I just started 'Making a Murderer,' and this conversation between a 16-year-old and his mother is the most mind-blowing part so far

Brendan dasseyAP ImagesThen-16-year-old Brendan Dassey was convicted of helping Steven Avery in murder.

At the urging of everyone on Twitter, I sat down this week to start watching the latest television — err, streaming — craze, Netflix’s “Making a Murderer.”

It took about three episodes to get me hooked, and now I’m on my fourth. If you haven’t watched the 10-episode hit documentary series, I’ll sum up the premise:

Steven Avery gets wrongfully jailed for 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He sets out to sue the police department in his town, but right as things are really heating up, he’s arrested for allegedly murdering a woman. The rest of the series sets out to find out whether or not he’s innocent.

So you’d think that the most mind-blowing part of the first few episodes would have to do with Steven Avery, or the murder trial.

(You’ll want to stop reading right now if you aren’t at least four episodes into the series.)

Instead, the most memorable, heartbreaking part for me came at the beginning of the fourth episode, when Steven Avery’s 16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, is talking to his mum from jail.

In episode three, Dassey is arrested for confessing to having helped Avery kill the woman. Except that, as the documentary shows, it’s hard to tell if he’s really confessing to something, or if he’s just confused by the investigators and telling them what they seem to want to hear.

Several members of the Avery and Dassey families are depicted as not too bright. Steven Avery, his former lawyer said in the documentary, has an IQ of 70. His nephew isn’t made to seem much brighter, with a similarly low IQ.

During a phone call with his mother from jail, the Dasseys discuss the fact that the investigators would like Brendan to give them another statement, because there seem to be some “inconsistencies” between the original statement he gave and things that have been said in the press.

Brendan Dassey asks his mother, “What does ‘inconsistent’ mean?”

And his mother replies, “I don’t know.”

In an age of Google, the internet, and smartphones, for a parent and a high school-age child to not know the definition of “inconsistent” — I was dumbstruck, and it was something I perhaps foolishly had never considered before.

For a high school junior or senior, the definition might not be totally common knowledge, according to a quick readability check score online. But for a parent, it should, ideally anyway, be fairly recognisable.

But one of the things “Making a Murderer” does is show you that life in rural middle America, and its education, police, and other institutions, can be far from ideal. In the scene, the realisation really hits you that maybe Dassey really had no way of knowing or comprehending what was being asked of him by investigators when he confessed to the murder.

Brendan dassey interrogation making a murderer netflixNetflixDassey gives a confession that seems dragged out of him by investigators, without his mother or a lawyer present.

Another scene that made me really sad to watch occurred a few minutes later in the episode. In another phone call between Dassey and his mother, the mum asks Dassey why he confessed — in gory detail — to a murder if he didn’t actually commit the crime.

Dassey says he was “guessing” what the cops wanted him to say, just like he “guesses” on answers to his homework.

Then he says, sincerely, “I’m stupid, Mum… I’m really stupid.”

And his mother replies:

“You’re not stupid to me.”

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