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'Unsolved Mysteries': Netflix’s Revival Series is as Eerie as it is Compelling

'Unsolved Mysteries' is a reminder that not everyone has closure in their lives. Things will happen that have no known explanation, and seemingly come out of nowhere.

A hair dresser disappears into thin air, unidentified flying objects puzzle a town, a man unaccounted for after a party and discovered a month later — what do all of these have in common? They are the focus of Netflix’s relaunch of Unsolved Mysteries. A reinvigoration of the series by the same title that ran from 1987–2010, Unsolved Mysteries is pretty self-explanatory: each episode explores an unsolved mystery in depth. The episodes of the first season are incredibly gripping. They are well constructed, containing insightful interviews that give context to these eerie cases with such ambiguous endings.

Unsolved Mysteries is a reminder that not everyone has closure in their lives. Things will happen that have no known explanation, and seemingly come out of nowhere. The truth is out there… somewhere… but not everyone will be able to learn the truth. Some people will be left always wondering what exactly happened to the person they love.

Oftentimes, documentary series focus on well-known people or historically significant events; they flesh out something for which we already have a basis. What is different about Unsolved Mysteries is that it centers entirely on regular, ordinary people. These are mundane individuals whose entire lives have been turned upside down by some strange occurrence. It reaffirms that this kind of thing can happen to anyone, and any of us could be the one left wondering, “Why?”

I think part of the appeal of real-life mystery series such as this is that people like to play arm-chair detective as they watch. They consume all the details and like to think that they can solve the mystery. At every turn, when you think you may have a case figured out, some bizarre new detail emerges that only thickens the plot. By the end, you realize that if these cases could be so easily solved, they would have been solved already.

What Unsolved Mysteries does so well is it takes the time to develop the person at the center of the case. There are a multitude of interviews with the people who knew the person best, and through them we get a pretty good sense of who this person was and the life that they led. This all adds context to the cases and, in some episodes, makes the details surrounding the mystery even stranger.

Berkshires ufo sightings

While unsolved, these cases are ultimately grounded; a person goes missing and their body is discovered, but the details as to the how, why, and who are unknown. It is strange, but it is all happening within our framework of understanding about the world. With this, the fifth episode becomes especially unusual. This episode features many interviews from different people surrounding Berkshire County in Massachusetts that, on September 1, 1969, claim to have seen UFOs and some claim to have been abducted by them.

The fact that all of the preceding cases in the series are so grounded, it changes how you approach this episode. I’m sure if this were the first episode of the series, most people would outright dismiss what is being said. However, since the four episodes before focus on more relatively mundane cases, your mindset is different as you hear the testimonies from the Berkshire County residents. The contrast of the natural cases with this supernatural case gives it a greater perception of legitimacy.

It’s impossible to know exactly what happened — nor I am writing this convinced that the residents saw UFOs or were abducted by aliens — but the approach Unsolved Mysteries takes in conveying this story among the other cases leaves it rather open-ended. 

Terry dunn meurer talks

Many of the cases involve People of Color. It is sort of strange to congratulate a show on its diversity when the people involved are real people who have either been killed or were close to the person who was killed, but Unsolved Mysteries does make a concerted effort to elevate the stories of People of Color. Docuseries of this fashion often highlight mostly white people, so sharing the stories of People of Color allows for cases that may not typically be publicized to have the spotlight.

Overall, Unsolved Mysteries is a fascinating series. There is so much to each case that it feels like the story is constantly unfolding. With every episode, I was completely absorbed. The episodes are well edited, putting together a clear timeline. They also don’t feel biased, like they’re trying to create heroes or villains. Instead, it feels like they are simply giving us all of the known details, and allowing us to decide for ourselves what we think happened. For people who are fans of real-life mystery docuseries, Unsolved Mysteries is as good as they get.

-Nathanael Molnar