Making A Murderer season 2 has left both Steven Avery and Netflix in a worse position than where it started. The first season of Making A Murderer was one of the most successful early Netflix Originals. While exact viewership numbers are unclear, the way that the show dominated social media and began to influence real-world events is testament enough to its status as one of the streaming service's biggest phenomena. Season 2, however, only serves to undo much of that.
A true crime documentary, Making A Murderer famously charts the unfortunate life of Steven Avery. A Wisconsin man incarcerated for 18 years under false rape charges, he was recommitted following the disappearance and murder of photographer Teresa Halback, with his nephew Brendan Dassey as an accomplice. However, as Making A Murderer argues, Avery may just be innocent, with the police framing him to avoid a payout for his previous conviction and Brendan's damning confession the product of manipulative interview tactics. The first season deconstructed the decade-long cases in informative and entertaining fashion, making a compelling argument that captured imaginations the world over.
Making A Murderer season 2, on the other hand, is a walkthrough what's happened in the two years since. And, as anybody who's seen the mainstream news coverage sparked by the first season, it doesn't end in any resolute way. Instead, Making A Murderer is a totally defunct sequel, a reiteration of what was known from season 1 with carefully paced new evidence that - while still certainly entertaining - only serves to weaken the case in defense of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, as well as Netflix's position as premiere content producer.
- This Page: The Problems Making A Murderer Season 2 Has For Steven Avery
- Page 2: The Problems Making A Murderer Season 2 Has For Netflix
Making A Murderer Season 2's Defences Leave Too Many Questions
Much of the first episode of Making A Murderer season 2 is spent on recreating the placing of Teresa Halback into the back of the Rav4 in a bid to show that the blood splatters couldn't have been placed naturally. Wrongful conviction attorney Kathleen Zellner and her team buy an identical Rav4, tape weights to a dummy, paint its hair with fake blood, and have an Avery double throw it in the back. It's a startling entrance to the new world of Making A Murderer, where broad recreations are taken as resolute evidence and disproof of the cases against are prioritized over season 1's careful presentation of new information in defense.
Kathleen Zellner is very good at what she does, evidenced by her many wins, but there's something unsettling about the approach as presented in Making A Murderer season 2. By nature of the postconviction structure in America, overturning a verdict hinges more of undoing the specific case - finding negligence and wrongdoing on the part of prosecution and defense - than it does getting to the truth (that is what an eventual second trial would focus on). Because of that, much of the season is about proving Avery's innocence while breaking down the problems in his trial, with attempts to outright present the truth saved for the end. The unsettling thing is that the methodology doesn't really require a defendant to be innocent; it's about finding faults in the system, not a lack of guilt.
So while we eventually get a viable Denny suspect that lines up with a more believable timeline, there's an imbalance of showy theatrics to the procedure itself that makes the documentary feel hamstrung by the case. Indeed, it should be noted - but isn't - that despite multiple letters, Zellner didn't have an interest in Steven's case until Making A Murderer turned him into a household name, and further that much of the footage is shot with her involvement, twisting the show further as a tool in the court of public opinion than a continuing documentary.
On the other side of the Making A Murderer story, there are Brendan Dassey's lawyers who come across totally earnest. Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin, of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, fight to overturn Dassey's conviction based on his false confession; seeing the mentally-impaired minor coerced and fed information by interrogators, it forms the basis of pretty much the entire case against him (and a key pillar in the prosecution against Avery). Nirider and Drizin's fight up the legal chain, from state to federal to Supreme Court is a story of resilience, of fighting for the right thing, and one that by the time Making a Murderer season 2 comes to a close is seemingly hopeless. And yet they vow to keep going.
That's most certainly the clearer side of the story, although a lot of the more interesting aspects are still avoided. Zellner criticizes Nirider's presentation before the Chicago Seventh Circuit for not being rooted enough in the facts, with responses to tough questions relying on case law and the permutable moral right, while an unspoken aspect of both cases is that they inextricably lean on each other. While this has no bearing on the truth, it doesn't leave the situation as clear as a clearly-angled defense should.
Making A Murderer Season 2 Doesn't Help Steven Avery
Making A Murderer season 1 did a world of good for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. It brought their wrongful conviction case into the biggest spotlight imaginable, with millions learning about their trials and tribulations on Netflix and it subsequently becoming one of the most well-covered legal cases in the press. It also gave both the ability to set up full defenses that have a chance - albeit a slim one - of succeeding.
In contrast, what does Making a Murderer season 2 do? It brings attention back to the pair and allows several points - be it missing evidence from season 1 or new developments - to be brought to light, but ultimately all it's really doing is showing the futility of the postconviction spectrum while trying to feign optimism; each episode meticulously details the attempts to free the pair only for them to be consistently blocked. By the end, while both legal teams are promising to continue the fight, the ordeal feels over. There is very little hope. Whereas season 1 felt like the beginning of the fight, Making A Murderer season 2 is the unwitting end.
That's a disquieting message the series itself doesn't seem to want to push, yet has certainly altered the mood around the case. How Netflix releases its shows, hiding some off the landing page and otherwise burying the latest seasons under a wave of other content, surely played a part, but it's remarkable how reduced the impact of Making A Murderer season 2 has been upon its debut. And while when that happens for the Marvel Netflix shows it can see the likes of Iron Fist or Luke Cage canceled, here we're talking about the lives of two seemingly innocent people. All this new season has done is draw a line under it all.