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True Crime Docueseries Review: The Confession Tapes: Season 1

 Netflix's The Confession Tapes Season 1 arrived in 2017 with seven episodes.  The point of the series as a whole is illustrating times when people 'falsely confessed' to murders that they would then deny committing.  Created by Kelly Loudenberg, the series investigates six different instances, with the first two episodes dedicated to one case.

Through all of the different episodes, the main point that comes across is that false confessions do occur, and that anyone is susceptible to admitting to something they didn't commit.  Each person has a different breaking point, but it is something that can and will happen under the right circumstances.  In this series, people are shown being worn down by police until they confess to a murder.

In almost every case, it is the confession alone that ultimately convicts the suspected killer or killers.  The docuseries is smart to add interviews with jury members from some of the cases, and they highlight the power that a confession can have in their decisions.  Even if there seems to be an alibi, the jury doesn't understand why someone would confess to something so horrible if they didn't commit the act.  These interviewees aren't shone in a negative light for believing this, and it is used to show how almost all of us would think in that same position.

A running idea through the series is that law enforcement develops a belief that a certain person committed the crime and then unrelentingly do whatever they can to extract a confession.  For some cases, members of the law enforcement community declined to be interviewed, and I think that decision plays into the idea that these innocent people were targeted and did not commit the crime.  

When investigators or prosecutors are willing to be interviewed, it at least adds some balance to the story, showing their thought processes and humanizing their desire to solve horrendous crimes.  While the series postures each suspect as being wrongfully accused, having the perspective of law enforcement (at least for me) creates a level of doubt on the person's innocence.  This, however, doesn't feel to be the intention of the series.

In each case, the concept is that these people are innocent and wrongly convicted.  For some episodes, I really do feel as though justice did not prevail.  For others, there is some doubt in my mind.  A problem with true crime content is that we can ultimately be seeing the beliefs of the creator, and it is their perspective that guides how everything is presented to the viewer.  It is easy to just believe the narrative in true crime docuseries or documentaries, and it can be hard to think objectively.

Each of the stories covered in The Confession Tapes Season 1 are interesting and entertaining.  Frankly, it is also a bit scary.  Watching it, I constantly found myself wondering how I would handle being in one of these situations and if I would confess to something I did not do.  Could I personally be worn down and just tell police what they wanted me to say?  It definitely is possible.

The weakness of this series is an overriding air of certainty that each subject was innocent of the crime, which leads to a skewed perspective at times.  Some episodes are more balanced than others, and those ones are usually when the police and prosecutors agree to be interviewed.  Looking simply at the entertainment value, this is something that is worth watching.  I think a lot of viewers will start questioning if they themselves could crack, and that is the real attraction to this show.

Rating - 3 out of 4 stars