5 things to know about Netflix’s ‘The Sons of Sam’ docuseries 

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DAN BUFFA , SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Did David Berkowitz act alone? Or in other words, did the “Son of Sam” have an accomplice?

Along with author and investigative journalist Maury Terry, Netflix audiences are taken back to 1977, when the Jewish sociopath (allegedly) attacked people randomly eight times, killing six and injuring 13 overall. Terry was the kind of bloodhound scribe who didn’t like easy answers or dead ends. He was someone who preferred to dig and dig for more clues and some kind of heightened conspiracy, but there’s always a cost in the end for someone who goes peeking in the dark where others wouldn’t like him to.

If the new four-part docuseries, “The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Madness” is about anything, it’s about an unstoppable force in Terry going to every measure to prove that the New York City police and detectives got it wrong. Here are a few things to know before clicking PLAY.

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(Warning) Lots of devil worship and satanic discussion involved

Why exactly was he called “Son of Sam” in the first place? One of Berkowitz’s main inspirations or beliefs was that his neighbor, Sam Carr, was a demon and his dog, a black Labrador, was telling Berkowitz to kill and wreak havoc on the city. Terry’s findings led him to believe there was a cult called “The Children,” who met in an abandoned and a quite dangerous park for rituals of sacrifice and other dark deeds. If you’re turned off by devil talk and haunting visuals, pick up Terry’s book instead.

Fun Fact: The director/producer of the Netflix series is Jewish

Josh Zeman, a Long Island native, has been fascinated with true crime for decades, He produced an A&E series called “The Killing Season,” which detailed the unsolved murders of 10 sex workers between 2010-11. Like Terry, Zeman is someone who can’t turn away something that obviously stinks, as in the case is still open and killers are still loose. It must have been a cathartic endeavor to help produce this often fascinating, sometimes tedious, deep-dive into Berkowitz’s reign of terror, who helped him, and the guy who wouldn’t stop digging. There are Jewish ties all over this project; Zeman is just one link in the chain.

The focus is on Terry, not the cops or Berkowitz

While Berkowitz is mentioned and shown in each episode, the journo gets the spotlight here, for better or worse. It wasn’t like the movies, where the writer breaks the big story and the world just falls into the palm of his hand. Terry did all the leg work, tracked down clues, brought other minds into the fray, and released a top-selling novel about the demonic connections to Berkowitz and how there could have been multiple, as in more than two, killers on those dark, deadly nights in New York.

But in the end, Terry was constantly seen as the butt of the joke, which included fellow writers, the detectives on the case, and talk show hosts who brought him to privately roast him, instead of trying to understand his theories. The trouble in Terry’s battle was the hornet’s nest of fear that grew out of the killings and shootings, even after Berkowitz was imprisoned. Once fear grows on trees, it becomes hard to resist that tide of torment, and it fell on the journalist very hard. His trials and tribulations make for a more thought-provoking tale than the demonic worship aspect of the story.

Confession: It could have been three episodes instead of four

Every other docuseries has filler episodes, the ones where you feel as if the overall storytelling could have been trimmed. As I mentioned earlier, there’s lots (and lots) of demon and devil discussion. While I wanted to see more of the reaction to, and deconstruction of, Terry’s work explored even further, Zeman kept a large chunk of the third episode on restating and overly clarifying the devil links in Berkowitz (and others?) work-which can lose an audience quick. Thankfully, by the fourth and final hour, the heart of the tale (the writer whom nobody would really listen to) is restored.

Is Terry’s evidence substantial and worth diving in here?

Yes, 100%. Before I clicked on this series, I had thought the shootings and violence came at the hands of one man–but here the logical fallacies of the detective work are put on blast. One instance, in particular, confirms, via eyewitness accounts, that Berkowitz couldn’t have been at the scene of one murder because he was spotted somewhere else miles away. Yet the political powers that be, and the fragile N.Y.P.D. image squashed a lot of Terry’s theories and did everything they could to dishonor him. Yet, when you stand back and examine some of the evidence, it becomes clear as day that it wasn’t just one man. Zeman, pushing one writer’s work to the forefront, places this idea deep in our minds and it stuck–at least with me.

Fun Fact #2: The great Paul Giamatti narrates the series. I’d listen to him talk about New York-style pizza for a few hours. 

Sometimes, the truth is just too much for some people and overly protected, due to the fact that fear-mongering was and still is a real thing. Unsolved crimes eat away at some people, like Terry and Zeman. But to others, they are a scab that won’t come off the skin, a wound that won’t heal. The mayor and police didn’t want to treat this like Lee Harvey Oswald 2.0, where conspiracy theories and extended discussions about supernatural beings, even ones invading a poor dog’s soul, take over and drown simple minds in everlasting torment. Since I am also a true crime enthusiast, I found Terry’s findings to be incredible.

Go ahead and hit play tonight and tell us what you think on our Facebook page. As the Who once shouted, “we won’t be fooled again,” unless you’re the general public listening only to what the authorities tell you.