‘The Innocent Man’ (2018) | Netflix Original Series Review

By Daniel Hart
Published: December 13, 2018 (Last updated: January 3, 2024)
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The Innocent Man - Netflix - Review


Adding to the impressive list of Netflix true-crime documentaries, The Innocent Man tells the story of tragedies and injustices in Ada, Oklahoma, in the 1980s, in another captivating non-fiction story.

As if by magic, Netflix has managed to become the leading platform for true-crime documentaries with a format structure that works. Making a Murderer will always be their ultimate benchmark, sticking as the king of mystery above the likes of The Staircase and Amanda Knox, while managing to throw shorts at us like the suddenly emotional Long Shot. To end the year of a whole host of Netflix documentaries, The Innocent Man subjects its audience to a tightly-knit town that becomes shook by tragic events.

The docuseries makes a concerted effort to formalize the intimacy of the town of Ada, Oklahoma, in the 1980s, giving the audience an insight into the community, and how its people protect each other in a town that refuses to have any trouble. The Innocent Man wants the viewer to understand what it meant growing up in this town, similar to Season 3 of Last Chance Uwhere the main activity of the day is folks turning up to a college football game. Although the subject matter is miles apart, Independence, Kansas feels oddly similar.

And then tragedy strikes and your ears perk up; the town’s police department is frustrated by an investigation where a young woman named Debbie Carter is brutally murdered in her own home. The Innocent Man refuses to downplay this as an average American town murder; nothing like this ever happens in Ada. A few years later store clerk Denice Haraway goes missing.

The Netflix documentary series tentatively lays on investigative journalism while trying to paint a story of how the town reacted. The Innocent Man gives accounts from victims’ friends and families, Ada residents, attorneys, journalists, and any other person that was involved in the case. It would be easy to say that the docuseries is only about solving a mystery and contemplating the fate of Ron Williamson, a man facing death row and accused of the heinous murder of Debbie Carter, but many other elements bring John Grisham’s best-selling non-fiction book, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town to life.

Due to similar documentaries, The Innocent Man will offer no surprises, but it does not take away the engaging factor that grips viewers and forces them to binge hours on end on Netflix. Mishaps from the police, shoddy defense and prosecutor tactics and the frustrating justice system all come into the fold during the series.

The Innocent Man adds to the impressive list of documentaries available on Netflix.

Netflix, TV, TV Reviews
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