Manhunt: UNABOMBER Season 1 Episode 8 Review: The United States of America versus Theodore J. Kaczynski

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Ted Kaczynski didn't give his victims any choice about the last chapter of their lives, and the legal system didn't give Ted any choice about the last chapter of his life, either.

Manhunt: UNABOMBER Season 1 Episode 8 whittled down that last chapter in such a way that Ted Kaczynski, a man who terrorized the United States for the better part of 17 years, also became a victim.

Home Again - Manhunt: UNABOMBER Season 1 Episode 8

All you need to do is walk into the local family restaurant and catch a glimpse of the number of families with their heads buried in their electronic devices instead of engaging in meaningful conversation with each other to understand Ted was onto something despite his horrific methodology.

Watching him become a victim of the "system" in the finale feels like a vindication of everything he'd been fighting to prove via his monstrous actions and desires for someone to hear him.

As much as I thought I knew about the Unabomber case, how it ended never crossed my radar. It somewhat fits that a man as intelligent as Ted who always wanted to fit in but was terribly waylaid on his various routes to do so would, in the end, wind up a victim himself.

Life is full of Catch 22 moments, but to be in the midst of one as ludicrous as that Ted faced must have left him feeling as insane as his defense wished him to be.

Working for the Other Side - Manhunt: UNABOMBER Season 1 Episode 8

It seems impossible that attorneys could use an insanity plea without the full cooperation of their client or that they could even use the sneak attack approach of obtaining a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. 

But once those items were on the docket, the judge wouldn't even hear what Ted had to say. His well thought out and planned attack on the search warrant by way of the falsity of forensic linguistics as a science was never even considered because his own attorney dropped a bomb on him.

You're not saving my life, Judy, you're saving my body, and you're saving my body by destroying my life's work.

Using Reeses Peanut Butter Cups to placate a simple man with a marked intelligence was cruel and unusual. Ted's discovery of his house away from home was shocking.

The FBI had more respect for his intelligence and for him as a human being than his own counsel did, using his simple nature and desire to live off the grid as the very reason he was to be considered unfit to stand trial, let alone represent himself in a court of law.

Fitz: I know you're not insane. Every time I stop at a red light or I follow the arrows in IKEA or I sit and I wait and I listen for the modem to dial up, I can see the systems that control our lives, and I feel myself being hemmed in, and I hate it. What you have to say about the world, it matters to the future.
Ted: And all I gotta do is roll over and stop fighting, right? Well, now isn't that convenient how your own interests and mine align so perfectly.

When Ted stood before the judge, he could have said so much, but by that point, he realized anything he said was already viewed through the lenses of insanity. 

Representing Himself Please - Manhunt: UNABOMBER Season 1 Episode 8

The court believed he was insane. The people believed he was insane. Even Ted knew that he was not normal enough to sound sane to those who would take the time to listen.

The most unfortunate part of this case is that the plea he chose didn't allow for any exceptions. There would be no appeal, no getting out of prison, no denial of his mental state. By pleading guilty, Ted was telling the world he was who they said he was by saying nothing at all.

And I was one of the people who never bothered to investigate any further. Guilty. Case closed. He was only a couple hours away for the entire time I lived in Colorado, and I never paid him any mind.

I thought more about Woody Harrelson's father and the now deceased Timothy McVeigh than I ever did Ted Kacyzinski. It's weird living in the same state as Supermax. You know how close the most heinous criminals in US history are, but you don't pay them much heed.

The Last Dance - Manhunt: UNABOMBER Season 1 Episode 8

Weirdly, after watching Manhunt: UNABOMBER, I'm not so sure Ted Kaczynski belongs in that place.

Ted was given a bad lot in life well before he started injuring others using the US postal system. Could any of us have come out of experiments the likes of what he experienced at Harvard and not suffered in some way?

While the general population wouldn't turn to murder, it wouldn't be hard to want to cut yourself off from society when you'd already had a penchant to do so.

Ted made so many bad choices. He took the choices of others out of their hands, so it's not too difficult to see the same done to him. The difference is it was our legal system that made that happen, and it's supposed to be better than the Ted Kaczynskis of the world.

It's supposed to protect the rights of even the worst of us, ensuring that even if we can't look out for ourselves, the system will look out for us. Instead, the very system Ted disliked so much proved to be less than optimal, just as he thought.

It wasn't looking out for the individual, but for the masses. The laws that were said one thing did another.

So a man who had the intelligence to go up against the FBI, possibly tossing turning the case on its ear, never got the opportunity.

Should Ted be out with the rest of us? Probably not. But there is also probably a better use for him than where he is now.

Watching him get his last glimpse at the outdoors he loved so much knowing what we know now, how technology would tear us apart and break down our interpersonal communications far more than bringing us together, well, dammit, it made my eyes leak. 

Everything about this case, from the Harvard experiments to the bombings to the victims to the manifesto to the guilty plea to Supermax all felt out of whack. Nobody won. 

It feels like there should be a better way to get points across and be heard, to treat others and have compassion, to write laws and to execute them. But this case started and ended well over 20 years ago. It doesn't seem like anything has changed. Yet.

Believe me, I'm not discounting or forgetting the awesome work done by Mr. Fitzgerald in creating forensic linguistics. It's an amazing achievement. Looking back, it's unbelievable he had such a difficult time getting people on board with the idea. 

But most of the series focused on that amazing achievement (and the bumbling FBI around him, to be fair), and closing in on Ted Kaczynski earned that character (and the man himself) the discussion on the finale review.

It's unlikely the entire team responsible for putting him away considers it their best work (his defense included) because he held them at bay for almost 18 years. Taking away his rights, more or less, turned out to be their ultimate win. Wouldn't that eat at you over the years?

Manhunt: UNABOMBER progressed in an utterly unexpected way. By closing in on Kaczynski only at the very end, I found myself as frustrated as the FBI and as isolated at Ted. Looking back, I wouldn't have wanted to experience it in any other way, no matter how much I might have annoyed you along the way.

Thanks for riding along with me.

If you want to see it all again, you can always watch Manhunt: UNABOMBER online. I hope there is another season with another manhunt, but I cannot imagine who should be on the loose. Do you have any ideas?

The United States of America versus Theodore J. Kaczynski Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (3 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Manhunt: UNABOMBER Season 1 Episode 8 Quotes

Natalie: The first time you sat with Ted, I didn't know if you were gonna come back. You have all the feelings that Ted feels: the anger, the resentment, the betrayal, the feeling that there is something wrong with the world. But you did the one thing that Ted can never do, and that is to look at Charles Epstein as a fellow human being, to look at him with a sense of empathy, to feel a sense of obligation to him, and that's what is motivating you now. I think that is truly noble.

You hold in your hands the blueprint for the public evisceration of James R. Fitzgerald, fruit of the poisonous tree. If you stick to my questions, the search warrant will be invalidated, and I'll be walking out of here.