By Caoimhe Maclochlainn
The Netflix true-crime docuseries industrial complex shows no sign of taking a break,
and they are now almost renowned for this type of content. After shows like Night Stalker: The
Hunt for a Serial Killer and Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel made their way up
the popular streaming service’s Top 10 list earlier this year, this new series for true crime junkies
has similarly followed the same path.
It was the summer of 1976 and New York City was terrorized by a man who called
himself the Son of Sam. Investigative journalist Maury Terry became convinced that a serial
killer, by the name of David Berkowitz, did not act alone. Terry spends decades of his life
attempting to prove that all of the darkness behind the Son of Sam murders goes deeper than
anyone imagined — and inevitably his investigation costs him everything.
Berkowitz confessed to the 8 shootings in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn – targeting
young couples together in parked cars and also young women. It was safe to say the whole of
New York City were holding their breath up until the conviction of the 24-year-old from Yonkers.
The first episode of the four-part docuseries centres around the .44-calibre shootings and the
effects they had; so much so that women were cutting their hair and dying it blonde because
they believed the killer’s MO was attractive young women with long dark hair.
The NYC population could breathe again after the conviction of Berkowitz. Until Maury
Terry realised that this man did not even slightly resemble the composite sketches based on
eye-witness accounts of the shooter.
The director, Joshua Zeman, allegedly became friends with Terry in the final years of his
life, but kept from adding his own personal touch in the portrayal of Maury Terry. Zeman spoke
about this in his new introduction to a new edition of Terry’s book “The Ultimate Evil”. The
imagery used in the series had a lot of visual resemblance to that of typical true crime docs on
Netflix. He describes what Terry was like through interviews with friends and relatives, including
Terry’s ex-wife, Georgiana, and his lifelong friend Charlie Ott. The impersonal angle dominates
the potential this series had. Zeman had the privilege of knowing Terry personally and could
have taken a more unique, perhaps even moving, spin on things.
The last three episodes follow Terry as he attempts to uncover a conspiracy that
connects Berkowitz to other killings, Charles Manson, and a Satanic cult. He published his
evidence in a book, “The Ultimate Evil.” However, with the tabloid essence of his findings, and
the lack of cooperation from the police force alongside the resistance from political figures to
reopen the case, Terry was out of the public interest and deeper into what his friends described
as a rabbit hole. He began to rely on alcohol, and his marriage fell apart. After years of affliction
from not getting the answer or recognition he longed for, Terry died in 2015.
Was Maury Terry chasing ghosts? Was Berkowitz simply feeding his narrative? Was
Terry himself simply a victim of the Son of Sam… so many questions left unanswered in this
docuseries that can only lead to a feeling of inevitable disappointment. There are so many
theories that as viewers we latch onto – however they will only ever be theories and this is
presented when Zeman appears to struggle to end the last episode in a manner that is a
The revelation uncovered about the security guard in 2018 being featured at the end
might be enough to persuade one to watch the series; it is truly heartbreaking that Maury Terry
was not alive to see that at least one of his theories was proved to be true.
Watch now on Netflix, May 5 2021
“The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness” Reviewed
By Caoimhe Maclochlainn