Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal (2023)

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8.0 Overall Score

One of those one shocking thing after another

Feels like it could have waited for the trial to be over

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So unbelievable that you have to believe it…

The wreck of a boat on the night of February 23, 2019 leaves a young woman named Mallory Beach missing and presumed dead, and lots of questions about the driver of the boat.  Accused by the survivors in Paul Murdaugh whose family is among the upper class of South Carolina where his father Alex Murdaugh is a member of a family law firm dealing with high stakes clients and trials.  The Murdaughs are known by everyone, and their reputation and personalities (and wealth) precede them.  When tragedy strikes a second time, the Murdaughs’ past begin to surface and a case of the elite, intimidation, and potential murder surface that have remained unspoken in the Lowcountry…will Alex Murdaugh face justice?

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The first (public) victim of a chain of death

Murdaugh Murders:  A Southern Scandal is a Netflix true-crime documentary series.  The three part series was released on February 22, 2023 and presents the case against Alex Murdaugh and members of his family following accusations of multiple crimes before the completion of the trial in South Carolina which began on January 25, 2023.

I heard bits and pieces of the Murdaugh saga when it was happening.  The initial murders of Paul Murdaugh and Maggie Murdaugh on June 7, 2021 was a “that seems pretty fishy” moment from the onset…even without the background information.  The Netflix series provides the background information…and accusations and revelations against the Murdaugh family just got weirder and worse.

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May not have been good people…but didn’t deserve what they got

The initial crime that brought the attention was bad enough and was seen as a case of an affluent youth who was given special treatment when anyone else would just go to jail.  Video of Paul Murdaugh shows someone who is out of control and free to do what he pleases because he has money…and anyone can pay.  I do feel that there is some culpability on Paul’s friends for enjoying the benefits of Paul’s lifestyle (would anything have changed if Mallory hadn’t died?) but that doesn’t equate the punishment that they all received.  It is a valuable less that will change their lives forever, but it isn’t necessarily a lesson that should have happened.

The second shocking death (or deaths) covered in Murdaugh Murders:  A Southern Scandal are that of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh.  Both people were painted pretty poorly in the documentary, but the documentary does manage to make you shelve your schadenfreude because despite “getting comeuppance” no one deserves to die like they did and very likely at the hands of someone they loved and trusted.  I doubt we’ll know what ever really happened…but it shouldn’t have happened.

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Suspicious but much harder to prove…

All of this rests on the shoulders of Alex Murdaugh who does suffer from addiction…but his past and his family did not allow him to even consider the idea of treatment.  Name and stature seems to be put above health and what is morally right.  Murdaugh and everyone seemed to know he had a problem…and if anyone could have afforded to get help it was him…but it leads to the almost more shocking aspect of the documentary.

The documentary’s deeper dive into the Murdaughs past bad behavior seems to be the biggest revelation.  While I had heard about the housekeeper Gloria Satterfield (which was bad but harder to definitively prove), I had not heard the particularly damning story of Stephen Smith which not only implicated Alex, but other in his family…and another senseless murder.  With Morgan Doughty (who seems like a reliable witness) mentioning how frankly the Murdaughs discussed the murder (while they still denying it), it shows their moral standings and does open them up for being involved in it.

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Seems like there will be more investigations regardless of the outcome of Alex Murdaugh’s trial…rightfully so

The documentary itself is rather standard.  There are some recreations, the typical interviews with dramatic framing and shots, and clips of audio and video from some of the events.  There is so much juicy content to the series that it probably could have been longer, but it is also pleasantly surprising to have a shorter format Netflix series.

The biggest weakness of Murdaugh Murders:  A Southern Scandal is the choice to release it before the trial of Paul Murdaugh is over.  I am assuming a potential fourth or fifth episode might sometime be released (or a separate series), but it feels like they could have waited for the case to finish up.  Releasing the series during the high profile trial feels like opportunism, but if it had been released immediately after the trial would have felt the same…which is ironic since someone else is finally banking on the Murdaughs’ name.

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“Where Is Mallory?”

Episode 1        Where Is Mallory? Release Date:  02/22/23

The Murdaughs members of the elite in South Carolina.  They are wealthy landowners who are tight with the community and the authorities.  A night out with Paul Murdaugh and his friends leads to a crash…and the disappearance of Malory Beach.  With Mallory gone in the darkness, the driver of the boat during the incident is in question…and a cover-up begins.

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“Murders at Moselle”

Episode 2        Murders at Moselle Release Date:  02/22/23

Mallory Beach is missing and presumed dead as the search turns into a recovery.  Alex Murdaugh begins to work to cover his son’s tracks and keep Paul out of jail.  Mark Tinsley is brought in to represent the victims of case and finds he’s facing a cover-up through science as the Murdaughs begin to face accusations of special treatment.  On June 7, 2021, Paul Murdaugh and his mother Maggie Murdaugh are murdered…and suspicion rises.  Stories of past events in the Murdaughs’ lives are reexamined.

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“No Secrets Are Safe”

Episode 3        No Secrets Are Safe Release Date:  02/22/23

The death of a boy named Stephen Smith on July 8, 2015 implicates a potential relationship with Buster Murdaugh, and the fall of the Murdaughs’ housekeeper Gloria Satterfield on February 2, 2018 followed by her death on February 26, 2018 raises red flags.  Alex Murdaugh is discovered to have been stealing from clients of his law office and the shooting of Alex on the side of the road on September 4, 2021 is claimed as a drive-by shooting.  With more and more discoveries being revealed, Alex Murdaugh’s days of escaping the law could be over.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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