It's been almost three years since the world was gripped by the story of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey in Netflix's groundbreaking documentary series 'Making a Murderer', and while its creators Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos announced in June of 2016 that more episodes were on the way, it's taken until now for us to get to see them.
Those keeping up with the cases of Avery and Dassey since may think the documentary can't bring you any new information, and while a quick google search will tell you that both men are still behind bars, you will still find yourself completely engrossed in the detailed post-conviction process they are going through, as well as equally fascinated and in awe of Avery's high-powered new lawyer, Kathleen Zellner.
The episode kicks off with a range of news reports that remind you just how big an impact the Emmy winning documentary had when it dropped on Netflix in December 2015. The intense viewer reaction to 'Making a Murderer' led to heated protests, death threats to those involved and on a lighter note, and even a letter from President Barack Obama himself responding to petitions to release the Wisconsin men from prison. As Avery himself comments: "It seems like I've got the whole world for me."
There in lies some of the fascination with Part 2 - seeing up close what impact the success of the documentary had to those closest to it. We see Dolores Avery and later Brendan's mother Barb wading through boxes and boxes of fan mail, with devoted viewers sending everything from detailed scrapbooks to patchwork quilts.
This time around Ricciardi and Demos also try to bring the attention back to the main victim of all this - Teresa Halbach. While many of her family members refuse to be involved with the documentary, they do talk to a college friend of Teresa's and through pictures and old video footage build up a much clearer picture of her personality and the popular, smart woman she was.
As much as there are those rallying to free Steven and Brendan, there are still a significant contingent of people who remain convinced of their guilt, and as the documentary shows, they will do all that they can to keep them behind bars. However, firmly in the Avery camp is Steven's aforementioned Chicago-based lawyer Zellner, who has previously overturned 17 convictions and is determined Steven will be her 18th. Kathleen warns her client from the get-go however that he had better really be innocent, because if he's not, she'll find out, and after watching her meticulous attention to detail and her near-obsession to every aspect of this case, you'd believe her.
Every piece of evidence is re-analysed and even re-enacted (to almost discomforting lengths at times), with aspects of the case coming to light that seem to make it very, very clear that something (or many things) are amiss. From the lack of a blood spatter expert in the trial to the issues with the fire where Halbach's remains were found and that bizarre theatrical and immoral recreation of events prosecution lawyer Ken Kratz told the media at the time, Kathleen pokes holes in it all. So much so that she declares at one point that she "would bet her life on Avery's innocence".
While Kathleen is only on Avery's case, Brendan also has a great team that has been working with him for the last ten years - Northwestern Law Professors Laura Nirider and Steve Drizin from the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth in Chicago.
Their case hinges on Brendan Dassey's confession back in 2005, which they continue to argue was coerced. Watching it back again only proves all the more unsettling as you see how Dassey appears to be spoon fed the details of the crime. It's Dassey's case that proves the real rollercoaster of emotion early on as he comes achingly close to being released from prison after a judge overturns his conviction, however a last minute request to appeal the decision from the state halts proceedings.
It's clear throughout the extent of how much of uphill battle it is to get a conviction overturned in current US law. The documentary does a great job of explaining how complicated it is through experts and graphs as well as going into why the system is the way it is, which oddly goes back as far Clinton's days in office. The former US president brought in a law called AEDPA (Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996) following the Oklahoma bombings which had a massive impact on habeas corpus law, ultimately making it near impossible for convictions to be overturned.
Kathleen's confidence is infectious however, and you get the feeling that she really won't rest until Avery is out of prison, which comes from both an innate sense of competitiveness she has and also what seems to be a genuine concern for Avery and his family. Her commitment to the case and the respect and time she gives Avery's mother, in particular, makes her by far the most fascinating aspect of Part 2.
Her incredulous attitude to how the trial went down and the way evidence was gathered is the over-arching theme, leaving it impossible for viewers to at the very least, suspect that some sort of corruption went down. Herein likes the issue, as hard as Ricciardi and Demos try, their story has always been with the Avery/Dasseys, although they do make a point of showing an extensive list of people who they asked to be part of the documentary that refused.
No matter what you come out believing by the end, one thing is clear, this story is a long way off having an ending, which at this point - given the amount of lives that have already been destroyed - can never be a happy one.