Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, Netflix‘s docuseries about the crimes of South Carolina aristocratic lawyer Alex Murdaugh, is often a frustrating experience. By insisting upon jumping right into the details of this very current case before the proverbial bodies are even cold, Murdaugh Murders falls well short of the definitive standard viewers look for in a true crime documentary.
Season 1 of the series, which premiered in February of this year, did a solid enough job of capturing the context of what made this Murdaugh story so fascinating. We delved into those particular details over here but here’s a TL;DR all the same. The Murdaughs are a dynastic political family from the low country of South Carolina. On Feb. 23, 2019, powerful lawyer Alex Murdaugh’s teenage Paul made news by accidentally killing one of his friends while operating a boat under the influence of alcohol. While that story was big enough to begin with, it quickly blossomed into an even grander true crime case culminating with Alex allegedly killing Paul and his wife Maggie near the dog kennels of their hunting lodge.
But that’s really only the half of it. There is so much going on in the complicated case of the Murdaugh family – from decades of political corruption to rampant drug use to embezzlement of clients’ funds to maybe even another murder or two. By presenting season 1 before Alex Murdaugh’s trial even began, the docuseries inevitably locked itself into covering that trial in season 2 rather than continuing to pull on all the other fraying threads in the Murdaugh’s rich tapestry of bullshit.
Unfortunately for Murdaugh Murders, the trial for Paul and Maggie’s murders isn’t that compelling – save for one Perry Mason moment in which Alex was caught in a lie thanks to a dog named Bubba. The jury takes but an hour before calling it a day and dialing up a guilty verdict. Add in the fact that any viewer interested in the Murdaugh case had already watched the publicly available trial months earlier and season 2 of this Netflix doc seems like a real waste.
Or at least it would have been if it weren’t for one brilliant scene in the beginning of episode 2.
The opening minutes of Murdaugh Murders‘ second episode “Alex’s Alibi” pick up with a grim example of how the public’s fascination with true crime can lead to some less than classy behavior. On March 16, 2023, two years after Paul and Maggie’s murder, Netflix’s cameras are present at the Liberty Auction House in Pembroke, Georgia where Murdaugh case “fans” bid on all manner of items from the family’s household.
Augmented with TikTok footage from users @wendymobley498, @storkrn1, and @danielcraigh820, Murdaugh Murders watches as the crowd of over 700 people places their bids on artifacts like Maggie’s dishes, bicycle, and turtle shell lamps (which are admittedly pretty great). One Murdaugh enthusiast named Dawn Martin even purchases a Murdaugh family vacuum with a bag still intact that she’s excited to dig through.
Murdaugh Murders doesn’t explicitly pass judgment on any of the folks gathered at Liberty Auction House (aside from snitch tagging those TikTok accounts) but it doesn’t really need to to get the point across. It’s a bit gross. Benign in the grand scheme of things, maybe, but gross all the same.
The concept of “true crime souvenirs” is nowhere near a recent phenomenon. As far back as the 1600s, revelers in the macabre would gather at public executions with the hope of getting to bring a piece of the gallows home with them. Items belonging to 1950s body snatcher Ed Gein were put up for auction in 2015. You can literally buy Jeffrey Dahmer’s urn right now (please don’t).
Still, as is often does, the existence of the internet makes this timeless practice feel even more insidious than it already is. It’s one thing to acquire true crime relics. It’s another thing entirely to do so with the support, adulation, and attention of millions of social media users. Presenting that reality in such a stark light is Murdaugh Murders season 2’s finest moment.
Both seasons of Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal are available to stream on Netflix now.