Every time the dominant culture tries to fool you into believing you’re all alone in the world, click over to Netflix’s top ten list. You’ll discover you’re nowhere near alone.
The streamer’s avalanche of woke garbage barely charts or tends to disappear pretty quickly, while good ol’ fashioned family stories (The Christmas Chronicles 1 & 2), conservative-themed action movies (Peppermint), tales of rugged individualism (Braven), and blistering condemnations of the media and federal government (Manhunt: Deadly Games) hold firm.
We’re still America, y’all.
Manhunt: Deadly Games is the second season of Spectrum Original’s Manhunt series. The first, which is also very good and available to stream at Netflix, focused on the hunt for the Unabomber. Deadly Games focuses on the persecution of Richard Jewell (Cameron Britton) at the hands of the media and FBI, and the hunt for serial bomber Eric Rudolph (Jack Huston).
The ten-part series, which debuted at the beginning of the year on Spectrum but just popped on Netflix, is thoroughly engrossing, ridiculously binge-able, and based in part on Maryanne Vollers’ excellent book Lone Wolf. I say “in part” because there are some serious flights of fancy in Deadly Games, which are forgivable. They not only heighten the action and tension, but they also serve a larger and vitally important truth.
Outside of the story itself, Deadly Games impressed me for four reasons…
First off, it pulls no punches in condemning the media’s appalling and unforgivable treatment of Richard Jewell, a completely innocent man whose life was destroyed by a dangerous, bigoted, and corrupt institution that is only worse today.
Secondly, Deadly Games blisters — and I mean blisters the FBI — not only for hanging Jewell out to dry, but for constantly putting political and media concerns over what’s right. For instance, about halfway through the series, a right-wing militia shows up. At this point, I rolled my eyes and thought, Here comes the sucker punch. But there was none of that. During the search for Rudolph, the FBI is so overbearing and oppressive, you can’t help but side with those firmly (and peacefully) resisting. Overall, the militia is portrayed as complex and flawed, but ultimately sympathetic and reasonable.
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh (the worst FBI Director not named James Comey), the man behind Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Jewell, takes a merciless and well-deserved beating while, like every other character, he’s still portrayed as a fully-fleshed human being.
Number three was the overall theme, which, surprisingly, is a vigorous, unapologetic, and fact-based defense of southerners and southern culture. Again and again, primarily through the fictional character of ATF Bomb Expert Earl Embrey (Arliss Howard), we’re reminded that it was bigotry against “bubbas” that led to the persecution of Jewell and catastrophes like Ruby Ridge and Waco.
Most surprising (although this part of the story is almost entirely fictional), it is the FBI’s bigotry and arrogant persecution of a small North Carolina town that activates and provokes a local militia in a way where you can’t help but see where they’re coming from.
Finally, although it’s subtle, Deadly Games is ultimately a morality tale involving two people: Kathy Scruggs (Carla Gugino), the real-life Atlanta reporter who first fingered Jewell as the bomber, and FBI Special Agent Jack Brennan (Gethin Anthony), a fictional character put in charge of the Jewell and Rudolph cases who reports directly to Director Freeh.
In the end, one of these characters will reject the “Devil character” and choose instead to embrace humility, ask for forgiveness, tell the truth, and apologize. A career is lost but a soul is saved. The other character will reject the “Jesus character’s” direct offer of forgiveness, which leads to a death spiral.
It’s an extraordinary and affecting message, not only about the power of confessing your sins but the power of forgiveness.
Another nicely-explored theme is how large institutions (media and government), with their respective agendas and “greater good” bullshit, squeeze the honor, humanity, and individualism out of those foolish enough to give themselves over to them.
Although most of the events in Deadly Games happened some 20 years ago, it’s as timely as ever.
In 1996, to further a political agenda founded on their own monstrous sense of cultural supremacism, the media and FBI wielded serial lies, illegal leaks, and jaw-dropping civil rights violations to scapegoat and destroy an innocent man, Richard Jewell (a legitimate hero).
Twenty years later, starting in 2016, to further a political agenda founded on their own monstrous sense of cultural supremacism, the media and the FBI wielded serial lies, illegal leaks, and jaw-dropping civil rights violations to scapegoat and destroy an innocent man, Donald Trump, by way of the Russia Collusion Hoax.
Manhunt: Deadly Games is not only terrific entertainment, it took legitimate moral courage to produce, and we bubbas should be grateful.