“Homicide: New York Review: Grisly True-Crime Tales Told with Care”

“Netflix’s New Docuseries from Dick Wolf Revisits Five Notorious New York Murders”

“Dick Wolf, the mastermind behind the Law & Order universe, understands the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ In his latest venture, Netflix’s docuseries Homicide: New York, each episode opens with a familiar prologue: ‘On the island of Manhattan there are two detective squads dedicated to homicides: Manhattan North and Manhattan South. They investigate the most brutal and difficult murders. These are their stories.’ The iconic ‘chung chung’ is implied.

No stranger to true crime, Wolf sticks to a tried-and-true formula. What sets Homicide apart is Wolf’s knack for creating compelling characters. Across the five episodes, the series delves into the lives of the men and women who solved and prosecuted these murders, portraying them as complex individuals with insecurities, quirks, and regrets—not just mere talking heads.”

Cops on the scene at New York's Carnegie Deli in 'Homicide: New York'

Homicide embodies the essence of New York, from the distinctive speech of the featured detectives (“I interrupted [my partner], ’cause he was eatin’ a f—in’ Suzy Q and drinkin’ a Yoo-hoo, which was his dinner of choice”) to the iconic crime scenes scattered across the city, including Carnegie Deli, Central Park, and the Financial District. Following a loose Law & Order template, each episode chronicles a crime and its subsequent investigation, which can span anywhere from 10 days to 21 years, before delving into the prosecution of the accused.

The murders highlighted in Homicide encompass a range of motives and methods, each tapping into primal fears that transform a crime from a statistic into a morbid media sensation. From random violence (the 44-year-old murder of Michael McMorrow by a pair of 15-year-old private school students) to kidnapping (the disappearance of Eridania Rodriguez, a 46-year-old cleaning woman, inside a downtown high-rise), home invasions (the execution-style shooting of Jennifer Stahl, 39, and four of her friends in her apartment above Carnegie Deli), serial killers (the East Harlem Rapist, who terrorized the upper Manhattan neighborhood for over seven years), and deadly greed (the brutal stabbing death of millionaire Howard Pilmar inside his Midtown office).

While most true crime shows focus on the shocking events themselves, Homicide stands out because of the captivating personalities of the investigators and prosecutors involved in these grim cases. Retired Midtown North Detective Rob Mooney, a lifelong Deadhead, attributes the “diversity” of the Grateful Dead fan base for helping him identify the unlikely perpetrators—two baby-faced teens—of the McMorrow murder. “You don’t judge a book by its cover,” he remarks. “And in this case, it turned out to be true.” Homicide illustrates that being a good detective involves more than just tenacity and attention to detail; personal quirks also play a crucial role in the work. For Detective Brian MacLeod, all he needs are his earbuds and some heavy metal music to maintain focus while sifting through hours of surveillance footage—an essential skill in cracking the Rodriguez case. Meanwhile, retired Detective Irma Rivera, who grew up in the Alphabet City housing projects, approaches her work with a unique perspective, seeing “something good” in every criminal she interviews. Her ability to connect with suspects was instrumental in cracking the case of the Carnegie Deli massacre, after hours of failed interrogations by her colleagues.

Spoiler Alert: Each case featured in Homicide concludes with the perpetrators being apprehended and imprisoned. However, poignant interviews with the families and friends of the victims underscore the profound gap between a legal conviction and true justice. Frank Pilmar, for instance, continues to grapple with feelings of guilt, believing he could have done more to save his son, Howard. “When I go to bed every night, I talk to him,” shares Frank, now 95. “But I can’t get any answers.”

As previously mentioned, Homicide is a creation of Dick Wolf, and as such, it generally portrays law enforcement in a positive light. (For those interested in streaming content that delves into darker aspects of NYPD history, Crime + Punishment on Hulu, The Seven Five on Tubi, or When They See Us on Netflix are recommended.) Nevertheless, the detectives featured in Homicide are introspective and self-critical. Retired detective Scott Wagner reflects on his past cases, questioning if there was anything he overlooked or could have paid more attention to. “What did I miss? Could I have paid more attention to something?” he ponders, particularly haunted by the realization that he had unwittingly interviewed one of the murderers years before they were apprehended. “That question still bothers me today.” For these officers, closure on some cases remains elusive.

“Homicide: New York” premieres Wednesday, March 20, on Netflix.

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