In the closing scene of episode 8 of Netflix’s Making a Murderer, viewers hear Brendan Dassey’s mom coaching him on his upcoming trial. “That’s what you need to tell them,” she says. “The truth.” But the truth isn’t that simple.
Beginning with Brendan’s confession in ep. 4, finding out what really happened to Teresa Halbach has been difficult. Accepting Brendan’s involvement in the murder becomes even more challenging for viewers when he takes the stand in ep. 9, which ends inconclusively. And, as you see in ep. 10, the story’s ill-defined nature has left everyone involved in the case — from the Avery family to his attorneys — waiting with bated breath to this day. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
The testimony given by Brendan and his cousin Kayla during ep. 9 center around denial. Both spend their time on the stand explaining that they weren’t telling the truth when questioned by the police. During this ordeal, watching Brendan — staring silently at his fingers, with greasy bangs in his eyes — is difficult. You empathize with him, you believe him, and his excuse makes sense after witnessing more of his so-called confessions. But for the jury, that’s not enough.
For me, the most poignant part of this entire series is when defense attorney Dean Strang explains that “most of what ails our criminal justice system lie in unwarranted certitude on the part of police officers and prosecutors and defense lawyers and judges and jurors that they’re getting it right.” He succinctly identifies the problem, which stems from a “tragic lack of humility of everyone who participates in our criminal-justice system.” (On a lighter note: This is just one of the moments that exemplifies why Strang and Buting have captured the Internet’s heart.)
Ultimately, the series finishes with more questions than answers. In ep. 10, you see the Averys plod through the appeals process, only to be continuously shot down. You watch as Steven Avery loses his attorneys and starts working on his case by himself. Most heartbreaking of all is when Avery’s mother points out the house she picked out for him for when he gets released. It’s these tiny glimpses into the Avery family’s private lives that I found to be both most tender and most terrifying, demonstrating the small but brutal repercussions of an unfeeling justice system.
There has been a lot of talk around this show lately. Several people involved in the case have given their thoughts about the series, and a petition even was sent to the White house asking to grant Avery a pardon. (The White House responded with a no.) And basically everyone has been posting their opinions to social media.
Where do you stand? What questions are you left with, and what do you wish you could have seen? Do you believe Brendan Dassey? Did the police take advantage of him? How much do you hate Michael O’Kelly? This is your final chance to speak your mind.
Nandita Raghuram is a Senior Writer at Studio@Gawker. She tweets here.