‘Law & Order True Crime’ Season 1, Episode 8: The Sins of the Fathers (Published 2017) (2024)



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‘Law & Order True Crime’ Season 1, Episode 8: The Sins of the Fathers (Published 2017) (1)

By Austin Considine

‘The Menendez Murders,’ Episode 8

Why do people kill other people? Circ*mstantially, they have countless reasons, as the Menendez brothers had theirs. But as the Pulitzer-winning writer Richard Rhodes argues in his book “Why They Kill,” the popular notion that any regular person is capable of killing under the right circ*mstances is likely false — it takes a lot to turn someone into a killer. Even seemingly obvious exceptions dissolve under scrutiny. Pointing to a study of 27,574 muskets recovered from the battlefield at Gettysburg, Rhodes notes that nearly 90 percent of the weapons, which are muzzle-loaded and fired one round at a time, were found still loaded. Over 12,000 of them were found still packed with more than one musket ball, some with as many as ten. It’s one thing to load a weapon — no one wants to look like a coward in battle. It’s another to actually look in someone’s eyes and shoot him.

Rhodes draws primarily from research by the criminologist Lonnie Athens, whose theories suggest that a violent criminal must pass through several specific stages of “violentization” in order to be capable of criminal violence: A person doesn’t “just snap” or kill for passion or money without already possessing a complex violent history. “The Menendez Murders” has likewise asserted that killers are made — and that the process is a long, painful and often atavistic one, as the cascade of dark revelations in the season finale suggests. Leslie Abramson puts it mildly when she says that the abuse allegedly suffered by the Menendez boys “derailed their development.” Quoting Philip Larkin, her husband puts it better, in what could serve as the tagline for the episode and for the entire series: “Man hands on misery to man.”

Anyone with a passing familiarity with the Menendez brothers case knows the gist of the major developments in the concluding episode: The brothers were each convicted of first-degree murder in their second trial, in 1996, and they managed to escape the death penalty; they’ve been in separate prisons ever since. That made this episode something of a diminuendo — a comedown from the intensity of Episodes 6 and 7.

But it left room for the writers to enlarge the moral scope of the trial, which, this being a true-crime series, is more an exercise in selection than expansion. We could have spent more time on penalty-phase testimonies, but more vital to this tragedy were the continuing obstructions by Judge Weisberg, who stripped Leslie’s case of so much flesh that even Leslie scarcely remained by the end. We got minimal time with the boys in prison as they awaited their verdict (indeed, we hardly had time to say goodbye), but it left space outside the courtroom to learn more about their family history — a development I hadn’t expected this late in the series.

That family history was sordid, to say the least — a reaffirmation that “the iniquity of the fathers,” as the Bible has it (and the mothers) will indeed be visited “upon the children, and upon the children’s children.” Aunt Marta, we learn, has been so steadfast in her support of Lyle and Erik because of the sins of her and José’s mother, who she says molested José. “It’s a sickness that my mother gave to him,” says Marta. And it’s a sickness still visited upon the mother herself, who is tormented by nightmares rich with biblical imagery. The skies open. She sees the face of Jesus. “God was coming for us,” she cries, trembling.

“Did you ask god for forgiveness,” Marta asks, “for making José the man that he was?”

Kitty Menendez’s sister has secrets as well. In a conversation with Leslie, she says that their father was a violent man. “Our house was chaos,” she says; amid the chaos, someone molested Kitty when she was a young child. “I don’t think I ever saw her truly happy again,” she adds, and so the chain of abuse receives another link. If we could, no doubt we would discover that the chain extends back further still. It’s the nature of violence to multiply; in Lyle and Erik, that violence simply found its critical mass, and its most perfect expression.

And thus is the morality play complicated, as happens with all true-to-life dramas under close inspection. Lyle and Erik inherited their violence, it’s true. But so did José and Kitty. For as sympathetic as the portrayal of the boys has been, the reality raises the question: Suppose Lyle and Erik hadn’t killed their parents and went on to father children of their own: What kind of fathers would they have been? Lyle already acknowledged having perpetuated the abuse as a child, and murder doesn’t exactly qualify as ending the abuse cycle. Could they have ended it otherwise?

One would hope. What a shame, then, that Erik’s attempts to undo that cycle, however belatedly, played a part in his and Lyle’s ultimate undoing. It was clear from the start that his second testimony on the stand lacked the force of the first. The tears were still there, but there was little of the visible conflict that came with going public for the first time — less still of the agony of Lyle’s original testimony, which the defense forewent this time for strategic reasons. As any therapist will affirm, telling and retelling a painful story has a normalizing effect on it, and it was probably unavoidable that Erik’s testimony would appear less fearful and traumatized the second time around — a shift that was immediately apparent in Gus Halper’s performance.

More surprising was Erik’s crise de conscience, which has the unintended consequence of obliterating the entire strategy of imperfect self-defense. “I realize that now, that it was a horrible mistake,” he says about killing his parents. And suddenly I’m reminded of Erik’s attachment to his Bible, his conversations with the priest. I wish the writers had explored Erik’s transformation more and better, but the clues, at least, were there.

We’re in familiar territory, it seems: a story about a young man, forsaken by his father, betrayed by his friends, who rises up to overthrow his inheritance and now must forgive those who condemned him to this fate, past and present. He’s no Jesus. He’s not even Oedipus. But maybe there’s still some room for redemption.

In Closing:

• Writing about this show was a distinct, if sometimes disconcerting, pleasure, in part because true crime is a longstanding interest of mine. I’ve covered murder trials before, and like many people, I got an early taste from Truman Capote — I once even made a long detour through Holcomb, Kan., on a road trip out West. A unique feature of writing about a show based on real life has been the contact I’ve had on Twitter with people close to the case. I can’t fathom how difficult it must have been to actually live through this tragedy; but this show shined a light into some very dark corners, and I can only imagine that it must have provided solace and vindication to some of the people involved.

• The writers had their work cut out for them. And although I’ve been critical at times of the pace and character development, I’m impressed that it all came together given the vastness and complexity of the case, which spanned two trials and over six years. I’ll miss my late Tuesday nights watching and writing. Thanks to everyone who’s been reading — like me, I imagine you’ll miss the actors playing Leslie, Erik and Lyle the most. Edie Falco didn’t disappoint, and no doubt Gus Halper and Miles Gaston Villanueva have bright futures ahead.

• Could there be a better final image of Leslie than one of her flipping off the press? We should all be so lucky to have that opportunity. And I write that as a member of the press.


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‘Law & Order True Crime’ Season 1, Episode 8: The Sins of the Fathers (Published 2017) (2024)


What episode of Law and Order is based off the Menendez brothers? ›

"Law & Order True Crime" The Menendez Murders: Episode 8 (TV Episode 2017) - IMDb.

Where can I watch the Menendez Brothers documentary? ›

Documentary Series.

What season in law and order is about the Menendez murders? ›

Created by René Balcer, the eight-episode first season, titled Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, is a dramatization of the trial of Lyle and Erik Menéndez, who were convicted in 1996 for the murder of their parents, José and Kitty Menéndez.

Where can I watch Law and Order True Crime The Menendez Brothers? ›

You can watch Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders on Peaco*ck.

Is the confession tapes on Netflix real? ›

The Confession Tapes is a true crime television documentary series that presents several cases of possible false confessions leading to murder convictions of the featured people.

Did the Menendez brothers get the same sentence? ›

The pair are each serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for killing their parents in 1989.

Why did Menendez brothers killed their parents? ›

They said their father hadn't just had high expectations and doled out emotional abuse. José, they alleged, had molested them for years—Lyle from the ages of 6 to 8, and Erik from ages 6 to 18—a claim filled with graphic descriptions that shocked the nation and split friends and family members.

What episode of Dateline is about the Menendez brothers? ›

Watch Dateline NBC Season 26, Episode 9: Unthinkable: The Menendez Murders | Peaco*ck.

Where can I watch the Menendez murders Law & Order? ›

Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, a law series starring Edie Falco, Heather Graham, and Miles Gaston Villanueva is available to stream now. Watch it on Tubi - Free Movies & TV, Peaco*ck TV, Sling TV - Live Sports, News, Shows + Freestream, Vudu, Apple TV or Prime Video on your Roku device.

Is there anything on Netflix about the Menendez brothers? ›

Watch Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menendez Story | Netflix Official Site.

What is the Netflix show about the Menendez brothers? ›

Netflix confirmed the subject and title of “Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menendez Story” in May. This will be the first of the two additional “Monster” installments that Netflix ordered after “Dahmer — The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” became the streamer's No. 2 most popular English-language series of all time.

What is the Menendez brothers story law and order? ›

Raised all his life by abusive parents, Erik and his brother Lyle snapped and murdered their mother and father, but denied it to the police. During a psychologist meeting, both Erik and his brother Lyle confessed that they were repeatedly abused by their parents.

How many episodes of law and Order Menendez brothers are there? ›

Starring the incomparable Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning Edie Falco ("The Sopranos," "Nurse Jackie"), this new eight-episode true-crime installment of the powerhouse "Law & Order" franchise delivers a gripping in-depth dramatization of the notorious murder case that changed America forever.

Where can I watch the Menendez murders law & Order? ›

Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, a law series starring Edie Falco, Heather Graham, and Miles Gaston Villanueva is available to stream now. Watch it on Tubi - Free Movies & TV, Peaco*ck TV, Sling TV - Live Sports, News, Shows + Freestream, Vudu, Apple TV or Prime Video on your Roku device.


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