While there have been developments in the murder case since 2015, there's just not enough to fill 10 new episodes.
Netflix's 2015 true crime docu-series "Making a Murderer" won a handful of Emmy and is beloved by critics and viewers alike. In fact, many consider it the very best program the digital streamer has ever produced.
It's doubtful anyone will say that about "Making a Murderer Part 2."
The much-anticipated second season debuted in full on Friday and picks up right where the last one left off with Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey in prison for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Whereas the first one captured the attention of the world with its improbable twists and bizarrely fascinating characters, the new episodes are limp, lifeless, and uneventful.
If documentarians Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos caught lightning in a bottle with the original series, then "Making a Murderer Part 2" is them running over the bottle with and leaving broken, unremarkable bits of glass in their wake.
So, why did the new series fail so badly? Read on to find out...
1. The Hook Is Gone
"Making a Murderer" is a well-constructed, tautly-edited documentary series that absolutely deserved all the awards and acclaim it received. But it didn't catapult itself into the zeitgeist because of its technical merits alone, the show reeled viewers in because it delivered one of craziest true-crime stories imaginable and painted a portrait of a criminal justice system gone horribly awry.
For those unacquainted, Avery served 18 years for a crime he did not commit long before Halbach's murder. Shortly after his release and after he filed a lawsuit against Manitowoc County, Halbach went missing. Avery was eventually arrested for murder by the very same police force that years earlier had botched his case. And that was just the beginning. The story grew more complex, twisted, and downright unbelievable from there as a new cast of cops, judges, and lawyers with suspicious motives was introduced and Avery once again wound up being convicted of a grave crime he swore he did not commit.
The original series was constructed from decades worth of juicy drama, testimony, footage, police reports, and court rulings. The new series--to put it charitably--was not.
There have certainly been a couple major developments in the Avery-Dassey-Halbach murder case since 2015, including brand-new lawyers, renewed appeal efforts, and the possibility of Supreme Court intervention, but not enough to fill another 10-hour block of television. And none of the twists and turns of the new series feel as weighty as the crimes, interrogations, convictions, and exonerations highlighted in the original.
2. "Making a Murderer" Makes Itself Part of the Story
"Part 2" gets off on the wrong foot when it begins with a montage of news footage chronicling how the original series was received by pundits, viewers, politicians, and the friends and families of both Halbach and those convicted for her murder.
There's no question the popularity of the original series has influenced the case. On the one hand, it apparently helped Avery land his high-profile lawyer Kathleen Zellner. On the other, a lawyer suggests the show's might have hopelessly politicized Avery's case and diminished the chances of a possible pardon. Regardless, the extended focus on Season 1's successes comes across poorly. It drags on for too long and plays like it's the creators patting themselves on the back for a job well done.
That victory lap would perhaps be more forgivable if the rest of the season was even half as compelling as the first, but it's not. In fact,...
Season 1 has so much going for it, from the general observations it makes about the cold inadequacies of justice system to the specific details it highlights from this supremely fascinating case. It boasts unbelievable press conferences, a master class in bad lawyering at the hands of Dassey's defense attorney Len Kachinsky, a jaw-dropping interrogation of a suspect of diminished capacity, loads of compelling court testimony, astounding evidentiary breakthroughs, and fascinating interviews with the many bizarre characters in Avery and Dassey's orbit. It also paints the picture that must be seen to be believed of Manitowoc County's seemingly corrupt police force, district attorneys, and judges.
Season 2, meanwhile, relies heavily on conversations between Avery's many lawyers and advocates. While they're no doubt passionate about overturning his conviction, they speak mostly in legalese and the result is far less gripping. There are a few new characters—including Zellner, who likes to tweet a lot, and a new love-interest for Avery—but they're just not that interesting. Season 2 also relies far too heavily on replay and recap of segments already seen on Season 1.
The fact is, Season 2's early episodes are all too often devoid of both drama and substance. There isn't much evidence introduced nor are there the dramatic cliffhangers found in the original. At best, "Part 2" is a heartfelt homage to the first season, offering extended coverage for super fans desperate to learn about every aspect of the case. At worst, it's comes across like a cheap and ultimately unnecessary exploitation of the original's popularity.
Several factors work against "Making a Murderer Part 2." Ironically, the biggest one might be the success of its predecessor.
When Season 1 debuted, Avery, Dassey, and the details of their cases were unknown to much of the world. The story was fascinating on its own merits, but it was even more gripping because the average binge viewer had no clue how it might end.
With the arrival of Season 2, Avery has evolved into a celebrity and every new case development has already made its way onto the news. While that may be helpful in terms of him getting the resources and attention he needs to possibly overturn his conviction, it's straight-up shatters the dramatic backbone of the series.
Key developments (like the Supreme Court refusing to hear Avery's case) have been spoiled for any viewer who watches the nightly news. Needless to say, all but the most sequestered of "Making a Murderer" fans will go into Season 2 already knowing that -- spoiler warning, we guess -- Avery and Dassey are still sitting in jail cells.
Season 2 offers a few minor cliffhangers here and there, most of them courtesy of Zellner's bold proclamations about the case, but since the current state of the main players is already well known it never feels like there's much at stake.
Will Avery and Dassey ever be freed? Perhaps, but viewers will likely have to stay tuned for Seasons 3 and beyond to find out.