Confronting a Serial Killer Episode #1: Getting Away with Murder (2021): 7 out of 10: Author Jillian Lauren develops a relationship with suspected serial killer Samuel Little. He comes clean to her and eventually confesses to ninety-three murders.
A Fantastic Story
Sometimes life hands you a fantastic story that is almost impossible to screw up. The memoir In with the Devil: a Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption by James Keene and Hillel Levin. (Later turned into the Black Bird miniseries) where a convict is offered a deal by the FBI. Be transferred to a maximum security mental hospital and coax a confession out of a serial killer located there. If he succeeds, he walks free with a clean record. If he fails, he does the rest of his ten-year sentence in basically Arkham Asylum.
Or the documentary The Imposter about a French confidence trickster Frédéric Bourdin, who pretends to be a blonde 13-year-old boy Nicholas Patrick Barclay who had disappeared in Texas. Initially Bourdin is surprised that the family, even the boy’s mother, had accepted his ruse so easily even though he had the wrong colored eyes and was… well, a twenty-three-year-old Frenchman. Bourdin starts thinking that he is that good. He is the greatest impostor ever. Then it dawns on him while living with the family that they had murdered the boy and he was their perfect alibi. And he is trapped with them forever.
Jillian Lauren already had a similar situation with her memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem. But this is a whole other level. She develops a relationship with jailed serial killer Samuel Little who confessed to killing 93 woman. Sam has developed a relationship with Jillian. Think Hannibal Lecter with Clarice Starling but without the enemies to friends romantic payoff (Seriously read Hannibal. A lot more romance novel than the movie version)
A True Crime Podcaster’s Dream.
This the dream people. Every true crime podcaster (Which, by my reckoning, one out of every three Americans is currently a true crime podcaster.) dreams of developing such a relationship and uncovering such a treasure trove. So before I get the stick out, let me start with some serious praise. Jillian Lauren got Samuel Little taking and the tale he told (at least the killing part) seems to be backed up by the facts. If Jillian had not done what she did, it is likely that these cold cases would never be solved.
What Happened to Serial Killers?
There have been plenty of articles written about what happened to serial killers. Like airplane highjackers (With one very notable exception) and big hair, serial killers were a product of thier time. We have plenty of spree killers. Mostly lunatics with assault rifles just opening up in malls and schools, but the classic serial killer seems a thing of the past. DNA is the short answer and much better crime enforcement and longer prison sentences are another.
There have been other changes in society at large as well. We have better stranger danger than before (almost to a fault sometimes) and nobody hitchhikes (or picks up hitchhikers) anymore. To be a successful serial killer nowadays takes a lot more work and skill. Occasionally we will find a nurse killing her patients in a nursing home, but the man roaming the streets in his car looking for the next victim and terrorizing a city is, thankfully, mostly a thing of the past.
The first episode does a nice job setting everything up. Sam Little had a rap sheet that went on for pages. He was arrested in twenty-four different states. A lot of times for rape and murder. He rarely spent any time in jail. They got him for three local rape/murders in LA due to old DNA evidence, but the prosecutor had reasonable suspicions to believe (correctly) these were not his first rodeos.
Jillian first develops a pen pal relationship with Little and eventually visits him in prison. He feeds her the same line of it wasn’t me bullshit he had been using with surprising success for the last forty years. (If there is one takeaway from this movie about someone who went on trail for murder a half a dozen times and walked free, it is that the “it wasn’t me, I wasn’t there, I don’t know nothing” defense is surprisingly effective.) Or as my favorite YouTube lawyers say. “When arrested, Shut the Fuck Up.”
Jillian’s Story Part One of a Hundred.
We also get some background on Jillian Lauren, who decided she liked heroin more than college. She became a sex worker and rode that high end escort job to a gig with Jefri Bolkiah, Prince of Brunei. She also had an abusive boyfriend that, for a woman, making terrible decisions and addicted to heroin is somewhat predictable. If you think she is going to link her experience to those of the street hooker from an impoverished background that Sam Little prayed on? Well, you win the prize. If you think the episode spends a little too much time on Jillian’s emotional journey with a run of the mill awful boyfriend? Well, you have seen nothing yet.
Truth is, Jillian Lauren is a lot. I will go into more details as I review the other four episodes, but the groundwork is laid down here. Confronting a Serial Killer is as much the Jillian Lauren story as it is a story about a serial killer that killed 93 people. We get seemingly endless shots of Jillian being emotional and talking about how important her work is.
Admittedly, it isn’t all Jillian crying and hand wringing on camera and we travel to Mississippi, where Samuel Little beat the rap for rape, attempted murder, and murder. Jillian, armed with some new information, asks Sam (Who at this point has refused to even admit anything to do with the crimes he is in jail for with the DNA evidence) to just confess and tell his story. The dam opens up and Sam begins to weave his tale.
The first episode is fascinating and ends on a cliffhanger. Alas, a lot of the problems with the series are, upon reflection, very visible here. Like Sam Little’s killing spree, this only gets worse. Still an entertaining first episode of a story that one would have to work very hard to screw up.
Next time I go down to that one street where the hookers are, I need to remember the “I am doing a documentary” excuse.
Hunting seems a strong term. Researching may be more appropriate.
Sam Little’s victims lived a very different life and were in a very different place than our intrepid investigator. Something that comes to the fore in surprisingly tone deaf ways as the series progresses.
Yes, Sam Little sends her sketches of all his victims drawn from memory. Along with letters that would make an incel blush. We will see more of this in future episodes.
I need to walk a fine line because while I find some of Jillian Lauren’s histrionics over the top, one has to acknowledge how dangerous and creepy this guy she is interacting with is. And in reality, how going deep into the mind and actions of such a person would certainly affect someone.
The jail where Jillian meets with Sam Little. Being a documentary in 2021, we have to use that camera technique to make everything look a little like one is photographing a model railroad. It is such a common technique (Like words written on the screen) it is downright cliche at this point.
Confronting a Serial Killer uses this a technique constantly with every establishing shot.
Scott Shriner, the current bassist for Weezer, is a saint. Seriously. Patience of Job.