Volume 2 of Netflix’s ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Brings New Cases and Disturbing Questions
Men who walked out the door and never came back, felons still on the run, and the possibility of restless ghosts from the 2011 Japan earthquake. Exactly what we would expect from a fresh offering of “Unsolved Mysteries.” The Netflix revival of the classic TV investigative series is barely a year old, but here we have a new season with episodes ranging from the tragic to the downright strange. Instead of being called a second season, this is “Volume 2.”
The show remains host-less, still refusing to replace Robert Stack, whose gritty voice made the original 1987-2002 version a classic. Six new episodes keep this new incarnation fascinating and chilling, even if the themes are a bit all over the place. With eerie camera work or very sharp documentary approaches, each episode tells a true story that remains frustratingly unresolved. There are no aliens or UFOs in “Volume 2,” but there are still glimpses of the otherworldly. The first episode is simple and eerie enough however. “Washington Insider Murder” looks at the case of former White House aide Jack Wheeler, whose body was found in a landfill in 2010. A man with a long trajectory, including serving as chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and also working for Amtrak, Wheeler was the shining example of a Washington success. He was also bipolar and his death raises startling questions. The last night anyone saw Wheeler alive he was in a daze, having walked out of his home, somehow ending up in another town. His body showed no signs of a robbery, yet important documents he carried did go missing. In classic “Unsolved Mysteries” fashion, strange security camera footage emerges of Wheeler wandering into pharmacies and parking lots like a restless case. Was it a mental break? Or foul play? Every episode ends with a number you can call.
A truly intriguing episode is “A Death in Oslo,” about a young woman who checked into a luxury hotel in 1995 and is then found dead from a gunshot wound. For the last two decades her identity has remained a complete mystery. This is also a story about obsession. Journalist Lars Christian Wegner is our guide into this case because he is so consumed by it, studying every small detail from the address the woman gave at check-in to the truly bizarre amount of bullets she apparently carried in her luggage. An episode like this easily absorbs the viewer because it flirts with so many possibilities. She could have been a suicide, or a double agent, the possibilities are endless.
Oddly enough, “Unsolved Mysteries” seems to have trouble finding cases closer to our current timeline. The best ones are culled from stories decades old, which does lend them a more haunting tone. Some are also simpler but infuriating, like the case in “Death Row Fugitive.” In1973 convicted killer Lester Eubanks escaped the electric chair, after taking advantage of a prison program allowing him to go Christmas shopping for family. Using digital aging of old photos we get a sense of what Eubanks might look like today. It is also a well-made episode about the scars of lingering tragedies. Relatives of Eubanks’s victims are still profoundly shaken, and their anger is palpable in their voices.
As viewers we tend to gravitate towards these stories because they do touch relatable, even deep themes. “Tsunami Spirits” revisits the March 2011 earthquake that struck Japan, producing a devastating tsunami that contributed to the tragedy’s death toll. Like “Death Row Fugitive,” this episode is also about traumatic events that leave a lasting impact. Survivors remember losing relatives, including infants, to the tsunami’s destructive path. Some are also convinced the spirits of the dead speak to them, as apparitions or near-possessions of the living. This is the one episode in “Volume 2” that harkens back to the “Unsolved Mysteries” tradition if dabbling in the paranormal once in a while. But it’s also an episode not without emotional power. You don’t have to believe in ghosts to feel the sorrow of the survivors’ accounts.
With every episode opening with its classic eerie theme song intact, “Unsolved Mysteries” still has the ability to be endlessly fascinating. We go about our mundane lives while strange things are happening out there, or lives get turned upside down without any proper closure. You have to judge this show based on what it seeks to do, and this new version still delivers as promised, leaving it up to us to ponder the answers.
“Unsolved Mysteries” Vol. 2 begins streaming Oct. 19 on Netflix.