‘Murder Among The Mormons’ Is A True-Crime Masterpiece

‘Murder Among The Mormons’ Is A True-Crime Masterpiece

As the true-crime boom rolls along, even prestige projects are falling into easy traps. They’re padded with unnecessary filler, doing in 10 episodes what should take five. They’re repetitive or too familiar. The twists are predictable. Not “Murder Among the Mormons.” In three fast-paced episodes, the new Netflix series unravels an unthinkably twisted web with refreshing artistry.

It’s almost impossible not to binge. In fairness, “Murder Among the Mormons” has the benefit of telling an incredible true story. Nevertheless, unpacking the complex narrative in a way that’s not only digestible but edge-of-your-seat intriguing is a feat. To do that without getting bogged down in filler and resisting the temptation to indulge in distracting tangents is even more impressive.

That is to say, “Murder Among the Mormons” should be used as a how-to guide for the many true-crime documentarians fielding green lights amid the genre’s explosion. The story is fresh. The series is lean and organized. It really stands out among the glut of true-crime content we’re drowning in right now.

With good access to the people involved, “Murder Among the Mormons,” a BBC Studios production from “Napoleon Dynamite” director Jared Hess and Tyler Measom, chronicles the 1985 Salt Lake City bombings. The story’s national prominence is wildly disproportionate to its intrigue, folding religion and greed and genius into a stranger-than-fiction cocktail, which is available to stream on March 1.

The series cleverly follows the direction of the police investigation, bringing viewers on a journey just as frustrating and dizzying and shocking as the one that played out in real time four decades ago. There’s some well-executed misdirection. B-roll is effectively blended with old footage and new interviews. It can be difficult to keep all the suspects straight, although that’s inevitable with a story like this. But even as it tackles tangled details, “Murder Among the Mormons” will never lose your attention.

Without fail, the series manages to reveal information at just the right pace to build to an extraordinary crescendo, keeping viewers guessing and then exposing the truth with fascinating on-camera insights from involved parties. It’s not flashy or trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s just a great execution of the format.

The heightened demand for true crime, which was spiking even before the pandemic, is generating a lot of great investigative work that holds criminals accountable and gives victims a platform. But in the frenzy, even the best of these docuseries can feel bloated, padding the content to hit an episode quota that could be cut in half, sometimes by exploring tangential storylines that serve mostly to add confusion. “Murder Among the Mormons” does its story justice, exposing the depths of man’s depravity to powerful effect.

Emily Jashinsky is culture editor at The Federalist. You can follow her on Twitter @emilyjashinsky .
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