The series is a portrait of the country that was in the middle of a feminist wave where women were finding a voice of their own beyond the confines of their homes and unsuccessful marriages, scaling academic peaks, excelling at jobs. Besides, it tries to discuss the possible reasons behind Ted Bundy’s pathological hatred for women.
What makes the peek into Ted Bundy’s life extremely chilling is the very fact that he behaved like every one among us, was a great communicator, a charmer of a kind and yet he had a creepy side that one couldn’t envision even in their wildest of dreams. The show doesn’t make the four-hour narrative only about the psychopath, but also gives a strong sense of politics in the times, the patriarchal conditioning that the women in society were subjected to.
From a female tennis player challenging a prominent sportsperson about her skill in the game (ultimately winning a match they had played against each other) to women protesting in the streets about marital rape and the rise in popularity for self-defence classes through the country – the documentary tells us what it meant to live during the 70s in the US. With accounts from women cops, FBI officers, advocates, we hear stories of the prevalent condescending attitudes of men in powerful positions and its obvious link with the life of Ted Bundy.
Still, it’s largely Elizabeth Kendall, his long-time girlfriend and a single mom (when they were dating), who discusses the enigma of the man and how their initial fairy tale days in the relationship barely prepared her for the catastrophic years that were to arrive ahead. The absence of any remorse or guilt in Ted for the horrendous crimes he commits is in stark contrast with the normalcy he strives for, in his relationship with Elizabeth while being a doting dad to her daughter Molly.
Such was the impact Ted had on Elizabeth’s family that the latter's father refused to stand up for her when she informs him of the fishy side to her partner’s character. The show also briefly presents the modus operandi of the psychopath, the choice of the women that he had attacked, but the commentary is more about the psychological after-effects of his crimes in the society. In times when women were discovering their independence, seeking a renewed identity for themselves in various sections of the society, a cold wave called Ted Bundy was a major dent to their progress, the makers of the show claim. The documentary is particularly effective in its personal, sensitive moments – capturing the guilt that Elizabeth experiences while confessing the dark side of her partner to the cops leading to his subsequent arrest, the effort of her daughter to hide the last letter that Ted sends to Elizabeth days before his death, the empathy that the parents of a few victims have for Ted and his immediate family members.
The show’s leisurely treatment permits enough breathing space for us to understand him through the lens of insiders besides third parties who were/weren’t directly involved with him. The segment about the media opting to take the sensationalist route in making Ted Bundy, a reality show gimmick than adopting a cautionary approach is reflective of the current times too. The account from the advocate who fights on his behalf in the court is among the most evocative portions in the series. That she had quit her profession after Ted’s death speaks of the impact that he had on the judiciary too.
The mention of the conversation between the advocate and her 12-year-old niece about the man leaves a lump in our throat. The show, as one of its speakers rightly points out, is an ode to those women who could have changed the face of the world, if not for Ted. The absence of any sensationalism in the narrative is indeed a relief.