In 'The Keepers,' Harrowing Crimes Awaken Our Longing for Justice

Netflix’s troubling true-crime docuseries wrestles with what happens when murder and abuse go unpunished.
If you’ve eyed some of Netflix’s recent additions, you’ve probably spotted a picture of a young nun accompanied by the mildly ominous title, The Keepers. Or maybe you’ve heard about it: The series is currently making waves, with more than one critic comparing it to David Simon’s The Wire.
Those who know a bit about the show’s background might find this to be an odd comparison, since The Keepers is a documentary, and The Wire, for all its gritty realism, is still a work of fiction. The comparison makes a bit more sense, though, when we press into the details: Like Simon’s show, The Keepers takes place in Baltimore, Maryland, and, like The Wire, it offers a near-comprehensive exposé of institutional corruption.
But here’s an honest question: Do we really need another crime documentary in our queues? The recent proliferation of these titles is dizzying: HBO’s The Jinx, Netflix’s Making a Murderer, This American Life’s Serial podcasts. Isn’t The Keepers just more grist for the true crime mill at this point?
I’m compelled to warn you that Netflix’s The Keepers is one of the more horrifying entries in this recent spate of true crime documentaries, both because of the nature of its subject matter, which concerns murder and sexual abuse, as well as its unflinching depiction of the long-term consequences suffered by the victims of these crimes. In many ways, however, it’s this stark depiction of profound injustice that makes The Keepers a valuable, albeit challenging, watch.
The series revolves around the unsolved murder of Catherine Cesnik, which took place in Baltimore in 1969. By all accounts, Cesnik was one of the most revered teachers …Continue reading…