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The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

Unmasking the Murdaughs

A look inside the twisted world of a powerful southern family with a dark secret
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Photo Courtesy of IMDb
Seven months after the initial release of Season 1, “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” returned for a second in September of 2023.

With a century-old family dynasty, a series of callous murders and secrets larger than their legacy itself, the Murdaugh family have progressively set a not-so-pleasant name for themselves over the last four years

Various sorts of series and films have been produced following the tales of the Murdaugh family murders along with other deaths closely connected to these individuals, however, on Sept. 20, Netflix released a second season to the most captivating documentary of them all.

“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” is a two-season series that courses through the most significant events to have taken place within the so-called “scandal”. Season 1 to the documentary introduced audiences to the Murdaugh family legacy and the power they hold within their small South Carolina community while also glazing over the infamous boating incident of 2019. Season 2 centers around the Murdaugh family patriarch, Alex Murdaugh, a prominent lawyer and member of a powerful legal dynasty. The Murdaughs have been known to influence the justice system in South Carolina for decades, and the documentary delves into the controversial history that has allowed them to maintain their position of power and influence.

Episode 1, “A Normal Day,“ commences with a rather intense, true crime-like display of scenes. A police body cam shows officers probing the murder scene of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh on their Moselle estate as husband and father, Alex Murdaugh, weeps in horror. Quickly pivoting to a distressing 911 phone call from Mr. Murdaugh after “discovering” his wife and son, we get a gory inside look into just how these murders were really executed as the focus quickly shifts to Alex himself, and in particular, to his alibi for the evening in question.

Continuing, the episode takes a closer look at the killings themselves and unravels both why and how Alex became the leading suspect in this double murder investigation. Hearing from numerous sources through interview questionnaires and story-telling segments, audiences get the chance to unravel the story for themselves and depict what they believe took place. 

The entirety of Episode 1 relies immensely on the fresh voices and new stories introduced within the episodes. I noticed that each interviewee piggybacks off of one another, contributing to the storyline as a whole, which is what really made the series as interesting as it was. From the use of real-time footage to exchanged phone calls, audiences receive the full, unfiltered details that accompany this tragedy with both precision and emotion.

Season 2, Episode 2, “Alex’s Albi “ gives a more thorough look into the backstory behind Maggie and Paul’s murders. We discover more insight into Alex’s behaviors both before and after the murders took place. Taking into account Alex’s potent opioid addiction as well as his abundance of financial troubles, it was without a doubt that Alex had a significant motive behind the heinous crimes he committed. This episode in particular dives deep into the investigation process, using expert opinions and police interrogation videos in order to raise startling questions about Alex Murdaugh and his grim past of money embezzlement and crime.  

Every segment displayed throughout Episode 2 in particular was nothing less than extremely bizarre and especially endearing, putting audiences in an investigative viewpoint to be able to entirely understand the circumstances of the case. Even though I had already previously known the outcome of Alex’s trial, the first two episodes provided a plethora of sordid drama to fuel the unanswered questions I had as the storyline stretched on. 

In the final episode of the series, “A Tangled Web We Weave,” silence is broken by a Murdaugh relative, “Cousin Eddie,” as he reveals questionable intuitive information about him and Alex’s relationship. Further concerns are raised in the courtroom while Alex takes the stand in a plea of innocence. However, evidence found on Paul’s phone put Alex at the scene of the crime, indicating that he’d deliberately lied about his whereabouts. It may have all been circumstantial, but it was enough to earn him an instant guilty verdict and a life sentence. The struggle between what is morally right and what is necessary to protect his family is prominently tested throughout the series of his trial, and we as the audience get to see that unfold within him. 

At this point in the documentary, everyone is questioning Alex’s innocence. Suspicions continue to arise, depicting whether this world-famous lawyer-turned-criminal will be charged for the crimes he’s committed as the episode rolls on. From the financial embezzlement of his clientele to the allegations of murder against his own family, the verdict of his case was more than well deserved in my opinion. We also witness the intricate examination of the history of the legal dynasty behind the family, and how they used their power to shape the justice system in their favor. The film puts the spotlight on the intersections of race, politics and power that have enabled the Murdaughs to maintain their prominence in the field of law. 

Overall, “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” is a dark, yet compelling story that shines a light on the underbelly of South Carolina’s justice system. The film exposes a corrupt and crooked system that has allowed the powerful Murdaugh family to wield their influence for too long, at the expense of the people they were supposed to serve. The tragic nature of the crime, coupled with the peculiar details surrounding the case, has left many people searching for closure. Such a gripping tale of crime, corruption, and power with so many unanswered questions still surfacing leaves viewers wondering if the full story will ever be uncovered.  

5/5

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About the Contributor
Carley Bailey, Staff Reporter
Carley is a senior starting up her third year on the Millard West CATalyst staff. She enjoys drawing, painting, writing, and listening to all sorts of music in her free time, when she’s not spending time with her close friends. This school year, she’s looking forward to writing plenty of entertainment and opinion pieces and hopes to return to State Journalism for the second year in a row.

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