manhunt unabomber review

Manhunt: Unabomber Review: Discovery's New Anthology Series Is Less Explosive Than Analytical

How much you enjoy Manhunt: Unabomber will depend almost entirely on one thing: how gripping you find watching someone else solve a puzzle.

In the first three hours of Discovery’s new anthology series (premiering Tuesday, Aug. 1, at 9/8c), there are some gruesome reenactments of Ted Kaczynski’s crimes, insurance that we never lose sight of what’s at stake. And the drama manages to wring suspense out of a bunch of G-men standing around a phone and listening, fearful of an explosion, as planes are cleared for takeoff. But mostly, it’s a whole lot of rookie profiler “Fitz” Fitzgerald (Avatar’s Sam Worthington) staring at the serial bomber’s writings like they’re the direst-ever Word Searches in hopes of turning up clues to help shorten the FBI’s long list of potential suspects.

VIDEOS Manhunt: Unabomber: Paul Bettany Eludes the FBI in Explosive New Trailer

manhunt unabomber reviewIf you stick with the show, a sorta Law & Order: Forensic Linguistics, you’ll find that, OK, at times, it’s a little heavy-handed. Fitz is such a Boy Scout that he makes Captain America look like Boris Badenov. And his family gazes at him so adoringly, you half-expect him to sprout a halo. However, you can’t help but feel for the guy when, day after day, time and again, he racks his beautiful mind to think outside the box, only to have his analyses dismissed by his superiors — among them, The Good Wife alum Chris Noth — in favor of an old Unabomber profile that was years in the botching. “What did they even recruit Fitz for?” you’ll find yourself asking on his behalf. “What is he supposed to do?” And right on cue, a higher-up will answer, “All that’s required of [him] is obedience.” Well, then.

As you’d expect, the most interesting character is the villain of the piece, played by Paul Bettany with the unsettling calm of a snake contemplating whether or not to strike. Scenes in which Fitz attempts to convince an imprisoned Kaczynski to plead guilty call to mind Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster’s legendary cat-and-mouse game in Silence of the Lambs. It’s as disturbing as it is creepily fascinating to watch Bettany’s Unabomber toy with the clean-cut agent who naively believes that the perp can be manipulated by the suggestion of a kindred spirit. (On the contrary, Kaczynski is so full of himself that he’s sure “the best that [his captor] will ever be is a feeble imitation of me.”)

manhunt unabomber reviewBettany is so compelling, in fact, that you’ll wish we got more of him sooner. Ditto Jane Lynch, who does fine, subtle work as Attorney General Janet Reno but is, until Episode 4, only heard, not seen. After a while, you also might grow weary of our hero’s Sisyphus routine — he’s forever coming up with a new angle, only to be told by his bosses to rewrite the old one in a report with no typos. But at least you can reassure yourself that the true-crime story has a satisfying ending, since Kaczynski ultimately was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: While Manhunt isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it nonetheless makes for an occasionally intriguing procedural, one that’s elevated by Bettany’s chilling turn as the Unabomber.

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9 Comments
  1. I liked the TV movie with Tobin Bell as Kaczynski and Dean Stockwell as the guy investigating the bombings.

    • Daniel Pride says:

      I hope they cover the part about Ted and his impact on the Photo Morph which we all have grown to know and love and laugh about. Thats the most fascinating part of this whole case and so much is still unexplained. The National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center stuff actually comes up even today when you google unabomber morph !!

  2. Why is this an anthology series? Do we know if there’s going to be a ‘Manhunt’ season about another criminal/domestic terrorist in the future?

  3. Kim says:

    I’m definitely watching this. Whether it’s good or not, Sam Worthington is in it and that’s enough for me.

  4. Dan Pride says:

    The real puzzle is far more interesting then what they portray here. Like how did they create the first two wanted posters using a morph process from TK’s actual photo? See and decide for yourself by googling fbi photo morph

  5. Daniel Pride says:

    It is impossible to overstate the infernal and eternal evil represented in the Unabomber case. It shaped the attitudes toward environmental issues for decades adding ridicule and derision of the most powerful sort. Backed by the CIA and its linked Petro powers, it provided the margin of difference and then some to elect greenhouse gas promoting George W Bush 4 years later, not environmentalist Al Gore. It went on to provide the basis for much of the anti-environmentalist propaganda and attitudes which have both dominated and debilitated ecological debates since,… Eco-Nut, Eco-Terrorist, Tree Hugger, Enviro Wacho etc etc. It molded the debate, and reinforced and enabled environmental degradation at every level, including those to limit greenhouse gas output. The perpetrators of this penultimate crime against humanity bear much of the responsibility for the murder of not just one human or a few or six million, but of all life, and most likely forever. They are central figures in the silencing of the songbirds of earth,… forever. As heat waves rapidly enter the 120, 130’s and 140’s, and we have our first mass death of thousands in a major city somewhere in the world,… only then will the world stop laughing, and examine this case with the detail, and the horror it so richly deserves.

    • Daniel Pride says:

      And if you want the details of the above comment its on line. Google Unabomber Morph and you will see that the first sketch was computer morphed from Teds Berkley Pic, the sketch it produced was hosted on the Same NAIC NASA server that created the morph process in the 80’s, and the FBI Agents got their emails on the same server. When NASA scientists saw this ten years later they were afraid of becoming targets. and panicked and complained and the Washington Post printed the story. The sketch, its photo source, and the post article all reside at your local library for easy confirmation. When you look at the sketch and the photo side by side the relationship is undeniable. You can’t create the wanted poster from the suspects photo seven years before the arrest and then claim you did not know who he was !!!