In the past two years, Netflix has been hitting the spot when it comes to delivering docuseries to their streaming service. What began with just a couple of these docuseries every four to six months, has eventually evolved into almost one docuseries each month, without delay. The result is that none of these docuseries is treated anymore as an event, they have become part of the routine, but people keep watching them, so Netflix keeps producing them.
Meanwhile, other streaming services such as Paramount+ or HBO Max have been standing on the sidelines watching how people consume these docuseries without any remorse. So why not stop just watching from the sidelines and enjoy the benefits of having this type of content in their libraries? For once, HBO Max has said “we don’t wait” and has started to produce docuseries centered around a specific crime to solve. There are many crimes out there, so there is plenty of source material. Mind over Murder is just the latest to arrive at the platform.
Mind Over Murder is a crime docuseries produced by the HBO documentary division for HBO and HBO Max. The docuseries focuses on the case of Helen Wilson, a 68-year-old grandmother who was murdered in 1985 in horrifying circumstances. What makes the case particularly interesting is the fact that six people were convicted for it, but none of these people remembered having done such a crime. Meanwhile, the real murderer was set loose for lack of evidence.
The case might be one of the worst convictions ever performed by a judge and a police investigation in the entire history of the United States Justice System. Of course, when the real criminal was identified 26 years later, the story became viral. And now it is used as a fine example of how the investigation process the police and the justice system used to convict people is completely flawed. The docuseries follows the investigation and the subsequent sentence, and how the families of those involved didn’t stop believing in their families’ innocence.
The docuseries follow the same structure and esthetic that has been implemented in this kind of documentary for a long time. The docuseries makes use of reenactments, archive footage, and interviews with those involved in the events. It is all quite normal, to be honest. What really makes the docuseries stand out is the tone in which the information is presented to the audience. Of course, we are talking about a very gruesome murder, it is a sad and lamentable subject, but the production team does the unexpected.
The production team records the interview in the same way that every other documentary does, but they are done in such a way that they feel as candid as possible. The in-between the questions and the answers has mostly remained intact, and it is in this way that the people that are being interviewed truly feel like real individuals. It is because of this method that they let their personalities come through the screen way more often and in a more tangible way than in the traditional form in which these interviews are often made.
The mystery itself is quite interesting in particular ways as well. Because of it, the docuseries is not only focused on piecing the clues together to find out who the real murderer is, but it is also focused on how the investigators failed to capture the murderer in the first place. What did these people do wrong? Why did they commit six people, instead of finding the one true killer? Were there hidden motivations? Some darker and more nefarious reason behind the whole affair?
All those questions are answered, you just have to be patient. The docuseries only last for six episodes, which is not too many, but one of the biggest issues with this documentary is that it feels that it could have been shorter and more potent. Perhaps 4 episodes could have been enough to tell the story in all of its extensions. Some episodes really feel like they are stretching the running time for some reason, and it is in these moments that the power of the story feels diminished.
One thing that the docuseries really does amazingly well is in how it shows how fallible the human mind, and especially human memory, is. As the story progresses, it becomes truly terrifying how most of the events leading to the mistake in question were done in such a nonchalant manner. The way people put their trust in the authorities and how these authorities just ended up deceiving and betraying that trust is the stuff of nightmares. Let’s hope no one else has to go through something like that ever again.
Mind Over Murder might not feel fresh or spectacularly well-made. But it is quite entertaining, and it approaches the docuseries format in such a way that it is different enough from its peers as to feel like it must be watched at least once, in the most casual of manners.