The monster of Milwaukee

Netflix features an authentic take on the Jeffrey Dahmer story


Photo courtesy of IMDb

On Sept 21, this dark and twisted Netflix mini series captivated audiences from all over.

Carley Bailey, Staff Reporter

Ever since the notorious Milwaukee cannibal, Jeffery Dahmer, was taken into custody in July of 1991, endless movies and documentaries have been made about his early upbringing and life as a killer. However, none have compared to the 2022 Netflix limited series, “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” 

Released in September, this true crime hit follows the infamous serial killer, cannibal, and necrophiliac, along with his victims through their lives in the late 20th century. Consisting of just 10 episodes, each about an hour long, viewers got the opportunity to learn about Dahmer’s victims and their individual stories, shedding light on this national era of both grief and despair. 

In the bustling city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the “Dahmer” series begins at the end of his murderous career in 1991. The opening scene of episode 1 consists of Dahmer (Evan Peters) carelessly cleaning his bloody electric tools as his neighbor, Glenda Cleveland (Niecy Nash), listens intently through the vents. He lights a cigarette between his fingers, gulps down a cold beer and heads for the door. In the hallway, Dahmer has a short encounter with Cleveland about the bad odor emanating from his apartment, insisting that we would get it dealt with. As he continues out the door and into the night, we get a glimpse of two missing person posters while the camera pans to Dahmer passing by.

This opening scene to the series was perfectly displayed with just the right amount of suspicion and discomfort to keep audiences attentive. The bloody tools, the smell, the missing person posters, everything about this scene delivered an efficient foreshadow to what the series entails. Not only were the hints intriguing, but the acting was a major hook for watchers as well. Seeing Evan Peters truly immerse himself into the role of a clinical psychopath just within the first few minutes had everyone desperate to see his story unravel. 

Later in the night, Dahmer picks up Tracy Edwards (Shaun J. Brown) at a Milwaukee bar and leads him back to his dingy apartment. However, a blood drenched drill, a rancid stench, and a mysterious blue shipping drum were enough to leave Edwards bolting for the door. In a fight for survival, he manages to escape from the apartment and track down some policemen in the street.  Never would any of them have expected to discover the remains of 11 out of 17 victims while investigating Dahmer’s apartment. 

Within the next few episodes, the story traces Dahmer’s evolution from a young boy with a broken family to an adolescent with a strange interest in animal dissection. We get to see his relationships with his drug-addicted mother, Joyce (Penelope Ann Miller) and stern, yet caring father, Lionel (Richard Jenkins). Between overdoses and divorce, Dahmer’s childhood and adolescence is told through an unseen perspective, showing how his upbringing may have played a role in the heinous events to come. 

Episode 2, “Please don’t go,” really dug deep into Dahmer’s background and made audiences realize that he probably wasn’t always the emotionless monster he became later on in life. With this, it’s easy to wonder: Where did it all go wrong? What made Dahmer do the things he did? But truly, there’s no easy answer and this episode made that very clear. 

Continuing on through his early twenties, Dahmer lives with his grandmother, Catherine (Michael Learned), and works as a butcher at a nearby meat shop. As the episode progresses, the timeline jumps to 1991 where we see one of his victims, lifeless on his apartment bed as he heads out to claim his next. In the following scene, Dahmer is seen walking to a local liquor shop where he encounters four boys hoping to score some booze. He offers them a bottle if they come back to his apartment to “party hardy.” Bribed by 100 bucks, 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone (Kieran Tamondong) follows Dahmer back, oblivious to what was soon to come. 

Out of all the episodes, this one had to be the hardest for me to watch. Not only did I find the fact that Konerak was only 14 years old extremely unsettling, but also the fact that he managed to escape Dahmer’s grasp just to be returned right back to him by Milwaukee police officers. This just comes to show how ignorant and unconcerned these police officers were at the time. Konerak was barely responsive, slurring his words, and yet they still chose to believe that this young boy was Dahmer’s boyfriend. This whole situation had me at the brink of tears, knowing that he had his whole life ahead of him and that it was so easily taken from him by nothing less than a monster of a man. 

In the majority of Episode 3, “Doin’ a Dahmer,” we witness the divorce of Dahmer’s parents as both his mother and father leave him alone at home for three continuous months. During this time, we see his first official attempt at abducting a young runner on the side of the road. Although unsuccessful, a few days later he unintentionally stumbles across an 18-year-old hitchhiker hoping to get a ride to a concert with his friends. Dahmer proceeds to lure the clueless young hippie, Steven Hicks (Dave Sorboro), back to his family home. After a treacherous fight for survival, Hicks became the first of Dahmer’s victims.

Although the series jumps to different points in time frequently, it does so in a way that isn’t confusing or odd. If anything the cuts to various points in time add to the plotline and enhance the show’s flow between episodes. 

Nearly 10 years after claiming his first victim, Dahmer committed his second unplanned murder. Episode 4, “The Good Boy Box,” follows along as Dahmer meets 24-year-old Steven Tuomi (Vince Hill Bedford) at the club. While drinking and dancing the night away, they both decided getting a hotel room together would be a good idea. However, after accidentally drugging both of their drinks, Dahmer wakes up the next morning to Tuomis lifeless body lying next to him with no recollection of the night before. 

In summary of the next few episodes, the same cycle of “seduce, kill, dismember” occurs while following the lives of each Dahmer victim. We see numerous young men fall victim to his sick and twisted games, along with a few men that managed to escape his grasp. Even after being reported several times, Dahmer received as much as a slap on the wrist as punishment and was set free back into society, giving him the opportunity to claim even more lives of innocent men. 

The way Netflix presented the economical injustice during this time in each and every episode really emphasized the impact on audiences. Seeing how the advantage of a white man during this time affected so many lives was so eye-opening. Dahmer could have been caught so easily, but because police officers didn’t care as much for these socially disadvantaged men of color, Dahmer was able to continue his murderous streak. 

In episode 7, “Cassandra” we see a change in perspective as audiences are now seeing the point of view of Glenda Cleveland and her experience living next to a deranged serial killer.  From rancid smells to sounds of screaming and power tools, Cleveland was the one to witness a majority of the murders without even realizing it. Although she tried contacting authorities on a number of different occasions, nothing was ever done about her reports and Dahmer continued to run free.

The last episodes of the series trace through Lionel’s impact on Dahmer’s life,  the victims’ families attempts at resuming normal life, and Dahmer’s experiences in prison. However, in episode 10, “God of Forgiveness, God of Vengeance,” his prison time is cut short as he is murdered brutally by another inmate. 

This mind-altering, extremely well written crime drama presented Dahmer’s story with both precision and respect. Producers did an amazing job at not “romanticizing” Dahmer’s legacy and who he was as a person.  They also managed to tackle the societal issues during this time and the impact they had on people during this era. These justice system inadequacies at the time allowed Dahmer to kill for as long as he did and hurt countless lives in the process.