The Last Defense

TV review by
Mark Dolan, Common Sense Media
The Last Defense TV Poster Image
Compelling docuseries about the search for justice.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Sometimes justice is served, but often it is not. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Those proclaiming their innocence have been through severe hardship; they fight for what they believe is right.


Murders are talked about in graphic detail; bloody crime scenes are shown.



"Damn," "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Last Defense is a true crime documentary series that investigates cases where defendants have maintained their innocence long after being convicted of serious crimes. The first case involves a woman accused of the stabbing deaths of her two young sons. The crime is described in graphic detail and photographs of the bloody crime scene are shown repeatedly. While the images aren't anything worse than might be shown on a standard episode of Dateline or 20/20, the content of this show is best suited to mature teens.

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What's the story?

THE LAST DEFENSE is a true crime documentary series committed to investigating death row cases involving defendants who may have been wrongly convicted. Per the voiceover in the opening credits, provided by show producer Viola Davis, nearly 3000 people on death row, an average of 5 convictions are overturned every year and for some this show is their last defense. This anthology series will cover multiple cases devoting a set of episodes to each one. The first concerns Darlie Routier, a 26-year old Texas woman convicted and sentenced to death row in 1997 for the murder of her two sons. The show does a commendable job of looking not just at the physical evidence but highlights a number of cultural issues prevalent at the time of the trial that may have influenced the verdict.

Is it any good?

There’s an inherently compelling quality to stories about wrongful conviction that make them undeniably watchable, and this is no exception. While not groundbreaking in its visual storytelling or as narratively dense as other recent documentary series, The Last Defense has uncovered some intriguing cases to spotlight and ultimately it’s the plight of these individuals that holds your interest. Its straightforward style relies mostly on present-day interviews with incarcerated individuals, their families and the defense and prosecution teams, and thankfully doesn’t use any kind of lurid narration that a more exploitative doc might employ.

However, one drawback to this spare style is that there are a few instances where journalists and authors are interviewed and it’s not clear what their connection is to the case. That aside, The Last Defense should definitely satisfy your true-crime needs (at least until the sequel to Making a Murderer comes out).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about crime. What is it about true crime stories that we find so compelling? 


  • How do the innocent people deal with being wrongly accused? What would you do in their shoes? 


  • How does The Last Defense make you feel about the judicial system? Has it impacted your views on the death penalty?

TV details

  • Premiere date: June 12, 2018
  • Cast: Viola Davis
  • Network: ABC
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: NR
  • Last updated: April 22, 2021

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