Tuesday, August 22, 2017

REVIEW: 'Manhunt: Unabomber' - Fitz Gets Closer to Cracking the Case While Destroying All of His Personal Relationships in 'Abri'

Discovery's Manhunt: Unabomber - Episode 1.05 "Abri"

Fitz receives linguistic proof that Ted is the Unabomber. He tracks down Ted's brother David, who is astonished at the accuracy of Fitz's profile.

The FBI manned its single largest operation in last week's episode in order to capture the Unabomber. It was a crushing failure. Releasing the manifesto to the public produced no new leads and the futures of everyone on the task force were now up in the air. Fitz is back home with his wife and kids being told to let go of the case. And yet, that's just something he can't do. He will inevitably return to the case because he's the man responsible for catching the Unabomber. The show got the audience accustomed to this story being told in two distinct time periods. And then, it completely shifted its focus completely to 1995 in the last two episodes. It's been a very effective creative decision because it allows the audience to stay in the moment. Fitz is getting close to arresting Ted Kaczynski for his crimes as the Unabomber. But the tension is still there of this investigation slowly destroying everything in his life. It's quite fascinating to watch. "Abri" once again relies mostly on Sam Worthington's lead performance while Paul Bettany just provides some ominous voiceover. Fitz's struggle is this very real and destructive thing at the moment. He's on the verge of finally cracking this case but it comes at such a great cost to his personal life. It's absolutely devastating to watch.

Even though last week's episode primarily focused on the failed massive operation to capture the Unabomber, the hour ended on an uplifting note with Ted's brother and sister-in-law reading the manifesto. It was clear that they would produce the next lead for the FBI to investigate. This hour picks up on that thread. It's an intriguing discussion between the two of them. It pains them that they are even talking about this as a possibility. No one wants to believe that a family member is also a deranged serial killer. David doesn't even want to entertain the notion. But after reading the manifesto, he can no longer deny the similarities. But he's a guy who values human life and has seen the damage done when someone gets trapped in the police system. He wants to protect Ted even if he's actually the Unabomber. He wants to preserve his life. He wants to do this the right way so that no one gets hurt. As such, the process becomes very official. David and Linda aren't just leaving an anonymous comment on the Unabomber tip line. They hire a lawyer to go to the FBI task force and ensure that the letters they have aren't passed around throughout the agency. It's because of this arduous process that could spark a lawsuit if broken that the system ultimately kicks the letters back as being not a match. It's a massive relief to hear for David. His brother isn't the Unabomber and he was worried for nothing.

And yet, David's brother is the Unabomber. Ted really is the guy sending bombs through the mail in the hopes of sending a message to the entire world. This false hope David has right now shows the personal consequences and devastation the FBI system can produce. Stan and Don are quick to toss this potential new evidence aside because the typewriters don't match. That's their forensic proof. They didn't have anyone actually read and analyze the linguistics. That's how the connection is actually formed. It ultimately takes Tabby breaking the rules and sneaking the document out to Fitz that it becomes clear that this is the Unabomber. It also means Fitz and Tabby are going rogue. They don't have the approval of the FBI. They are operating as official agents but without the support of anyone else in the bureau. It's them chasing a hunch that ultimately turns out to be true. It's just an uphill battle for them to prove that. And yet, they learn how to make their case after everything they've been put through because of being a part of this task force. Tabby knows when to break protocol and chase a meaningful lead while Fitz knows how to be assertive and give the leaders of the task force what they need for an arrest.

But it's still a devastating moment when Fitz shows up on David's doorstep to deliver the fateful news. Ted really is the Unabomber. Fitz's analysis has said so. David doesn't want to hear it. The FBI has already debunked this theory. He doesn't want to go through all of this again. But Fitz's words stop him in his tracks. He can't just run away from this because this man demanding his attention is claiming newfound importance for this family. Even then, it's not until Fitz details his actual profile of the Unabomber that David truly believes that this is real. He has operated under the false assumptions that the FBI has released to the public. The profile and sketch drawing are public knowledge but they aren't in line with who the Unabomber actually was. That's why David didn't make the connection sooner. No one did because they were chasing the wrong leads for a long time. And now, Fitz is chasing the right one. He's making his plea to the Kaczynski family. None of them are actively in touch with Ted. But the profile sure is damning. They are more than willing to hand over all the letters they have. The linguistics only further make Fitz's case. But this family's whole world is being turned upside down. They are at a loss for how this is happening to them and how Ted could do such monstrous things.

Fitz then returns to the task force with all the evidence laid out so his superior officers have to take him seriously. He's no longer working for this task force. He's not loyal to any of them. He just needs to solve this case and catch the Unabomber. It's a passion that is driving him crazy and rendering him useless in all other aspects of his life. And now, he has a name to give the task force: Ted Kaczynski. He followed a lead that came in from the tip line and it proved to match his profile exactly. He has found the Unabomber when no one else could. Don actually allows him to make his case. Sure, it's just a quick five-minute pitch. But that's all the time Fitz needs in order to prove that Ted is the Unabomber. He has already done the hard work. He did what the task force always asked of him. And now, they can assemble a new operation in the hopes of capturing the Unabomber and locking him away for good. It's a massive victory for Fitz and the rest of the team. He feels good for what he's done. And yet, his actions are rewarded with praise at work and devastation everywhere else.

The chase for the Unabomber has forced Fitz to completely ruin every other meaningful relationship in his life. The case takes priority to the detriment of everything else. It's so brutal to watch as well. Fitz is willing to abandon his kids in a moving theater because Tabby is faxing over the new lead for him to review. He becomes obsessed with the letter that four hours goes by and he doesn't notice. He doesn't realize the magnitude for which he has hurt his children. This is the beginning of the dissolution of his marriage. And then, he reunites with Natalie in order to match up all of the phrases that link the Unabomber to Ted in the various letters. Without her assistance, he never would have accomplished this task so quickly. This case has defined their dynamic. He's passionate about the case while she believes the intimacy is actually romantic. She's been misled that way and Fitz doesn't even realize the pain of his actions. He used her for her mind and led her to believe romance was an option. It's not and that's devastating. And most importantly, Tabby gets fired because Fitz reveals she's the one who broke protocol to give him this new lead. He never would have been able to discover Ted Kaczynski if it wasn't for Tabby believing in him as the investigator to get the job done. She isn't rewarded for her efforts. She could spot the linguistic patterns between the Unabomber and Ted as well. But ultimately, she gets fired and Fitz refuses to stand up for her. In fact, he condemns her. He's not appreciative at all. So, that just further reveals how this case is warping his mind. He's losing himself because of it. He no longer has the realization of how his actions are hurting the people closest to him. So even though he's right, he's destined for a life of complete isolation in the future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Abri" was directed by Greg Yaitanes with teleplay by Steven Katz and story by Jim Clemente & Tony Gittelson.
  • The sketch artist rendering of the Unabomber is one of the most iconic visuals associated with this case. It's completely shocking to learn that it's not an accurate drawing at all. It was the eyewitness drawing her memory of the person drawing the sketch the first time instead of the actually person she saw as the Unabomber. It was a massive misunderstanding that then became something huge throughout the country.
  • Some more details about Ted's past are hinted through his family. His mother questions where she went wrong and how her son turned out like this. She worries that something happened to him while he was at Harvard. Meanwhile, David notes that Ted reacted horribly after a bad breakup with a fellow co-worker at the family business - which was one of the last times he actually saw his brother.
  • Of course, David also notes that he helped Ted build the cabin where he is currently living. He helped his brother escape from civilized society in order to live according to his ideals. He respected his brother's convictions. But now, he realizes just how far Ted is willing to go to force society to wake up to his perception of the world.
  • Fitz hurt his sons when he left them alone in the movie theater. But Ellie rightfully notes that both she and the family will be perfectly fine without him. They'll adjust and continue to be happy. He's the one with a problem that needs serious help. It's not just this case either. He's become destructive in this world and won't even accept it.
  • Fitz has done the work to now make Ted the top suspect in the case. But Don still needs to coordinate with the justice department for how it'll be legal to search the cabin. Plus, agents are just now being sent to the cabin to begin surveillance. They arrive and see the infamous cabin. It's a calm and peaceful shot before it will inevitably go awry.