The Killing Season

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Killing Season TV Poster Image
Chilling docu looks at serial murders, social attitudes.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

All homicides deserve resolutions. Law enforcement is plagued with systemic problems, biases, etc.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Convicted killers, sex workers, investigators, etc. all featured.

Violence

Serial killings discussed; murder scenes, weapons, images of bloody corpses, scary 911 calls.

Sex

Sex work, the sex trade are explored; occasional, brief explicit conversations. 

Language

"Bastard"; occasional bleeped language.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking visible; alcohol and drug use discussed. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Killing Season is an informative, somewhat sensational documentary series centered on a famous serial killing investigation. Murder and the sex trade are central, but it also zeroes on issues relating to the breakdown of the criminal justice system and social attitudes about female sex workers. Alcohol and drug use is discussed, and smoking is visible during specific episodes. It contains lots of archived crime scene footage, as well as graphic, bloody images of corpses. All of this is offered in context, but it's not for the faint of heart. 

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What's the story?

THE KILLING SEASON is an eight-part series that follows a pair of filmmakers as they document and investigate the unsolved case of the Long Island Serial Killer. After the discovery of remains belonging to 10 sex workers along Gilgo Beach, Long Island beginning in December 2010, detectives believe that they are dealing with a serial killer. Years later the case, known as LISK, has gone cold. Now Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills are conducting their own research in hopes of finding out what went wrong with the overall investigation. As they interview law enforcement, the victims’ families, sex workers, journalists, online investigators (a.k.a. “cyber-sleuths”), and convicted serial killers, they realize that there may be potential connections between LISK and other unsolved murders down the Eastern seaboard and beyond, all of which target sex workers. Throughout the process, they also uncover some of the systemic problems with the overall way investigators in the United States investigate homicides, and reveal how attitudes about sex workers impacts the way these cases are worked. 

Is it any good?

This chilling docuseries explores how the disappearance and murders of female sex industry workers are overlooked, mishandled, or simply ignored. In the style of the series’ Oscar-winning producer Alex Gibney, it combines lots of interviews, archival footage, scenes of tense encounters, and other elements that make it equally substantive and sensational. But this doesn't take away from the valuable points it makes about the systemic problems in law enforcement that prevent separate agencies from working together, and the role cyberspace plays in the perpetration and the resolution of serious crimes.

Viewers who enjoy this sort of investigative-themed entertainment or who are interested in documentary filmmaking will be drawn to the project. But The Killing Season isn't designed to be an easy viewing experience. While it uses LISK as the platform from which to showcase the failings of the criminal justice system, it also underscores the role social biases resulting from sexism and judgment play in the way we think about victims and why. Overall, it raises very disturbing questions about how overall society thinks about the value of one person's life over another. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way crimes are investigated and solved. Is it as quick and/or exciting as the way its presented in tv shows like CSI  or Law & Order? What are some of the complications? What are some of the things that can be done to make the investigation process better?

  • What is the role of a documentarian? Is it to present stories objectively? Or is it supposed to have a point of view? Do the filmmakers of The Killing Season cross the line from telling the story to becoming part of the story? Is this a good thing?

TV details

For kids who love mysteries

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