TV Review: Success In The Cross-Hairs For “The Killing Season”

“Regardless of its macabre subject matter, 'The Killing Season' is a fascinating documentary made even better by the passion and risk the documentarians endure for their cause.”


“The Killing Season” from Executive Producer Alex Gibney follows documentarians, Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills as they hunt down Long Islands most notorious Serial Killer.”

Researching serial killers is a fascination to many, a hobby to some and a career for only a few of the most hardened investigators, scrolling through old case files or patrolling conspiracy theory websites. Executive Producer Alex Gibney, known for “Going Clear: Scientology and Prison Belief” (2015) and “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” (2005), follows documentarians, Joshua Zeman, known for “Cropsey” (2009) and “The Station Agent” (2003), and Rachel Mills, as they hunt down Long Island’s most notorious serial killer. The Long Island Killings, to many locals known as the LISK murders, has remained one the most fascinating and unsolved serial murder cases in US history. As Josh and Rachel delve deeper into the case, they find themselves embroiled in a mystery that will eventually lead away from Long Island and deeper into middle America. A pandemic of unsolved cases and missing girls that seems to suggest two things, a police cover-up at the highest level or pure old fashion ineptitude. Regardless of the obstacles Josh and Rachel put themselves in harms way to determine the facts, and in so provide closure to the many victims and their families.

According to sources, there are currently 60 – 80 serial killers currently operating in the US, this estimate jumps to 200-300 depending on who you talk to. With such startling numbers, it’s hard to comprehend the amount of cold cases currently sitting in storage. Add to the equation the FBI don’t have enough profilers, that they’ve switched their focus to more terror-related threats and you have a void currently being exploited by the likes of LISK. One dossier alone, the Highway Dossier, has a list of unsolved killings numbering in the dozens and that’s just one of many dossiers. These are some of the facts Josh and Rachel unearth as they search for the truth behind the LISK murders, facts that show the enormity of the problem and their task ahead. So when searching for a serial killer, where do you start? Josh and Rachel first start with the victims and their families, focusing strongly on their siblings as they try to learn more about each individual. On Gilgo Beach, Long Island, the first of four bodies were discovered along a stretch of beach, each body equally spaced from the next. As police combed the area, more and more body parts, wrapped in plastic or burlap, were discovered along with five unidentified bodies, leading to the assumption they had stumbled upon a serial killer’s dumping ground. An isolated stretch of swampy wasteland, these bodies had remain undetected until the report of a missing prostitute called Shannon sparked a search that uncovered one of the worst serial killers in recent US history. Someone was hunting prostitutes on Long Island, luring them to meet with promises of huge payouts. How long had this been going on and how many more victims/missing girls are out there now? Hunting Backpage, a social medium frequently used by prostitutes and customers alike, the team befriend a working girl and agreed to be her driver in return for information. Agreeing to put themselves in harm’s way, Josh and Rachel find themselves getting deeper and deeper into the seedy side of Long Island and surrounding New York state as they search for LISK. Does anyone care that these women are missing, does the fact they’re all sex workers mean their lives mean less? These are questions the Suffolk Police have a history of getting wrong, over and over again, with the same dire consequences for young women all over Long Island. These are the questions Josh and Rachel hope to help answer.

Regardless of its macabre subject matter, “The Killing Season” is a fascinating documentary made even better by the passion and risk the documentarians endure for their cause. They approach the material with a very respectful manner, which should be expected from any good documentarian, but at the same time, are not afraid to ask the hard questions. The level of research and dedication is admirable and really holds your attention as the investigation unfolds, keeping a fantastic level of tension throughout the series. For such a complicated subject, the facts are laid out impressively for the viewer to understand and digest along with Josh and Rachel. At times you feel as invested in the investigation as them, wanting to research LISK yourself but not wanting to spoil the series. It’s clear from the documentary that the police are overwhelmed, under-resourced and simply cannot give the focus to these cases that they deserve. Knowing that there are hundreds of Average Joes scrolling over cold cases from the comfort of their homes, painstakingly trying to find any new clues, is a start. But with so many unsolved cases, more needs to be done and “The Killing Season” highlights this with great effect while at the same time, giving us a fascinating insight into LISK.

Premieres November 12th at 9/8c on A&E

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