Interestingly, “Confronting a Serial Killer” isn’t really about Sam Little as much as author Jillian Lauren and the justice she seeks for the victims of Little. Lauren was in the process of writing a book on Little when she made contact with the imprisoned murderer, and the two formed a bond not unlike Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs” in its structure of counterpart. Revealed via recorded phone calls for the book and now the series, Little is an ominous presence. He develops an affection for Lauren, who knows how to get him to open up, and whose family has suffered as a result of taking on this project. Some of the scenes in which she collapses in the face of the horrors Little reveals are heartbreaking. It’s a brave project for her to have even considered.
True crime streaks often center the villain, but Berlinger cleverly centers Lauren, Little’s rage survivors, and family members of her victims. Little becomes a terrible supporting character in his own story, which reveals flaws in a legal system that allow him to continue killing. Episode after episode, incompetent police work and a structure that essentially allows the murder of people of a certain race and class. Berlinger examines the years-broken justice system, truly game-changing with ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘Confronting a Serial Killer’ is at its best when it highlights how people like Sam Little get away with unimaginable crimes that are more likely to turn around when a woman dies, especially if that woman is a person of color and a sex worker.
It also highlights how easy it was to get away with murder before DNA changed the criminal justice system. When technology began to develop in the 1980s, there were literally thousands of unsolved murders in Los Angeles, and a large chunk of them were sex workers. It became increasingly clear that there were several serial killers lurking in the City of Angels, and one of the most notorious was Sam Little, a man who was ultimately convicted of killing three people but which almost certainly killed many, many more. In fact, investigators have reason to believe he took more lives than Bundy, Gacy, and Dahmer combined.