Damson - What we're watching #26
"Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez" is the latest in the long line of programming that Neflix does so well. It draws a very, very complicated picture of the late NFL superstar Aaron Hernandez, and how he ended up going from having the world at his feet to being in prison for murder. It's not an easy watch, but if you are a fan of these sorts of documentaries, it is essential viewing.
The story works its way from Hernandez's childhood, his school footballing career, his move to Florida university to play and finally his signing with the New England Patriots. There were numerous red flags around his upbringing, but his talent on the field allowed him to live somewhat of a double life: One as an NFL megastar, and one as a wannabe gangster. Of course, we all know this lead to multiple revelations, murders and eventually his own suicide.
Just how the hell was this allowed to happen? This three-part docuseries tries to shed some light.
These sort of programmes will always try to ask "why", but also shine a spotlight on the victims too. One of the problems with "Killer Inside" is that it seems so obsessed with the "why" that it forgets to focus on the victims at all.
Why did this pro-sportsman that had everything going for him kill his friend Odin Lloyd and (maybe) two other random nightclub patrons in Boston? Was it his CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy)? Was it his prolific cannabis spoking? Was it his (alleged) homosexuality that caused him to lash out and be unable to contain his emotions? The series knows as much as the viewer, to be honest. It is all speculation with no hard facts. That doesn't make it any less of an interesting and enjoyable watch though.
This occupies a strange place in amongst the true-crime documentaries on Netflix, because Hernandez wasn't a notoriously terrible criminal. He was impulsive, sloppy, and seemed unable, or unwilling to attempt to cover up his tracks. There's not really any mystery for the viewer to solve, so the documentary simply speculates while failing to really nail down what his motivations were.
The documentary takes a real risk by focussing on the story that Hernandez was a closeted homosexual, and interviews a former teammate of his and claims to have been a former lover. This adds weight to the theory that Hernandez murdered Odin Lloyd because he found out the secret about his sexuality that he has kept under wraps for years. This seemed like it didn't need to have so much time, and more time should have been sent on what we DO know: That he suffered terribly with CTE, which meant his brain was more damaged than anyone's should be at his age, and this likely meant he struggled with his impulse control and his moral compass was pretty off.
The series is at it's best when dissects the culture of American Football, and particularly the role the New England Patriots may have played in enabling what happened. The revelation that the administration got Hernandez his own apartment where he essentially hid from his family and smoked cannabis constantly can't have helped at all. There have been other stories over the years that show the NFL has on occasion "failed" it's players. Aaron Hernandez was one of those. They had ample opportunity to get him help, but he was too much of a valuable commodity to keep away from the game while he got the help he so clearly needed. From the few interviews that we do get with people inside the sport, you get a sense that they thought he was a car crash happening in slow motion before their very eyes that they were unable to stop.
"Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez" is a fascinating watch, but after three hours you know about as much as you did before, which is only what has been reported in the media. Perhaps we will never know the true story.
March 14, 2020