The fascination with true crime is one that’s hard to explain. The rise in popularity of podcasts and docuseries centering around true crime is undeniable. Ranging from suburban murders to the shady happenings at local zoos, it’s eerie to learn what has been going on right next door. While I can watch thousands of violent horror movies without flinching, I approach true crime with hesitation. As someone who struggles with an anxiety disorder, I sometimes venture into horror as an escape, but one that’s arguably a controlled environment. I know it’s staged and will come to an end within two hours (hopefully). With true crime, I am witnessing a real nightmare. It’s the true evil that exists out there and these are real people who got hurt as well as being exposed to real monsters.
DR. DEATH initially started as a true-crime podcast where over the course of six episodes, listeners learned of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a charismatic neurosurgeon responsible for maiming several patients as well as murder. Via interviews with patients and fellow doctors, we got to experience his crimes and the disbelief that he was allowed to perform for so long even after all these cases.
Peacock has now created a series based on the podcast, utilizing the same name, but casting Joshua Jackson as the killer doctor. The series is given around eight hours to explore Dr. Duntsch from various perspectives, including his own. Fans of the podcast will be glad to see the series visualize some of the most shocking, yet memorable moments of his career. So much of you’ve heard and seen about Dr. Duntsch feels like the work of fiction, but it sticks mostly to the facts. Although his story does have an end, and it’s easy to find the outcome online, it’s best to keep his deadly surgeries a secret until you witness the show. They are mind-boggling and feel inexcusable that someone like him was performing surgeries, but the series helps us understand how the system designed to supposedly protect us also kept him employed.
Jackson has had a remarkable career on television since his Dawson’s Creek days and this latest role is exceptional. He brings alive the determination and that darkness that motivates that determination in each episode. It’s easy to see how that charisma can easily charm a potential patient to ignore the red flags. Peacock has spared no expense when putting together an A-list cast for the series.
Christian Slater truly steals every scene he’s in, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with his work. Lately, he’s been putting his stamp on television, most notably on Mr. Robot. Here, he plays Dr. Randall Kirby, one of the doctors who works hard to bring Dr. Duntsch down. Teaming up with Alec Baldwin’s Dr. Robert Henderson, the two feed off each other’s energy and feels like an unlikely iconic partnership. Baldwin helps emphasize Henderson’s more laid-back approach to formal complaints, while Kirby isn’t one to exactly censor himself. Slater’s Mr. Robot costar Grace Gummer is also a standout as nurse Kim Gordon who finds herself in the middle of Dr. Duntsch’s schemes.
DR. DEATH not only plays as a medical thriller that happens to be based on true crimes, but as a comment on morality and workplace politics. Everyone around Dr. Duntsch was well aware of what he was doing during those surgeries, but it dares to step into the territory of why no one said anything. How is the medical field set up to protect their doctors? What is it that motivates them to hire someone like Dr. Duntsch?
DR. DEATH is a terrifying, anxiety-ridden ride into the mind of a sociopath, but also begs viewers to question a system that we all depend on. The series will begin streaming exclusively on Peacock on July 15th.