Murder on 42nd St.
The Perfect Hunting Ground
End of an Era
Following on from the polarizing effort of The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, The Times Square Killer is the next in Netflix’s Crime Scene series. This is a decidedly more grim and sinister case too, focusing on a killer that ravaged Times Square back in the 1970’s and 80s’.
Dubbed the “Torso Killer”, this predator infamously preyed on women, fulfilling his grotesque fantasies while evading police, who likened finding the real killer to finding a needle in a haystack.
For those unaware of the case, The Times Square Killer is a decent three episode dive into the culture and mood that gripped New York during this time period, fleshed out to reveal most of the key points regarding the killer’s bloody spree.
At the center of this is Richard Cottingham, the man given his grisly nickname of Torso Killer. He was known for dismembering and decapitating his victims, who were also mostly sex workers. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’d also burn their torsos.
It’s honestly a grim case, although this show does flirt the line between over-dramatizing parts of this story and not fleshing out more thematic parts of the investigation, including some pretty questionable police work at times.
The three episodes do form a cohesive whole, with the first working to set the scene for Times Square in 1979 as police stumble upon a “hotel room from hell”.
The second episode then turns its attention to the investigation as a whole, while similar murders cropping up in New Jersey. The third and final episode then focuses on apprehending and arresting Richard Cottingham, which is only made possible thanks to two brave women.
The episodes include the usual array of talking head interviews, with both investigators at the time, victims, and experts lending their voices to the story. Alongside that is a fair amount of archival footage from the time too, including establishing shots of Times Square and news reels from local news outlets.
With only three episodes, the show never outstays its welcome and manages to tell this story in a decent amount of detail without retreading too many facts and figures across each chapter. As I mentioned before, it would have been nice to see the show dive into the psyche of prostitution, how this has affected the trade as a whole and how dangerous it still is to be a sex worker. Alas, there’s not much of that here.
If you’re a fan of true crime documentaries and are looking for a grisly case to dive into, The Times Square Killer has enough to make for an engrossing watch. It’s a big step up from the Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel but not quite as good as some of the other offerings on Netflix.
Verdict - 7/10