Netflix had a surprise hit many years ago with the true-crime docuseries Making a Murderer, which was about the strange case of Steven Avery, who was released in 2005 after being wrongfully convicted of a sexual assault and attempted murder only to find himself suspected, charged and convicted of an murder of a photographer but there was some questions about what really happened.
It made people take sides back and its popularity spurn a second season where we focus on the appeals with some surprising new information that makes Americans angry and hate law enforcement at an time in which they were being heavily scrutinized with videos being posted online.
Over the years, Netflix has been trying to duplicate that success only to find many docuseries get awful reviews and blasted on the Internet. I recall seeing a meme that many series take five hours of nothing just to conclude there is no resolution. I didn’t really care for their docuseries on the Hotel Cecil and their series about Richard Ramirez “The Night Stalker” fell short of many of the other countless shows about him.
Their latest docuseries Sophie: A Murder in West Cork focuses on the Christmastime 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan de Plantier in the Irish seaside village of West Cork. What makes the series so fascinating is how it focuses on a community that defies the Irish stereotypes.
West Cork and its town of Schull is presented as a community full of people from all over the world. When people think of Ireland, they think of close-knit and close-minded Catholic religious people, but the people of area are portrayed as very liberal-minded and tolerant of other cultures.
Two of those people who came to the town were Toscan du Plantier, the wife of a famous French film producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier and Ian Bailey, a British journalist.
And what I’m going to tell next may be spoilers but this case is 25 years old and it has been resolved by French courts in 2019.
Bailey, who later changed his name to the Irish spelling Eion, is suspected, charged and later convicted of Sophie’s murder.
This is revealed at the end of the first of the three-part series as the series focuses on its effect on the community and Bailey’s arrogant cockiness. Three hours is a little long to tell this story and it could’ve been easier covered in a Dateline NBC episode. There are parts that are repetitive and it seems some interviews could’ve been cut.
But what the series is really a look at is a narcissist that is Bailey who feels he’s better than those around him. And the question remains why did Bailey remain in the community with all the leering eyes. In 2019, he was convicted in France in absentia after Irish law enforcement and courts couldn’t convicted him.
Part of the series’ fault is there’s not much of focus on the victim as there is the man charged with her crime. Maybe the filmmakers were limited access to certain family and stories about her life. But after the first episode, you can find yourself skipping ahead and not missing much.
Still, the series does touch on a case that many people outside of Ireland and France may not have heard about. And there’s a reason behind that. If you look at the time, America was having its own sensationalized murder case with the killing of JonBenet Ramsey and how the police (and the general public) targeted her parents.
You can see some similarities between both cases as speculation arises as people think that Sophie was killed by a hired assassin as her husband was on his third marriage and he didn’t go to the community to identify the body.
This was also the first murder in the area in 100 years, reportedly. Which again begs the same question as to why the community didn’t try to make Bailey a persona non grata and force him out?
As a former crime/courts reporter myself, I’ll never understand myself why certain crimes, especially murders, happen or how people are quick to defend the accused if it’s someone they know.