RECAP: Episode 3

Viewers who may have found themselves impatient with HBO’s “Atlanta’s Missing & Murders: The Lost Children” through its first two episodes will likely find the show turning their way in the latest installment. While the first two hours focused largely on the victims and their survivors, with a relatively light focus on the investigation itself, Episode 3 devotes itself fully to the manhunt for, and eventual capture of, Wayne Williams.

With Ronald Reagan’s White House having to fend off accusations of racism in the administration’s approach to the Atlanta tragedy, the impetus to end the slayings ratchets up. Testimonials allege that Williams was likely a patsy, someone who it was easy to hang the crimes on because there was a vested political interest in bringing this to a close. This isn’t necessarily a new theory, and we hear from those who do and don’t believe in Williams’ innocence.

One interviewee tells a harrowing story of nearly being abducted on the doorstep of a house. Upon seeing Williams’ face on television, he says with absolutely certainty that Williams was the man who nearly took him.

Williams’ initial police encounter, suspicion by law enforcement, the media frenzy and its ramifications on his family are all covered in fascinating detail. We see actual footage of Williams, his parents, Williams’ lawyer (who is also interviewed in modern-day segments) and others as the investigation into Williams ratcheted up. Most interesting is hearing from Williams in old interviews from prison. He describes the moment he was arrested as being when “everything stopped.”

This is perhaps the most rote episode of “Atlanta’s Missing & Murdered” so far. The excellent HBO docuseries has excelled when focusing on the elements around Williams and his alleged crimes, adding much-needed texture and pathos to aspects of these crimes that are often overlooked in favor of (for lack of a better word) entertainment. Episode 3 focuses on things we largely already know: the “how” of Williams’ capture. What I hope to see more of as the series continues is how his arrest divided communities and the city as a whole, and what those ramifications may still be 40 years later.

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