It takes an interesting, refreshingly unsensational approach, but Netflix latest true-crime series is a bit too slight and overly familiar to leave a major impression.
Despite its presence on a streaming platform renowned for peddling cutting-edge true-crime docuseries’, Exhibit A feels almost antithetical in its approach. It doesn’t reopen cold cases and root around in their innards for hot clues; it doesn’t revel in sensationalism, attempt to incite a nationwide manhunt or shock audiences with graphic depictions of real-life horrors. Here, the truth is enough — and, more specifically, how the wrong truth can be arrived at, either accidentally or intentionally.
Across four episodes, director Kelly Loudenberg hones in on forensic science, examining video forensics, blood spatter, cadaver dogs and touch DNA, tracing the shape of refreshingly mundane cases and how that shape was determined by science and its interpretations. There’s a focus on the discrepancy between what science and instinct tell us, and how the former can be manipulated to suit the latter. But there’s also a willingness to just lay the events bare, as they happened, and be content to allow them to speak for themselves.
While that is what helps Exhibit A to stand out in a severely overcrowded market, it might also be what prevents it from leaving much of an impression, especially with such a short episode order. The cases can still be provocative and sometimes maddening, but not to the same extent as other, more focused examinations of gross injustice and police negligence, such as Ava DuVernay’s recent Netflix exclusive When They See Us.
The presentation is familiar, too. Combining archive footage with expert testimony, each episode of Exhibit A delves into the history of a particular forensic technique before examining its misuse in a real criminal case. It’s in the focus on these techniques that the docuseries excels, and one can’t help but wish there were more episodes covering a wider range of disciplines and expertise. That speaks to how interesting what’s presented here can be, but also to how lacking it can feel; for established, long-time true-crime fans, Exhibit A will scratch an itch, but it won’t crack the on-going case of what to binge this week.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.