Who remembers the infamous “pizza bomber” of 2003? It was a bizarre and gruesome incident that involved pizza delivery man Brian Wells, who robbed a bank while wearing a strange bomb collar around his neck. When surrounded by police, Wells begged officers to remove the collar. During this tense standoff, the bomb detonated and killed the man. If you remember seeing this on TV and thinking it was one of the most bizarre crimes ever committed. The Netflix true crime documentary Evil Genius explores this unusual incident from its horrific beginnings to its conclusion.
Here’s a look at Netflix’s Evil Genius trailer…
Streaming Netflix’s Evil Genius
After Mrs. Buckler and I binge watched Amazon’s Goliath season two, we needed something new to stream. While searching through our Netflix queue, we discovered Evil Genius. I read its basic plot description and said, “Oh my God! I remember seeing that on the news.” We dialed up the first of the show’s four episodes, which begins with actual footage of Mr. Wells begging police officers to save him. Then the bomb collar goes off, and his lifeless body slumps to the pavement.
With only three episodes left, we quickly decided to binge this short but intriguing series. Wow! What a show. When it happened, I remember being terrified by this story. Despite the deep impression it made on me, I never bothered to research the crime to find out if it was ever solved. These questions are more or less answered in Evil Genius, for those who have wondered about the infamous pizza bomber case. Like any good Netflix true crime documentary, Evil Genius has:
A mystery as to who actually masterminded the crime.
A question of whether or not Brian Wells was an accomplice to it.
A group of very peculiar (read: weird) suspects.
A back-story featuring the director’s strange correspondences with one suspect.
Plenty of police interview footage with the suspects.
Reactions from shocked townspeople who couldn’t believe this could happen in Erie, PA.
An ending that asks as many questions as the series set out to answer.
Why You Should Watch Evil Genius?
I’m not one to give spoilers, so there’s only so far I’ll dig with this review. What I will say is that this documentary series offers a detailed account of this bizarre case. If you remember seeing this on the news – or are someone who loves true crime stories – Evil Genius is for you. It features plenty of police procedure and interviews with the local and federal detectives involved in the case. Friends and family of the victim and suspects are also interviewed to help round out the narrative.
Here are some of the most intriguing things about Evil Genius:
It explains one of the most bizarre crimes that has happened during my lifetime.
It seeks to solve the question of whether Brian Wells was an accomplice in the crime or not.
It’s a rather strange, horrific, and compelling story.
Is Netflix’s Evil Genius Good?
This is a simple question with a complicated answer. Did Mrs. Buckler and I enjoy watching Evil Genius? Absolutely. The series gave a good overview of the incident and the people believed to be the masterminds of this senseless crime. That said, is Evil Genius the best Netflix true crime documentary? No, it’s not. That top honor still belongs to Making a Murderer.
Anyone looking for an in-depth examination of this crime as well as anyone looking for some entertainment will likely enjoy Evil Genius. Will you enjoy it? That depends on much you enjoyed Netflix’s now-famous true crime documentary, Making a Murderer. Evil Genius just doesn’t illicit the same strong emotional response from viewers that Making a Murderer did when it came out in 2015. The pacing and narrative structure of Evil Genius just isn’t as good. With only four episodes instead of 10, Evil Genius needed a bit more room to breath. It’s overall narrative structure could’ve benefited from that.
One thing that compromised Evil Genius was director Trey Borzillieri’s correspondence with alleged suspect Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. His conversations with her are inserted into the film in such a way that they become jarring to the show’s narrative flow. The state’s case claimed that Marjorie was the mastermind behind this horrific crime, yet all the interviews with her show an unhinged and barely coherent woman. Borzillieri’s relationship with Marjorie was intriguing enough that it should have been an episode unto itself. We might have gotten a better view of who she really was if that were the case.
The subject of mental illness comes up in Evil Genius but is hardly explored. For example, Marjorie was alleged to be a very intelligent person, as the series’ title indicates. That said, she was also diagnosed as having bi-polar disorder, and could also have suffered from narcissistic personality disorder. He alleged co-conspirators, William Rothstein and Ken Barnes, were also likely affected with personality disorders. All three of them were severe hoarders, which could have been explored in an additional episode.
Netflix Evil Genius Ending
In most cases, a series or show lives or dies on how it ends. In the case of Evil Genius, the series ends with some important questions left unanswered. It’s not enough to completely ruin this series, though. It might not be the best true crime documentary Netflix has ever made, but it’s good enough to stream. With only one of the three alleged co-conspirators is still alive, there probably won’t be a second season. It’s a good thing Netflix has other true crime documentaries for us to stream.