When a TV show takes the nation by storm the way Netflix's true-crime series Making a Murderer did back in 2015, the news that a follow-up is on the way never really comes as a surprise. Unfortunately, it also never really comes as a surprise when the sequel turns out to be a letdown.
In the case of Making a Murderer Part 2, the second season didn't bomb as hard as, say, Serial Season 2, but it definitely felt like a hollow attempt to tell a story whose plot lines ran out 10 years ago.
The second installment in the Steven Avery story, which hit Netflix last week, featured a definite change in tone from Season 1, in that we were now investigating a 13-year-old homicide rather than following the events of the investigation and trial of a brand new one. Though the first season was released in 2015, it focused mainly on the disappearance of Teresa Halbach and the trial of Steven Avery, which occurred in 2004 and 2005, and Dean Strang's and Jerry Buting's attempt to prove him innocent in court. In the second season, Avery's new lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, had the impossible (and way less interesting) task of searching for evidence and trying to recreate what happened to prove literally any other theory of how Halbach could have died.
While it was definitely interesting to dissect details about bullet fragments and sweat DNA — and more than once you were probably left wondering whether Avery would have been convicted if any of Zellner's experts had been called to the stand to cast doubt on the state's case - there was a lack of suspense and energy to the second season that made it more of a chore to watch than a pleasure. There was also that niggling little feeling that this whole "righteous search for the truth" was only happening in order to create Making a Murderer Part 2 rather than out of any burning need to actually free Avery.
The one thing Making a Murderer Part 2 delivered on was alternate theories about who killed Teresa and how. Due to some legal handicaps, Avery's original lawyers weren't able to point the finger at someone else in the case, leaving them with only their corruption and frame-job conspiracies. Those conspiracies were jaw-dropping enough to grab people's attention, but Zellner actually filled out the other side of the story by looking into other suspects and how they could have killed Halbach. The victim's ex-boyfriend and roommate and even Avery's other nephew all left some seriously sketchy clues behind, and the theories she posed about their involvement actually created most of the few and far between highlights of the season.
In truth, the monotony of the not-so-interesting Avery investigation paled in comparison to the harrowing tale of Brendan Dassey's near miss with freedom. While it was hard to root for Zellner to free Avery (since she never seemed to make much progress on that front), it was all too easy to become invested in Dassey and his lawyers' attempts to vacate his conviction and get his original confession thrown out. While it lacked the ups and downs of the frame job and murder trail from Season 1, Season 2's Dassey storyline had wins, losses and a heartbreaking conclusion that left you with the same sense of injustice you felt when you first learned his fate. Watching how close he came to winning his freedom, you can't help but hope that if Netflix is stupid enough to order another season, it shifts the focus to Brendan and finding literally any chance of freedom he's got left now that his appeal options have run out.
Making a Murderer Parts 1 and 2 are currently streaming on Netflix.