I am an avid true crime lover (my best friend wore off on me when we lived together). So when I saw Manhunt Unabomber was on Netflix, it caught my interest. I realized the Unabomber is one of the crimes from the 90s that isn’t talked about all the time—unlike JonBenet Ramsey and the O.J. Simpson trial. I’ve seen countless documentaries on those two, and I’ve read more than one book on JonBenet and O.J. But none on the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. I honestly forgot about the Unabomber until I was watching CNN’s documentary piece that focuses on the 90s (also very good, could totally do a review on that as well).
I clearly watch a lot of Netflix.
Anyway, it’s been awhile since I got caught up in a good Netflix show and properly binged at least, and I was immediately hooked to Manhunt Unabomber. It’s shot pretty well—although I’m not a huge fan of the dramatic music in certain scenes. That’s probably my only complaint. I don’t think it’s needed and the music actually takes away from the moment. I think, like in writing and poetry, there’s a lot of poignancy in beats of silence.
Sam Worthington plays Jim Fitzgerald, the show’s protagonist. Fitz pioneered forensic linguistics and aided the FBI in finding the Unabomber by studying the language in his manifesto and the letters Ted sent his brother, David, who turned in the letters to the FBI. Fitz is lovable, intelligent, and often struggles internally when he identifies with Ted, as the two men seem to respect each other’s genius, even if they disagree wholeheartedly morally. This twisted connection between Fitz and Ted gives Manhunt Unabomber depth and leads you to question how different we really are from one another. Or perhaps, it leads you to question how similar we actually are to one another, and how the one or two drops of difference in our blood have the potential to determine everything.
Also, another point to the show, Sam Worthington is very nice to look at. Quite the cutey. Mr. Worthington broke my heart in a couple scenes—he captures Fitz’s insecurity and good intentions so well. Fitz is often questioning his intelligence, desperate to be accepted and admired by the FBI, who talk down to him for most of the season. You just want to yell at everyone to shut up and listen to the beautiful man make this amazing psychological connection with language.
The part of the show that gave me chills was when they showed the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, undergoing a CIA humiliation experiment that was conducted during the 60s by the famous Harvard psychologist Henry A. Murray. The show depicted it pretty much as psychological torture, but the rough idea about it (after looking it up, because this was completely new to me) is that they would humiliate the participants–Harvard students–to the point of severe stress. Psychology Today puts it as, “The [Murray[ Harvard study aimed at psychic deconstruction by humiliating undergraduates and thereby causing them to suffer severe stress…During [Ted] Kaczynski’s sophomore year at Harvard, in 1959, he was recruited for a psychological experiment that, unbeknownst to him, would last three years.”
Manhunt Unabomber dedicates a whole episode to Ted’s life. But then, by the end of the show, although his defense brings up wanting to present the CIA humiliation experiment at trial, it’s still skirted over a little. Did the CIA’s experiment affect Ted becoming the Unabomber later in life? What were the results of the other students who participated in this study? Where are they now, and what do they think about Ted?
More research to follow, perhaps.
All in all, it’s a good 8 episode series to try out, especially if you love true crime. It’s also refreshing it’s not another true crime that has already been saturated with documentaries. Recommend giving it a shot. And if you have watched it, what are your thoughts?