Netflix’s ‘Murdaugh Murders’ docuseries delves deep into the shocking southern scandal


Photo courtesy of Netflix

The promotional poster for “Murdaugh Mysteries: A Southern Scandal” shows a close up of Alex Murdaugh eyes to make viewers feel uncomfortable and as if they are looking directly at a murderer.

By Rachel Mattison, Online EIC

At the intersection of crime, political power, curiosities, southern tradition and family dynamics lays the State v. Murdaugh case. The trial, which found Alex Murdaugh guilty of murdering his wife and son, captivated the nation because of the monstrous crime and its compounding layers. On Feb. 22, as the trial inside the courtroom was winding down, “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” was released on Netflix. 

The docuseries dives into the many mysterious deaths with ties to the family, including Alex’s wife and son, Maggie and Paul. Over three episodes the show gives background to who the family was and their prominence and then talks about four different instances of death tied to the Murdaugh family. While never explicitly saying it, the show does imply that the Murdaugh family is in some way implicated with all of the deaths and that Alex is the killer of Maggie and Paul.

The series mainly focuses on a 2019 boating accident in which Paul Murdaugh drove a boat into a bridge and killed Mallory Beach. Through interviews with the other four teens that were on the boat that night and their parents, the docuseries gives context as to who Paul Murdaugh was, his drinking habits and explains what happened the night of the boating accident. 

The show does a good job of giving viewers a detailed picture of events that occurred while handling the topic of death sensitively. They include details to give a sense of what was happening and use security camera footage from the night to let viewers feel as if they are in the situation. Many of these details come from Mallory’s close friends and the docuseries does not prod interviewees to talk about anything more than they are comfortable with. The docuseries also highlights Mallory and the friendships involved in order to honor her life. 

Creating cinematography for the show was a tough feat given the show is about events that occurred before the show was being made and when filming was not happening. In order to compensate for this, producers used a mix of security camera footage from the nights of events, reenacted scenes, photos and interviews. Switching between all of these mediums helped to keep viewers extremely invested in the show. 

A crucial piece to the show’s massive success is the timeliness in which it was released. The murder of Paul and Maggie occurred on June 7, 2021, but it was not until July 14, 2022 that Alex Murdaugh was indicted on counts of their murder. The national attention for this case, enough to inspire a documentary, was not drummed up immediately, so it was a quick turnaround for the show to be made. It was released on Feb. 22, 10 days before the trial ended. People’s curiosities were piqued across the country at who this man was and what had happened, a perfect environment for the docuseries to be released to. Once released it became a Top 10 show on Netflix. 

One pitfall of the show is how one-sided the narrative was. The Murdaugh family is portrayed to be manipulative of the law and use generational power to get away with illegal activities. In addition to the negative light the family was described in, Alex Murdaugh appears guilty of the murders of Maggie and Paul by the evidence presented in the show. Including interviews by other members of the Murdaugh family so they could defend themselves and incorporating evidence that the defense team used to try and prove Alex’s innocence would have allowed viewers to come to their own conclusions.

In addition to the various murders linked to the Murdaughs, the docuseries covers their generational power in the low country of South Carolina. Power, both who has it and how they got it, has been a heavily discussed topic in the US recently with movements such as Black Lives Matter. The Murdaugh family had run a large and important law firm for many years and also held positions in the state’s office such as Solicitor. A family of such community prominence being taken down adds even more interest to the case. 

“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” allows viewers to understand the State v. Murdaugh trial that has engrossed many and gain a broader view of the family other than this one case. Through interviews and research, viewers gain a much better understanding of the Murdaugh families outside of just their speculations and curiosities. 

A case that captivated the nation, this docuseries did an effective job of engaging that audience and turning it into a successful show.