Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders Recap & Review
If you haven’t already heard, the highly anticipated NBC show, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders premiered last night, kicking off with the night of the murder with the investigation of the case following afterwards. Like the show’s title suggests, the show will delve into the 1989 murder case of the Menendez family. If you, like me, were born after the fact, here’s what happened, at least according to multiple google searches, the Barbara Walters interview with the boys from 1996, and the 2016 documentary, Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers – American Sons, American Murderers:
Before the trial and even before the murder, the Menendez brothers were seen as extremely spoiled rich kids; their father, Jose Menendez was a talented and driven Cuban immigrant that successfully made his way through multiple industries, making his family rich. Their parents saw their children as a reflection of their success and because of it, they were very controlling over their reputations.
On Aug. 20, 1989, Jose and Mary “Kitty” Menendez were brutally murdered in the den of their Beverly Hills home. Erik, 21 at the time, and his younger brother, Lyle, 18, called 911 and lied, saying that they came home to discover that someone had killed their parents. Months later, it was discovered that the boys had shot their own parents in a confession made by both separately in therapy. In the actual trial, it was revealed that not only had the boys lied and killed their parents but that they were both molested by their father and were killed their parents in fear and as a way to defend themselves.
The show starts with the night of the murder right on to the investigation, where the detectives speculate about a possible mob but then delves into the Menendez family’s personal and professional life, trying to find a suspect. The episode also explores parts of Jose and Kitty’s funeral, where the boys are given their father’s wallet by their aunt, Marta Cano, played by Constance Marie. After looking at the aftermath of the boys, we get to see a piece of the attorney’s life, Leslie Abramson, played by Edie Falco, who surprisingly and immediately predicts that they were the ones who did it as she turns on the TV and sees the Menendez brothers.
The most interesting parts of the episode were flashbacks of the family’s life and their complicated relationships. Jose is depicted as a firm, determined business man who only cared about his and his family’s reputation rather than a loving father. Their mother Kitty is shown in a suicidal state, sobbing over marital problems between the two. The episode never gets to the boys’ confession or much of their trial, but it does still deliver in the range of emotion, all from different perspectives. Detective Les Zoeller is suspicious of the boys due to the evidence they find later in the episode, other family members are stepping in to help the boys in transitioning to a new reality without their parents, and most importantly, we see Erik start to mentally break down from his guilt of the murder at the end of the episode.
The question that Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders repeatedly asks in all of its promos is why the boys did what they did and whether or not they were justified in their actions and or if their life sentencing was fair. This case is the prime example of lines of morality being blurred which for me, and what I suspect it is for the majority of people, is hard to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. But Law & Order True Crime forces us to ask ourselves the question the series is really asking is, which is who is the real villain of this story? Yes, the boys murdered their parents but in this case, their parents aren’t necessarily innocent, which makes for a compelling story and which will be interesting to see how the rest of the story plays out on the show.
Samantha Nguyen covers entertainment news for MFST. You can follow her on Twitter @thelegendarykc