There’s something just so fascinating about hearing tales of crime and murder from the perspective of the perpetrators. Whether it’s a pedophile clown or a cannibal serial killer, there’s just much more weight and substance when hearing it from the voice of the killer. This is honestly a format we’ve come to much prefer in comparison to documentaries that only piece together testimonies from tangential figures like victims, family members or law enforcement officers. One we found quite riveting was the three-episode long docuseries on the story of a young man who killed his dad. Hearing this boy describe the grizzly details of the act and context of it had us utterly hooked. So when we heard that we are getting a third season of the series “I Am a Killer”, we were thoroughly hyped for it.
This crime docuseries sees real-life prisoners on death row giving harrowing accounts of the violent crimes they’ve committed. The fact that they’re scheduled for execution creates a space for brutal honesty. The question is: Can “I Am a Killer” deliver the same hair-raising thrills as it has in its previous two seasons? Let’s find out!
Normally each season of the series would have around 10 episodes. However, due to restrictions in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re only getting 6 episodes this season. Still, in spite of the lower quantity of episodes, there are some truly heart-breaking and horrifying stories to be told here. A running theme this season is how trauma and mental illness can play a role in pushing someone towards committing heinous acts. The first episode about an abused victim, Victoria “Vicky” Smith”, who killed her partner after years of suffering really hit us in the feels. Couple that with her limited mental capacity and it creates a potent cocktail of conflict within us.
Then there are the episodes that don’t quite make us doubt our emotions but rather the reality of the situation. The second episode dives into the unusual case of Deryl Madison. Much like the second season’s Pyro Joe, Madison too was a pyromaniac who set buildings and houses on fire. The man even mastrubated while the fires consumed buildings. He also claimed that when he murdered his victim, he was not in control of himself. It was as if something had taken over his mind as he claimed. At the end of it, you’re left with this hollow feeling. A dread creeps over you because you’re not entirely sure if he’s telling the truth or not. Can someone snap like that? Or is a careful ruse? It certainly doesn’t help that he’s eerily calm throughout.
It’s within that tension where we find “I Am a Killer” the most engaging. The fourth episode of the season, “Blackout” explores a similar case with James Walker. He states that when he killed in 2001, he had completely blacked out when he did so. He claims that he has no recollection of the murder altogether. There is a possibility that past instances of physical and mental abuse had led to severe damage to his brain and psyche. Which then raises the question of nature vs nurture, and whether such individuals should be in prison at all.
Not all of the episodes though are of equal calibre. Some of them lean heavily towards an unambigous guilty verdict. Especially, when you can see some pretty hard evidence of the killer’s intention. At that point, you’re just wondering why we’re hearing them try to justify. That being said, “I Am a Killer” did not disappoint with the final episode “A Bad Day”. In this account, we hear about how David Cameron Keith kidnapped a 13-year-old boy and held him hostage. All the while trying to plan a daring escape on a plane. It was truly a spetacular series of errors.
If there’s one thing that utterly bores us to tears, it’s talking-head interviews that constantly explain a single event to death from multiple angles. Its presentation is often dull and unremarkable. Fortunately, “I Am a Killer” has continued to avoid this pitfall by keeping the format of each episode rather lean and efficient. We get to hear the overview of the story from the killers before moving on to a handful of relevant parties who were involved in their lives. Where the series does fail to innovate is in its visuals and its over-reliance on forced subtitles. They can be a useful tool in setting the scene but it quickly becomes intrusive to our sense of immersion.
We would hope that by now, “I Am a Killer” would have allocated the budget to have scenes of dramatic reenactment. We’re not asking for photo-realistic actors doing death-defying stunts. Perhaps a simple animated sequence just to give the retelling a sense of motion and excitement. You have real killers pouring through the most intimate details of their crime and you want a glorified clipshow?! At the very least, they could show some of the interrogation footage of these criminals.
In spite of a contracted season, “I Am a Killer” delivers in compelling stories from real-life prisoners on death row. In terms of visuals and aesthetics, its presentation lacks any form of meaningful innovation which limits the series’ potential. When compared to some of the sleeker Netflix true-crime docuseries, its lean format can only carry the series so far.
Still, if you true-crime fans are looking for a healthy dose stories from death row, then you can catch the third season of “I Am a Killer” on Netflix today!
Netflix's "I Am a Killer" Season 3 Review
In spite of a contracted season, "I Am a Killer" delivers in compelling stories from real-life prisoners on death row. In terms of visuals and aesthetics, its presentation lacks any form of meaningful innovation which limits the series' potential. When compared to some of the sleaker Netflix true-crime docuseries, its lean format can only carry the series so far.
- Netflix's "I Am a Killer" Season 3 Review