In Movies & TV

Six episodes of "Unsolved Mysteries" premiered on Netflix earlier this month - with more to come.

Netflix's "Unsolved Mysteries" reboot is a rabbit hole worth falling down

It was only a matter of time before somebody exhumed "Unsolved Mysteries" from television's graveyard.

Sure, there was an attempt to resuscitate the show in 2008 on Spike TV, but that was mostly just reskinned old cases rather than truly new episodes. In this post-Serial world, surely somebody had to be working on trying again – particularly Netflix. From "Making a Murderer" to "Tiger King" and countless other binges, the true crime well has thus far provided a bottomless oasis of binges for the streaming service. If there's a strange criminal case in the world, you can bet Netflix has at least four hour-long episodes to detail it – complete with a minimum of 17 drone shots per chapter of ominous small town trees and houses.

Add in the nostalgia factor for the creepy, kitschy and, in some instances, actually case-solving true crime favorite, and perhaps the biggest mystery of all surrounding "Unsolved Mysteries" is what took so long to give it a proper reboot.

But thankfully, the actual unsolved mysteries in Netflix's new reboot, released earlier this month, are compelling as well, worthy of sending amateur sleuths falling down rabbit holes in the name of justice.

Unsurprisingly some changes were made since its NBC heyday. Beloved host Robert Stack sadly passed away in 2003, and instead of trying to replace his one-of-a-kind stern presence, the show's smartly gone without a host, letting the stories tell themselves while Stack gets a ghostly nod in the opening credits. Plus, instead of tackling several cases and odd occurrences per episode, the new version digs into just one mystery in an hour, eliminating the need for a host to serve as a guide anyways.

Gone as well are the reenactments – or at ones you'd remember either for better or worse. There are a few filmed bits throughout an episode, but they're all professionally moments of scene-setting or brief glimpses of anonymous figures doing something vaguely ominous. There's none of the outdated over-the-top drama of the past, as any sign of the original's camp factor has been fully removed from the new "Unsolved Mysteries" – after all, these are still actual grim and tragic crimes that took actual lives with little to no closure for those left behind. (That being said, even the episode on aliens ruining some Massachusetts residents' September night is a sober, stone-faced affair. Here's to the show letting loose and showing a little more personality on its more outlandish cases in the future.)

What hasn't changed, though, are the intriguing mysteries and the thrill of the couch-sleuthing hunt – especially in the case of the first episode.

The premiere outlines the case of Rey Rivera, a Baltimore writer and videographer found dead in an empty hotel office room underneath a hole punched through the ceiling. The police quickly assume that he jumped from the roof of a fancy nearby hotel, but Rivera's wife isn't so convinced, and neither are local journalists and investigators who note that the evidence doesn't line up – quite literally, as the jump from the roof to the hole's location would be physically impossible for even an Olympic triple-jump champion to reach. Add in that Rivera was supposedly afraid of heights and some evidence (his glasses and cell phone) suspiciously unharmed from the supposed multi-story fall, and you've got a thrillingly, creepily twisting case that each five minutes provides a new turn to send minds racing through potential culprits and conspiracies – and that's all before the episode gets to Rivera's shady friend and business colleague as well as a hidden letter filled with strange pop culture ramblings (suicide notes don't normally spend so much time on the filmography of M. Night Shyamalan) and the occasional reference to Freemasons.

With a grippingly suspicious case, well told with spine-tingling twists and plenty of intriguing loose ends for the mind to tug on well after the credits, it's basically the ideal "Unsolved Mysteries" episode – a bar that unfortunately the other five much more straight-forward cases can't quite top. That being said, they're all still compelling episodes with cases that unfold with exciting and unsettling intrigue, fueled by that iconically eerie theme music that tickles the nightmare-inducing part of your brain. And, best of all, they're digging up new evidence and inspiring closer looks in these still-unsolved cases, just like the original show.

In the end, the rebooted "Unsolved Mysteries" is the kind of show that makes you sad when you realize you're all out of episodes – a case where thankfully there is a happy conclusion. Netflix originally ordered a total of 12 episodes of the new series, meaning six more – all supposedly shot, edited and ready to go – have yet to arrive, probably debuting around Halloween for maximum spooky factor if one had to guess.

Until then, we'll have to keep hunting for clues – and hunting for our next wine weekend binge-watch, which I've found in the form of Netflix's "Fear City: New York vs. The Mafia," a new docu-series about the five mafia families that once ruled New York City and the government's attempt to take them down.

The show comes in three parts, which makes watching it together this weekend easy – episode one on Friday night, part two on Saturday night and the final chapter on Sunday, complete with meeting up each night on OnMilwaukee's Facebook page at 9:05 p.m. with a glass (or an entire box) of wine to drink and break it all down. And then drink some more wine. So tune in to "Fear City" – and then tune in throughout the weekend!

A cheers to staying home, staying healthy and staying entertainment.


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