Netflix Roulette: Making a Murderer

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We’re Katey Stoetzel and Sara Hettel, and we’re teaming up again this semester to bring you Netflix Roulette.

Netflix Roulette is a weekly source of commentary about television shows found within Netflix’s library. Each week, we’ll randomly select a series by spinning the wheel on the Netflix Roulette website. All thoughts, observations and reviews are based only on the pilot episode of each series.

Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” has been making waves in the criminal justice world since its debut Dec. 18. The docuseries peers into the life and prosecution of Steven Avery, a man proven to be innocent of a convicted sexual assault only to later be accused of murder. The series’s success and the public’s outrage over Avery’s seemingly incorrect conviction have since given jurors a platform to step up and voice their true opinions supporting Avery’s innocence.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Sara: Full disclosure — we bent our own rules and handpicked “Making a Murderer” for this week. In the grand scheme of things, it’s amazing this man’s life could be changed forever because of this show, which is a topic worth discussing because we basically owe the existence of our entire column to Netflix.

Katey: After deciding we were going to be doing the show for the semester’s first Netflix Roulette, I hooked my sister’s laptop up to the HDMI in the living room and started the first episode. Because I was in the living room, my mom and sister couldn’t ignore it and so they ended up watching it with me. Then we proceeded to binge watch the first four episodes. This show has almost everyone talking about it. It’s crazy.

Sara: The two petitions out there to pardon Avery have a combined total of over 250 thousand signatures. The response to this has been insane, but with good reason. It really makes you wonder how many cases there are like this out there, and I wonder why Avery’s story was the one singled out.

Katey: My guess would be because of the happy ending “Making a Murderer” starts off with. The pilot episode, titled “Eighteen Years Lost” focuses on Steven’s wrongful conviction during 1985, and how DNA evidence proves him innocent years later. So, he’s free. That’s what I really like about how the filmmakers, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, start this show. We get a lot of information, background on an entire case and we get a happy ending. It’s all very moving. Of course, the last few seconds of the episode is a cliffhanger.

Sara: Yeah, I watched the pilot not knowing too much about the case. Obviously, the show is called “Making a Murderer,” so I knew somehow the topic would be involved, but based on the first episode I was kind of surprised to realize he would be convicted again later on. Granted, I haven’t seen any more of the episodes yet, but you’d think people would delve a little deeper on the murder charge considering he already had been wrongly accused once. This basically plays out like the script of a fictional show, yet it’s real life which makes it all the more compelling. Plus, you get a nice cliffhanger and because it’s Netflix you have instant gratification with the next episode.

Katey: Just in this first episode though, it’s all incredibly disturbing, the way they present everyone involved in the 1985 case against Avery and the 2005 depositions. The filmmakers do a great job keeping the audience on the edge of who really is right or who’s lying through their teeth.

Sara: Oh, absolutely. On a side note, I do think they did a fantastic job with keeping things clear and easy to understand with the graphics they used. Otherwise, I probably would have had a difficult time keeping up with who’s who in the sheriff’s department during the 1985 case. The way everything plays out at first with the sabotage in the law enforcement of Manitowoc really is nauseating, and to see exactly how it was orchestrated to flip completely against Avery added an entirely new element to the story. You want to trust the people handling the case because they’re police and it’s their job, but the evidence against them is truly damning.

Katey: And it gets worse and more upsetting the further you get into the story. Another aspect the filmmakers handle well is the introduction of all the main characters involved and who will be involved moving forward in the series. I also really love how much story we get in this episode. I remember thinking on my first watch, “How could this possibly be just the first episode?” It’s incredible how much it engages you to keep clicking that next episode button.

Sara: I can imagine. And yeah, the storytelling is one of the greatest aspects of the handling of this series. There’s so much to take in, especially considering they went through a time span of over 18 years in a little over an hour. I guess that’s what happens when you have 10 years of footage.

Katey: I just realized this is the first documentary/non fiction show we’ve talked about for Netflix Roulette. All the other shows have been fiction. Does that make any sort of difference for you, Sara?

Sara: Honestly, it didn’t feel like a documentary at all to me. I had to keep reminding myself it was real and actually happened.

Katey: Agreed. Just in this first episode, it’s pretty disturbing that it’s all real, seeing how corrupt the system is.

Sara: It’s definitely bringing some new issues to light. I never would have thought I’d see Netflix providing thought-provoking television when all it normally does is contribute to my procrastination, but I’m all for it.

Katey: It’s pretty amazing how much attention this show is getting in just the few weeks it’s been available on Netflix. Have you listened to the podcast “Serial?” The show reminds me of that a little, but “Making a Murderer” does a better job of handling what it’s trying to say. I really only bring up the podcast because I listened to the first season about a week before I watched “Making a Murderer” and couldn’t help but compare the two.

Sara: It’s practically a cultural phenomenon at this point. I haven’t listened to Serial, but I’ve heard pretty good things about it. Does it follow the same theme?

Katey: “Serial” is more of a whodunnit, whereas “Making a Murderer” is more about the corrupt justice system.

Sara: Makes sense. So, which one would you recommend to our lovely readers?

Katey: Definitely “Making a Murderer.” Especially if you want to be involved in the conversations everyone will sure be having once we get back to campus.

“Making a Murderer” currently has 10 episodes with no publicized plans for a second season. The series currently has five stars on Netflix. Similar titles include “Soaked in Bleach,” “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” and “Forensic Files.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]