Ben Watches Television : The Keepers (2017)
Serial ushered a new era of documentary and reality-based entertainment in 2014 giving it a sense of greater meaning. Before that, audiences judged these genres on essentially two factors: educational and entertainment value. Serial made citizen-lead investigation cool and for a moment, it seemed like actually caring about injustice was cooler than telling people you cared on social media. Same for Netflix's Making a Murderer, which came out the following year. The lack of resolution in these cases (the protagonists of both series are still technically incarcerated) didn't discourage the web streaming juggernaut to try the waters again with a seven episodes documentary series titled The Keepers, which launched on May 19.
And in case you didn't know, it's about the murder of a nun. There once was someone, who wasn't written by a coke-addled B movie director, who was evil enough to murder an actual nun. What the fuck?
The nun in question in Sister Cathy Cesnik, a beautiful, kind and compassionate young women who should've never been a nun. She would've become an inner city school teacher or a humanitarian of some sort had she been born twenty-five years later. That would've given her a considerably longer (and happier) lifespan. Sister Cathy was really good at her job because she cared about her students. Several of them were heartbroken when she disappeared in November of 1969. Her body was found two months later. She was 26 years old.
Fast forward 47 years later to 2016, Cathy's students haven't forgotten about her. Two of them, Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub, have taken upon themselves the responsibility of finding whatever happened to Sister Cathy while they still can. Their investigation leads them quickly back to their old alma matter Archbishop Keough High School and to a lawsuit filed against Father Joseph Maskell that was dismissed in 1995 under the statute of limitations. Soon, the victims of Maskell and his band of merry perverts are starting to roll it and Gemma and Abbie are investigation on WHO killed Cathy, it becomes abundantly clear WHY she was killed.
Is The Keepers good?
Oh yes. Just like Serial, S-Town and Making a Murderer before it, it's freakin' riveting. Speaking as an audience, murder is such a complex and compelling crime to explore. Every mob story is the same. Every drug trade story is similar. Every murder has a unique story behind it, which is never easy to uncover. It's funny because in fiction, murder is portrayed as simple and convenient. Don't like someone? Shoot him in the face and burn his body. In reality, it's an extreme solution to a preexisting situation that everyone tries to distance themselves from. And that situation in The Keepers is Father Joseph Maskell's reign of terror at Archbishop Keough High School.
Maskell was a bona fide monster. He would've been compelling as hell, had he been fictional but The Keepers remind us he was all too real. He was an influential figure in the Baltimore area then. He was the police chaplain, his brother Tommy was on the force, he was highly educated and used his psychological knowledge in order to manipulate young women. He was terrifying and it breaks my heart that someone like this actually existed. There are no doubt that Maskell had something to do with Cathy Cesnik's death, this is common knowledge to anybody who has read the Wikipedia entry for The Keepers, but as you'll learn in the series it's not as straighforward as it looks. Joseph Maskell was a master manipulator. His thing was control and therefore he rarely lost his.
Did it help or did it only wake up old demons?
While The Keepers kind of hits the same wall as its predecessor (the investigation is neat and all, but "getting justice" is a whole other ball game), it does a pretty good job at laying down the fact and figuring it out. You'll have a pretty good idea who killed Cathy Cesnik after watching the series' seven episodes and it's about the best a citizen-lead endeavor can do unless it offers ironclad proofs to a court of law during filming. Lots of people involved in her death have passed since anyway, so the joy of figuring it out would be entirely theoretical. I've enjoyed The Keepers and believe its courageous stance on sexual abuse makes it much more than a vanity endeavor from a thrill seeking director.
It kept me watching for the entire seven episodes, which is more than I can say about most series I've watched over the last two years. The Keepers is doing a lot of things right. It's the type of show you can grill through over a weekend and I highly encourage you to do so.