The Capture of the Green River Killer
Empty8-10 p.m. Sunday-Monday, March 30-31
Lifetime Movie Network
Although he probably holds the title of America's most prolific serial killer, the story of the Green River Killer, and particularly of his capture, is tedious, grim and depressing. As recounted in this dreadfully long two-part miniseries, it mostly is a parade of corpses and an endless shuffling of files, interrupted occasionally by pseudo-intellectual musings about fate, free will and why God appears to be on the side of the killer.
The teleplay of "The Capture of the Green River Killer" from exec producer John Pielmeier is adapted from the book by the lead detective on the case, Dave Reichert. He began tracking the killer in 1982 but didn't catch him until about two decades later, when DNA testing and fiber analysis provided the necessary evidence. By then, Reichert was the county sheriff. A few years later, he was elected to Congress.
Assuming you do not remember the details of the case (it's only been a little more than four years since sentencing was imposed), the miniseries hopes you will stay interested by guessing which of the suspects would turn out to be the real killer. Far more puzzling, though, is why the Lifetime Movie Network chose this morbid and dreary project for its first miniseries and why Tom Cavanagh and Sharon Lawrence signed on.
Cavanagh plays tireless Detective Reichert, who labors seemingly without rest to find the guy who ultimately would confess to 71 murders, mostly of teenage runaways and young prostitutes. This being a Lifetime miniseries, though, women need to do more than play corpses.
So Pielmeier concocts a parallel story about a teenager, Helen (Amy Davidson), who drinks, shoplifts, snorts coke and falls in and out of prostitution. She also writes and quotes poetry and ponders about the role of fate and the nature of God, making her sort of a cross between Paris Hilton and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Lawrence plays the girl's burned-out, desperately insecure mother, a cliche character that scores points for Lawrence only in that it demonstrates her willingness to camouflage her good looks if the part demands it.
Helen will, of course, become another of the killer's victims. Even that doesn't stop her from doing pretentious voice-overs about free will and whether God likes her. Only now she does them as a ghost, sometimes as she hangs around with the ghosts of other victims.
Using dark colors and jarring images, director Norma Bailey tries to infuse the work with suspense and mystery. The story itself, a repetitive tale unfolding at a languid pace, impedes the effort.
Mixing the gritty criminal investigation with occasional theological references to the killer -- "Do you think he is part of God's plan?" asks Reichert's wife, who previously asserts that God is watching over them -- is like blending salad dressing with syrup. Add in the faux supernatural element, and this becomes a miniseries that moves in every direction at once but goes nowhere.
THE CAPTURE OF THE GREEN RIVER KILLER
Lifetime Movie Network
Once Upon a Time Films
Executive producers: Stanley M. Brooks, John Pielmeier
Producers: Juliette Hagopian, Damian Ganczewski
Director: Norma Bailey
Teleplay: John Pielmeier
Based on the book by: Dave Reichert
Director of photography: Mathias Herndl
Production designer: Gordon Wilding
Editor: Ron Wisman
Music: Christopher Ward
Set designer: Michelle Cebrowski
Casting: Jeff Meshel, Coreen Mayrs, Heike Brandstatter
Dave Reichert: Tom Cavanagh
Helen "Hel" Ramus: Amy Davidson
Fiona: Sharon Lawrence
Gary Ridgway: John Pielmeier
Natalie "Nat" Webley: Ingrid Rogers
Julie Reichert: Michelle Harrison
Detective Norwell: Currie Graham
Seth Imperia: Zak Santiago
Jed Dallas: James Russo
Ted Bundy: James Marsters