RECAP: Episode 2

It’s clear when watching the second episode of HBO’s “Atlanta’s Missing & Murdered: The Lost Children” that the show’s title must be taken at face value. The docuseries will continue focusing primarily on the actual children and their families. We’ve seen and read about the more procedural aspects of this case elsewhere. The show isn’t ignoring that aspect at all, but in these first two episodes, that doesn’t seem to be what it wants to focus on.

And that’s fine. In fact, it’s a great thing. These are stories that need to be told; the adage “better late than never” could not be more applicable. There is some horrifically graphic footage in this episode; this is not for the faint of heart, but it drives home the severe nature of these crimes, the tragedy of how long it took for the crimes to end, and the sheer evil it must take for someone (or some ones) to do this.

When the episode does focus on the investigation itself, we get some rather startling insights. The tensions between the African-American community and law enforcement, which was touched upon in the premiere, is examined in greater depth during this episode. We also get more insight into how the case came into the national spotlight, with President Ronald Reagan finally dispatching the FBI to get involved after Atlanta’s mayor made a personal plea for help. (An astute observation is made that the Lindbergh Baby’s disappearance received a swift federal response, but the murders in Atlanta reached horrific numbers before such assistance was finally given.)

One of the investigators talks about an FBI profiler coming down and not being able to go into black neighborhoods, thus making the assessment that the killer had to be black. (Those who have seen the last season of Netflix’s “Mindhunter” may remember a similar scene.) Off-camera a producer asks why they would simply eliminate all non-black suspects based on that alone. The investigator responds that everyone was still a suspect, but because of that anecdote, it’s just “a fact” that the killer had to be black. I’m not sure what the difference there is, and I wish the producer had pressed further on this.

In the last scene, Wayne Williams (heard, not seen) calls from prison to address a congregation that has gathered to discuss and, hopefully, take action to find out the truth behind the murders. Williams speaks briefly, urging to not only clear his name but to find “some justice” for the families who never got any. When the pastor asks the congregation if they think Williams is innocent, the majority raise their hands. Only a few are shown to be undecided, and even fewer (only one man that we’re shown) thinks Williams is undeniably guilty.

“Atlanta’s Missing & Murdered: The Lost Children” airs on HBO Sundays at 8pm.