Part Two.