American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing Review – An insightful and shocking docu-series

Season 1

Episode Guide

White Hat, Black Hat
The American Dream
You Can’t Interview A Corpse


The Boston Marathon Bombing was a tragedy that claimed the lives of innocent people and injured hundreds. The two subsequent blasts at the Boston Marathon were followed up by an intense police manhunt all over the State, with the bravery of different individuals leading to the arrest of the two domestic terrorists.

Netflix’s three-part docu-series sheds light on exactly what went down during the nightmarish 101 hours, with hour long episodes that work through the timeline of events and piece together what happened. The first tackles the bombings themselves, including poring over CCTV footage, setting up the Black Falcon terminal to collect evidence, and introducing a myriad of different interviews with survivors, police officers and officials in charge of the investigation.

The second chapter then turns to the manhunt for the two suspects, including an intense carjacking, a big shootout in Watertown and a little more detail surrounding the social impact of the bombing, namely that of Islamophobia creeping in as angry and scared citizens begin pointing the finger at Muslims. The third episode then continues on with this earlier thread of the manhunt, eventually leading to a dramatic and conclusive chapter, bringing this nightmare to an end.

Much like other Netflix true-crime series, this one has a tendency to repeat footage across its runtime. More specifically, the footage of the two victims “Black Hat” and “White Hat” as they’re spotted in the crowd at the Marathon dropping bags and setting off the explosives is shown numerous times. Early on, this is accompanied with neat split-screen shots and a visually impressive style to cover it u, but toward the latter periods of episode 3, when the footage is just shown as it is, it does feel like overkill.

What’s more endearing however, is the balanced perspective that this documentary takes. Not only does the series point at the difficult decisions law enforcement made to try to detain Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but also at the ineptitude of the law enforcement during this whole event.

The shootout at Watertown, for example, saw hundreds of bullets fired into town, and some of the still photos, showing off bullet holes inside houses (one mere inches above a crib) is extremely eye-opening and raises bigger questions over the police. Dzhokhar’s hiding place during the manhunt (which I won’t spoil here for those going into this without all the details) is another point of contention and in many ways, one of the glaring points of scrutiny across the entire series. While it is touched on, there isn’t anywhere near enough detail to explain how police missed this.

Beyond that though, American Manhunt has a good deal of variety to its coverage, and voices condemning or praising the police work offers a nice balance to allow you to draw your own conclusions. One of the big highlights here is the way informative diagrams, maps and surveillance footage is put together – time synced to the different events – showing how big a job this was. It’s very easy to look back in hindsight and point out the flaws in the investigation, but given some of these officers were operating with 8 hours of sleep across five days, it’s a miracle that they kept going for as long as they did.

Overall, American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon is another decent docu-series on Netflix. Although it is perhaps a tad overlong, given the way it recycles the same footage, the balanced perspective and the numerous talking head interviews, offering insightful and shocking revelations, make this a very good watch. If you’re a fan of true-crime series, you certainly won’t be disappointed with this one.

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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