September 24, 2023


Landing on Netflix as the trial of Alex Murdaugh continues, “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” will certainly benefit from its timeliness, but this three-part production isn’t as compelling as its subject matter. Relying almost entirely on those involved to tell the story, the project has a slapdash feel from beginning to end, and finds the younger contingent, especially, to be poor narrators of what transpired.

Indeed, if ever a true-crime docuseries would have benefited from using a narrator, it’s this one; instead, the producers let the group of friends who were swept up in the tragic boat accident that claimed the life of 19-year-old Mallory Beach drone on, augmenting their accounts with blurry reenactments that look like something out of a cheap horror movie.

Although the title “Murdaugh Murders” ostensibly references the killing of Paul Murdaugh and his mother, Maggie, which resulted in his father and her husband, Alex, being put on trial, that’s something of an afterthought in the way the episodes are constructed. The focus of the first two parts, rather, centers on the boat crash.

Those who were on board speak of Paul, who often drank excessively, driving the boat, and the Murdaugh family – thanks to patriarch Alex, a well-connected South Carolina attorney – allegedly using its wealth and influence over the authorities to protect him.

Alex Murdaugh (center) appears in court in "Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal."

As the details gradually come out, there are other inconsistencies and allegations about occasions where the Murdaughs escaped scrutiny in the face of suspicious events, including the death of a housekeeper and nanny, Gloria Satterfield, who, they claimed, was seriously injured when the family dog caused her to fall down a flight of stairs.

“Murdaugh Murders” features interviews with several key figures, including Paul’s girlfriend, Morgan Doughty; Mallory Beach’s friends Miley Altman and Connor Cook; and Mallory’s boyfriend, Anthony Cook. Yet the most illuminating information comes from an attorney for Beach’s family, Mark Tinsley, who lays out evidence of incidents when the Murdaughs allegedly received special treatment from the authorities, which goes beyond Paul avoiding consequences for the fatal boating accident.

Sometimes it’s simply enough to be in the right place at the right time, and based on the success Netflix has enjoyed with the true-crime genre, often built around family tragedies, having a docuseries ready to go as Alex Murdaugh’s trial commands headlines falls squarely into that basket even if it is, by its very nature, chasing a moving target. What “Murdaugh Murders” doesn’t do, ultimately, is make much of a case for watching it.

“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” premieres February 22 on Netflix.


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