Death in the Dorms Season 1 Review – a fairly standard true crime series for diehards

By Marc Miller
Published: January 5, 2023 (Last updated: January 28, 2024)
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Death in the Dorms is relatively standard and watered-down true crime fare.

We review the Hulu true crime documentary series Death in the Dorms, which was released on January 5, 2023.

Hulu is the little brother of Netflix when it comes to streaming services. How else would you explain their latest trend in creating a plethora of oddly specific true crime series just like their older sibling?

From Killer in Plain Sight to Evil Talks: Chilling Confessionsthere is no end to creative titles and cases that can be recycled to keep the good true crime times flowing. (Or, in this case, streaming). Why stop at dorms? What about igloos? How about secluded gas stations in the midwest? How about murders influenced by famous films? (Now that idea is a winner). I’m just waiting for “Deaths that Ironically Happened inside Coffins” to condense the storytelling within 30 minutes or less. If a series was ever endorsed by a fictionalized group named Empty Nest Parents of America, this is it.

Death in the Dorms Season 1 Review and True Crime Premise

The Hulu series is produced by ABC news and is a six-part series. Each episode will examine a new case. The creators tip their hands with heavy manipulation. However, why not? The loss of a child is hard enough. Losing one under ominous circumstances during a time of just starting their adult life with endless possibilities is even more tragic. Especially ones that are as senseless as these.

Anyone like me who is a fan of true crime series like 20/20, Dateline, or 48 Hours, all classic standards, may find Death in the Dorms fairly standard and underwhelming. First, no entertaining wordsmiths are holding your hand through the cases and during the most grizzly scenes, especially when comic relief or a bit of spin can be a welcome change of pace. And at your standard running time of just under an hour, some key stories may feel light on much-needed facts. For instance, in the first episode, an accomplice never had enough evidence tying them to the crimes. It would have been nice to know what evidence would have been vital in securing their arrest and possible conviction.

Only the first two have been made available to critics like myself. The cases seem particularly light on the skillsets needed by agencies to solve them. You do not learn any techniques, like, for instance, the genetic genealogy in the arrest of the Idaho murder suspect days ago. Or even standard practices, like the use of closed-captioned surveillance video to track killers leaving the crime scenes. That all would be fine, but my issue with the series is that it promises to show hope for change in the aftermath of tragedies that are not there. The creators leave empty promises in their wake. However, admittingly, some cases do not need such techniques and rely on witness testimony.

Perhaps I am too hard on Death in the Dorms. This is an issue that should be highlighted. Like any product looking to solve a problem, true crime docuseries need to shine a light on a current issue. And violent crime in college dormitories and campuses is an issue nationwide. For instance, a simple Google search shows a shocking amount of violent crimes, including the main campus of Ohio State University has nearly five times the amount of criminal offenses as the distant second college. Many are sexual offenses, and some larger schools average one to two murders yearly. We also appreciate the fact that the series, at least the episodes made available to critics, do examine crimes against people of color since the racial divide in news coverage of minority victims pales in comparison to ones of those who are white.

Is Death in the Dorms on Hulu good?

Death in the Dorms is relatively standard and watered-down true crime fare. The case is interesting, and the tragic circumstances of the lives cut short of young people give the series some added weight. However, while the series will satisfy fans of the genre, mostly just diehards, it offers nothing new other than the setting. This, in itself, is not enough to provide a recommendation.

What did you think of the Hulu true crime documentary series Death in the Dorms? Comment below.

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