Manhunt: Unabomber

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Manhunt: Unabomber TV Poster Image
Gripping crime story digs into a complicated case.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Viewers will come away with a positive impression of FBI investigators, who put in long, difficult hours trying to keep civilians safe. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

James Fitzgerald emerges as an impassioned yet tortured investigator: working hard into the night, and being affected by the Unabomber's messages. But despite saying he wants to be there for his family, Fitzgerald basically winds up abandoning them. 

Violence

Scenes with explosions and brief but very graphic shots of victims: a man burnt black, writhing in agony and impaled with many sharp pieces of metal; a close-up shot of a man's hand so mangled it looks like hamburger. A shot of a dead, limp rabbit held by a hunter. 

Sex

A few references to sex: The FBI says the Unabomber stopped bombing when he finally "got laid." The FBI wants Fitzgerald to work erectile dysfunction into his Unabomber profile. "What is it with men and their dongs?" asks Tabby. 

Language

Occasional cursing and language: "damn," "BS," "sucks," "fart," "dong." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Colleagues drink at a bar; no one acts drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Manhunt: Unabomber is a scripted drama about a famous criminal case from the 1990s. The series is from the point of view of law enforcement, so there's not as much graphic content as if we were watching from the point of view of the serial killer, but there are still several shots of terribly mangled bombing victims: a close-up of a hand so mangled it looks like a pile of meat, another man writhing in agony on a floor, burnt black and impaled with sharp pieces of metal. We also see reenactments of bombings, with fireballs and flying debris (but no blood or bodies). A dead rabbit is toted by a hunter in an early scene. There are a couple of references to sex: jokes about erectile dysfunction that involve the word "dongs," a joke about "getting laid." Cursing and language is mild and infrequent: "damn," "BS," "sucks," "fart," "dong." 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDennis M. September 22, 2017

History is then predictable

Eight episodes--since I was aware of the basic story, I actually skipped first five because I didn't want the crimes or the false leads--I went directly to... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 10, 2018

Sophisticated, Dark, Crime Thriller, reminding us that everyone has feelings...

Amazing, an edge of the seat thriller. This is based on a true story making it more powerful and sad. It challenges the justice reminding us that even murders d... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byreadingpolarbear July 25, 2018

Amazing!!

I can’t tell you how great this show is! It’s about a man who wants to get a manifesto across to the world and mails bombs to do this. It’s set in two times- 19... Continue reading

What's the story?

In 1995, Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, was arrested for killing 3 people and inuring 23 others in a nationwide mail-bombing campaign. MANHUNT: UNABOMBER is the story of how he was found. James Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington) is the FBI profiler whose unconventional ideas blow apart the case painstakingly built by Don Ackerman (Chris Noth) and Stan Cole (Jeremy Bobb). Slowly, the FBI is closing in on Kaczynski (Paul Bettany). But as Fitzgerald dives deeper into the case, is he slowly, implacably losing his grip on his own life? Is the predator relating too much to his prey? 

Is it any good?

Moving back in forth in time and bringing a complicated investigation to life, this eight-part drama paints a gripping picture of men obsessed. Kaczynski’s obsessions, of course, were detailed in long media accounts of the criminal and his crimes, as well as his letters and manifesto. Fitzgerald soon emerges as a complicated and tortured man. The same insight and leaps of reasoning that allow him to understand the Unabomber are what connects him too closely to the case. We see at the beginning of the series that he has become a Unabomber-like figure himself: a recluse in the woods. What changed the loving family man and cop (who we soon meet in one of the drama's time jumps) into this grizzled mountain man? 

The answers are teased out intriguingly slowly, as we meet the cops on Kacynski's case and see how the FBI closed in on him. One thing this long-form treatment offers that a one-hour procedural can't: We see the grinding effort that building a case requires -- mountains of evidence, dozens of people picking through it, thousands of leads investigated and discarded. And then, ironically, the case's biggest break turns out to be Kacynski's brother, David (Mark Duplass), turning him in (in a roundabout fashion). The strength of Manhunt: Unabomber is that you don't just see the effort and the irony -- you feel it. This is one crime yarn that deserves its running time. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why criminal cases are so commonly dissected on TV. What dramatic possibilities do they offer? Why do people like to watch them? What other shows besides Manhunt: Unabomber about criminal cases can you name? 

  • How do law enforcement officers in this drama show teamwork and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Character Strengths

Find more TV shows that help kids build character.

For kids who love mysteries

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate