Everyone knows the saying “money talks.” How far will people go to implement that saying and cross the line from annoyance to a lack of basic morals? How long can someone feel comfortable and secure hiding behind their money and status? On top of that, how long can people of status go untouched before the rest of the community decides to take them down? All of these questions bounce back and forth throughout the course of Netflix’s new true crime series, “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.”
The show discusses six years’ worth of events that played out in South Carolina’s Lowcountry that resulted in the loss of five lives, each of which connects one way or another to the Murdaugh family.
Up until the unraveling of these tragedies, the Murdaughs had a powerful reputation in the Lowcountry. Some could say that the respect people paid to them was rooted in fear. Their name held so much power that they could get anyone out of trouble no matter the extent. To paraphrase the way Morgan Doughty, the former girlfriend of Paul Murdaugh, put it, the Murdaughs could snap their fingers and the problems would quite literally disappear without a trace.
The series outlines the investigation of this family and why they seem to get away with so much after Paul Murdaugh becomes the target blame for a boat crash and the death of beloved Mallory Beach.
To preface the oddity of this situation, Morgan Doughty shares some experiences she gathered in her time dating Paul. The most striking of these stories relates to a car crash that resulted — to no one’s surprise — from Paul’s insistence to drive under the influence. She describes how when the couple crashed, a sea of guns and trash poured out from the car in all directions. After Morgan tried to call 911, Paul snatched the phone from her hand and called his grandfather instead. When his family arrived, they quickly stripped the scene of the weapons and interrogated Morgan as to why she called 911 and put Paul’s life at risk.
On the night of Feb. 23, 2019, Mallory Beach, Anthony Cook, Connor Cook, Paul Murdaugh, Morgan Doughty and Miley Altman found themselves in a horrific boat accident. This was the accident that cost Mallory her life and sparked the downfall of the Murdaughs. All of the passengers on the boat stated that Paul was the one steering while being severely under the influence and acting aggressive. Eventually, forensic evidence proved this claim.
Despite all the talk, Randolph and Alex Murdaugh, Paul’s grandfather and father, attempt to cast the blame for the crash onto Connor Cook so as not to tarnish the family name. On top of this, the Murdaughs have family members and friends within law enforcement who help them in keeping conversations about the crash quiet and as discreet as possible. The family goes to the extent of not even telling the Beaches that their daughter has gone missing until hours after the rest of the group is taken to the local hospital, at which point they find out through the Cook family.
Thanks to the forensic evidence that frames Paul as the true person responsible for the boat crash, Paul is charged with three counts of boating under the influence. He pleads not guilty to all three. This act initiates communal anger and confusion and eventually leads to the violent death of Paul Murdaugh and his mother, Maggie Murdaugh.
All of this information can be gathered within the first two out of the three episodes in the series. Every time I thought all of my questions had been answered, five more popped up. Each scene digs up another secret the Murdaughs tried to hide for years. The series is not only about the crime itself, but the journey to achieving long-awaited justice for the Lowcountry community.