True Crime Docuseries Review: Catching Killers

 For a long while I, as well as many other people out there, have had a fascination with true crime content.  I don't know the reasons why others are intrigued by true crime, but for myself it is a glimpse into something that I just do not understand.  When I was twenty, I stole a mug from Tim Hortons.  That night I couldn't sleep, and the little rest that I did get was dominated by guilt filled dreams.  The next morning, the mug was returned to the coffee shop.  A good criminal, I would not make.  This is the base of my interest in true crime.  I am trying to understand something that is completely alien to me.

There are a few problems that true crime series can run into.  The first, and worst, is sensationalizing the crimes.  Every series employs techniques to create drama and tension, and they are right to do so as it is part of the stories they are trying to tell.  However, some really lean into overhyping the horrible crimes, feeling like they are trying to make legends of the perpetrators.  When this happens, I can't help but feel sleazy and dirty.  If you are showing crimes, they shouldn't be glorified.

Another issue is that there can be a whole lot of filler.  Sometimes this comes in the form of talking heads that really have no expert knowledge or relevance to the subject matter.  Other times, the filler can be peripheral aspects or issues.  My memory of Netflix's Murder Mountain is that there was a major disconnect between covering crimes while also focusing way too much (for some reason) on the struggles of illegal marijuana farmers who are facing decriminalization.  Being a six part series, it honestly felt like it should have only been three episodes.

Thankfully, Catching Killers on Netflix seems to avoid these common issues (there are many other problems that true crime docuseries can run into, but I'm trying to keep this short).  The series is four episodes long, with the first two each focusing on their own homicide stories with the third and fourth episode combining to tell a more elongated story.  With two of the murder cases being told in their entirety in a single episode each, the story feels lean.  They only need to focus on the talking points that are relevant, with no real filler being present.

The majority of people being interviewed through the course of the series are in law enforcement.  What I really appreciate with Catching Killers is that we see a really human and emotional side to the police officers involved in finding the criminals.  There are many tears as the people talk about what they saw and the pain of knowing that someone was killed.  Not many series really show this emotional impact that the crime fighters endure when having to do their jobs.

In none of the three cases did I ever feel like the killers were more important than their victims.  The focus was properly on the human side of these tragedies.  The murderers weren't sickly idolized (one of the worst things that can happen in true crime), they were simply the people to be stopped and locked up for their horrible actions.

All three of the murder cases are inherently compelling, and each was one I had never heard of before.  It sounds odd needing to talk about the entertainment value around actual crimes, but that's a big part of why these things get made.  Briskly paced, the episodes kept my interest while also giving proper gravity to the subject matter.  As with pretty much all true crime content, there was a use of sinister music and editing to create drama.  The good thing is that it felt used properly to keep the viewer interested and maintain a severity to the content.

I never know what I'm going to step into when I start watching true crime.  It can either be fascinating and informative, or it can be disgustingly disconnected with the human cost as it tries to shock and set the criminals on some sort of nefarious pedestal.  Catching Killers is an interesting offering that handles the tragedy properly while also feeling appropriately informative.

Rating - 3.5 out of 4 stars