The article below contains spoilers.
Released on Mar. 3, the new Netflix original limited docuseries ‘Murder Among the Mormons’ tells the story of Mark Hofmann, his forgeries, and heinous murders. However, the series projection of Hofmann seems to fall short.
While the series effectively sets up the story being told, it is very clear within the first episode that Hofmann is the killer. There is little to no suspense, even after the viewer learns that Hofmann, himself, had been a victim of a detonated bomb. Further, the series focuses so much on Hofmann’s upbringing, his life when he began to sell rare Mormon documents, and his business associates. This causes the premise of the series to get lost; we almost forget that we are watching a true crime case, and that people will get killed. In order to effectively build the world that we are seeing on screen, the filmmakers should have focused less on Hofmann, and more on the Mormon LDS church.
Similarly, the series tends to only mention the beliefs and origins of the LDS church in passing. The only information we get regarding the church is when it contributes crucial information to tell Hofmann’s story. With this tactic, the series does not connect the relationship between the church and Hofmann in a deep, meaningful way. The series only focuses on the first part of its title, rather than the whole.
Furthermore, in various interviews with Hofmann’s associates in the rare document selling business, they seem to praise him uncontrollably. This is especially jarring because, as stated previously, the viewer is pretty well aware that Hofmann is the mind behind the bombings. I found myself constantly asking, “Why are they talking so highly of him? It’s so obvious that he did it,” among other things. It seems as though the filmmakers were trying to throw the viewer off, possibly asking participants like Shannon Flynn and Brent Metcalfe to hype Hofmann up. If this was the case, then that just feels wrong. The whole first episode documents Hofmann and his work, and while it is extremely clear that he is the killer (also given that he is not interviewed throughout the series), the viewer is left with an uneasy feeling.
With so much screen time focused on Hofmann before the bombings are even brought up, the viewer is also able to figure out his motive before the story even arrives at the various attacks. So much time is focused on specific documents that Hofmann discovered, such as the salamander letter and the ‘Oath of a Freeman.’ It seems almost impossible that one man could find so many historical documents that were crucial to the Mormon religion. So, not only could you tell that Hofmann was the killer, the viewer could tell right away that he was a fraud. If the filmmakers had focused more on world building, primarily the LDS church, then this uneasiness could have been easily avoided. Further, it can be argued that viewers may not even guess that Hofmann had done it if the filmmakers presented information differently.
In general, while the series is almost all well-done, some parts of the narrative could be better. Hofmann could have had less screen time, and the LDS church could have had more. This would fix almost every problem the series has. But, nevertheless, fans of true crime shouldn’t hesitate to click play on this series, as the story is interesting.
‘Murder Among the Mormons’ is available to stream on Netflix.
By Audrey Shaev