Another day, another crime documentary, be it radio, podcast or TV documentary. As the recent trend in unearthing cold cases and re-examining the facts, suspects, evidence etc continues – we’re presented with another one, Netflix’s The Keepers (2017).
To be honest, I’ve not been won over by this recent fad. I stopped watching Making a Murderer (2015), I got 2/3’s of the way through This American Life’s Serial podcast and I’m yet to get past the first 10 minutes of The Jinx (2015) (though everyone tells me it’s the shit!).
So you can imagine that starting a 4th documentary on another cold case wasn’t exactly going to do it for me. Well, you’d be wrong.
The Netflix documentary centres on the unsolved murder of a nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik, who taught English and drama at Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School. Nearly 50 years later, her former students’ believe that there was a cover up by authorities after Cesnik suspected a the priest at the school, A. Joseph Maskell, was guilty of sexual abuse.
Started on a whim one night with nothing else to tempt me, I was hooked by the end of the first episode. The series starts off discussing the facts around the murder, who Sister Cesnik was, where she worked, what she was doing the night she went missing and where her body was found. It’s only in episode 2 that you start learning about the sexual abuse that was rampant throughout Keough High School, the position of power of those carrying out such heinous acts and how that relates to Sister Cesnik.
Through good detective work from former students who were taught by Sister Cesnik at the time of her murder, research and interviews, we’re sent down a rabbit hole of Baltimore’s dark history of sexual abuse, paedophilia, law enforcement cover ups and multiple plausible murder suspects. Indeed, this is a show that continually takes you down one path in an episode and then throws a twist at the end to setup the next episode down a new endeavour.
That’s not to say that this show is in anyway perfect, it has its flaws.
For one, the editing is a little off and new information brought to the viewer seems odd when it could have been covered in previous episodes almost as if it was withheld until later for no reason but shock value.
Secondly, while the detective work by the former students is good (considering they’re not professionals with any experience), as a viewer you occasionally find yourself frustrated and yelling questions they should be asking the interviewee – which then later (sometimes in the next episode) you find out they did and withheld until later (why?).
Due to the editing, The Keepers at times can seem a little disjointed and later episodes explore past themes without truly moving forward. However, this is the only reservation I have about the show and that definitely does not detract from it’s compelling mystery.
The Keepers is a gem of a documentary and seems to have fallen under the radar of hype that the aforementioned shows received. That being said, do not let it detract from it’s compelling central mystery of what happened to Sister Cesnik.