Surviving Death – Netflix Season 1 Review

Season 1

Episode Guide

Near-Death Experiences
Mediums Part 1
Mediums Part 2
Signs from the Dead
Seeing Dead People
Reincarnation

 

There’s a lot we don’t know about death. We don’t know what happens to the body after this plane of consciousness. Through the ages, there’s been thousands of different ideas and theories, ranging from the Western perception of Heaven and Hell to the Egyptian theory of your heart being weighed on Anubis’ scale against feathers. And then there’s the ideas of reincarnation, living in a computer simulation or just nothing; an endless void of blackness. Ultimately, we don’t know what happens.

The fact that Netflix’s latest docu-series Surviving Death is listed under the reality-TV category should tell you all you need to know about this one. While there are enjoyable elements of this, and just enough science to keep you watching, it’s wise to take this one with a pinch of salt. As one of the scientists tells us in the first episode “We don’t have enough evidence to say what happens” and this statement ultimately sums up the entirety of this series.

While the opening episode about NDE’s (Near Death Experiences) does quite a good job balancing things out, from here it’s all downhill as the subject of mediums, seeing dead people and past life experiences are explored. Each of these episodes take a good 10-15 minutes before even getting to the science and even then, it’s simply not enough to back up what’s being told in any great detail.

In terms of structure though, Surviving Death does do a pretty good job balancing out a number of different eye-witness accounts and ideas with the history of said chosen topic but a lot of this material isn’t particularly thought provoking or deep.

While I don’t doubt the eye-witness accounts for any of these people, the lack of critical questions or thought provoking analysis for anything that’s being said, or why so many reports are different, is a bit of a disappointment.

For the record, I do believe in life after death and in reincarnation too. Personally, I believe that when we die our past life is examined by a panel of faceless spirits or “guardian angels” that determine whether we return to this plane of existence and live again or move on to something else after completing our life’s goal. While this all sounds fantastical and far-fetched, if I said this in front of a camera you’d want scientists to question and pick apart my ideas, right?

Unfortunately, Surviving Death too often introduces us to scientists or researchers who simply sit and talk to men or women and take their word as gospel. There’s no neuro-science, no brain scans, pressing questions or body language detection.

For example, in episode 6 a boy apparently has knowledge of his past life in Hollywood. His Mother reads a letter about his experiences as a child, loving the Hollywood sign and creating his own mini-movies while playing with toys.

In a one on one interview with the scientist, this boy is asked whether he still has memories of his past life. He looks away, rolls his lips inward and casts his gaze away from the camera before uttering “Not very often.” These point toward not being truthful but it’s never once called out. And that sadly goes for a lot of what happens in this series – especially the two episodes dedicated to mediums.

Ultimately though, if you enjoy shows like Most Haunted and Ancient Aliens you’ll absolutely be in your element here. There’s enough eye-witness accounts and life stories to fill out the run-time and a minimal amount of science squeezed in to try and explain this phenomena. Unfortunately Surviving Death is nowhere near critical enough and the show is unlikely to change your opinion on death one way or another, making for a rather shallow and disappointing experience.


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  • 3.5/10
    Verdict - 3.5/10
3.5/10

6 thoughts on “Surviving Death – Netflix Season 1 Review”

  1. Interestingly these experiences happen mostly to white people who seem to be well off. What about the rest of the world? Its pseudoscience really. People need it to accept and heal loss. Interestingly spirits of homless people that had no one that missed them don’t seem to be so comunicative after they die. Mediums don’t seem to hear them as well they hear relatives of well paying customers.

  2. Hi Greg,

    I did not interpret that as being that the other 150 statements were false, just that they were not verified by the daughter. It was clear from the episode that there were things she did not know about her father which eventually came to light. So I assumed there were many more examples like that.

  3. “You’re right, the reincarnation episode does introduce some intriguing material but again it’s only relating to 2 eye-witness accounts. In fact, 30 minutes is dedicated exclusively to Ryan’s story.”

    That’s because they wanted to cover these stories in all their depth and fully lay out the details of the strongest cases, which allows for a far deeper insight into each of them and how striking they are. It does the episode far more justice than if were they to instead try and brush over a bunch of different cases in one 50 minute segment, without going into any specifics. Also, it wasn’t 2 eye-witness accounts but 4, there was also the mother and child in the beginning as well as the man who talked about being the reincarnation of a family member. The accounts of James Leininger and Ryan Hammons are what are mostly explored because those are 2 of the strongest American cases to date, so it makes sense to spend most of the episode focused on them. Although I do admit that 30 minutes for Ryan’s story alone was probably unecessary.

    “Within that, the scientist mentions he made “over 200 statements” regarding his past life and then quickly acknowledges that 50 of them were correct. If you pause the episode during the camera panning down the sheets of paper, some of these statements are ridiculously broad and generalized. “He had a maid” “He had a gun” and “He was a smoker” were three that instantly stuck out to me.”

    He actually made many statements that were specific. He gave the exact age he died despite the official death certificate of Marty Martyn being wrong about that, he correctly said that the street he lived on had the word “rock” or “mount” in it, he correctly identified that Martyn’s favorite restaurant was in Chinatown, he said that he had many wives (which is significant when you consider that only 3% of people in the US have been married 3 or more times), he said that he would travel to Paris with his wife, that he bought his daughter a dog and that she didn’t like it, that he had 2 sisters which even his daughter didn’t know about, that he loved an orange soft drink which was confirmed by his daughter, that he danced on Broadway in New York, that he ran a talent agency where people would change their names, that he had a cowboy friend who rode a horse that did tricks, and many other statements that were highly specific. It’s honestly puzzling to me that someone wouldn’t find all of this really impressive, but even moreso that you actually think they’re “ridiculously broad.”

    And the fact that he said he had a maid and was a smoker is certainly impressive when you consider that these statements had to be true of the exact person he pointed to in the picture and no one else. If he was wrong about any of those statements, that would seriously affect the credibility of the case, but he wasn’t, and if this wasn’t a genuine case of past life recall then there was a near certainty that he would be wrong about at least one of them. Not to mention that out of the 200 statements he made, most of them couldn’t be verified BECAUSE they were such specific personal details. It’s hard to think that a small child recalling a past life would even be able to recall very specific details in the first place, but even if they did, how likely is it that someone would be able to confirm them?

    “It’s also a shame they didn’t dive into South East Asia and interview people there – especially after making a point of mentioning how reincarnation cases are prevalent on that side of the world.”

    Dr. Tucker’s research is mainly focused on American cases, and it wouldn’t have been as compelling to cover stories that didn’t have the input of a specialist who actually studied and corroborated them – as far as I know, there isn’t any serious research being conducted on this phenomenon in Asia anymore.

    Funnily enough, skeptics tend to criticize and dismiss cases from Asia based on the fact that they happen in countries where reincarnation is already a commonly accepted belief, and so they’re just assumed to be a result of confirmation bias and wishful thinking on the part of the parents. So it’s actually better that the episode only focused on American stories, or else they’d get people writing articles like yours but making the opposite critique instead.   

    “I’m not discrediting either of these eye-witness accounts of course, I guess I was just disappointed with it as I hoping they’d dive into the neural science a bit more.”

    Well you’ve tried to discredit the account of Ryan in your article by suggesting that his body language is somehow indicative of being deceitful, which is not only a really weak basis for what is such a strong and harsh accusation, it’s also wildly insensitive when it’s obvious throughout the episode just how much his experiences as a child have affected him emotionally to this day. Yet somehow your first instinct is to think that, rather than that this must be a difficult topic for him to open up about, hence the uncertain body language, it’s that he’s probably just a liar? He literally starts to cry upon hearing his mother read the letter she wrote to Dr. Tucker and then later even admits he prefers not to talk about his memories, and after seeing all this you suggest that he’s being dishonest? Seriously? 

    “Do these kids have different brain waves when thinking about a past life? What about hypnosis? Could they use that to try and distinguish if the brain changes while tapping into that past life? etc. So I’m not scientist and I absolutely don’t have the answers – but sadly this show doesn’t have any either!”

    I really don’t see how any of this is particularly relevant and why you think it would be that important to conduct these kinds of neural examinations. The whole point of studying these cases is to determine their strength and validity, and the methodology for doing that primarily involves questioning the children and eye-witnesses, seeing if their statements match a historical person and if so how well, looking for extraneous variables that may have had an influence, etc.

    Looking for any changes in brain activity while they make statements about their past life, would be…interesting, I guess? This just seems like a really strange criticism to make, honestly. Like, I’m just confused as to why this would even be a point worth bringing up. At most it would be interesting to see if there are any, but it’s just so insignificant compared to actually verifying the child’s statements, how accurate they are, examining for other potential variables at play, etc. which are all by far the most important aspects about this phenomenon.

    For what it’s worth though, Jim Tucker has conducted examinations of some sort on these children, but hasn’t found anything significant other than that the children who recall these memories tend to be highly intelligent.

  4. A school for mediums in the Netherlands…the usual lineup of spirit guides and seance doowhackery..spiritual music..various voices employed..a nine year old spirit called Tommy ffs..who, incidentally, says he’s very important (in his Mickey Mouse squeak) and ‘responsible for the ectoplasm’. Total bull. And still they fall for it. This series is utter bunk.

  5. Hey Paul, thanks for commenting!

    You’re right, the reincarnation episode does introduce some intriguing material but again it’s only relating to 2 eye-witness accounts. In fact, 30 minutes is dedicated exclusively to Ryan’s story. Within that, the scientist mentions he made “over 200 statements” regarding his past life and then quickly acknowledges that 50 of them were correct. If you pause the episode during the camera panning down the sheets of paper, some of these statements are ridiculously broad and generalized. “He had a maid” “He had a gun” and “He was a smoker” were three that instantly stuck out to me. It’s also a shame they didn’t dive into South East Asia and interview people there – especially after making a point of mentioning how reincarnation cases are prevalent on that side of the world.

    I’m not discrediting either of these eye-witness accounts of course, I guess I was just disappointed with it as I hoping they’d dive into the neural science a bit more. Do these kids have different brain waves when thinking about a past life? What about hypnosis? Could they use that to try and distinguish if the brain changes while tapping into that past life? etc. So I’m not scientist and I absolutely don’t have the answers – but sadly this show doesn’t have any either!

    Thank you again for taking the time to read the review, it’s very much appreciated!

    -Greg W

  6. The first 5 episodes are wack but I don’t know how you could watch the ‘Reincarnation’ episode and disregard that material. The investigation was led and verified by a clinical psychiatrist with great mathematical probability. I don’t believe in mediums, ghosts or any of that other garbage but the scientific data on reincarnation was hard to ignore in that episode.

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