When it comes to true crime, Netflix has a tendency toward the sensational that veers into tasteless. As a genre, true crime is loaded enough with the tension between genuine interest and prurient gawking, and too often, especially post-Tiger King, Netflix leans into the prurient with their docs. Well, here’s a true crime story that is impossible to f-ck up—Netflix is releasing a documentary series about D.B. Cooper, the infamous mystery man who hijacked a plane in 1971 and was never seen again. Guilt-free true crime stories are few and far between, but the mystery of D.B. Cooper is one of them. No one was hurt, except probably Cooper himself, and because we DON’T know what happened, it remains a delicious mystery. (He probably died, but it’s fun to imagine he didn’t.)
The series comes from filmmaker Marina Zenovich, who won two Emmys for her docuseries Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, which is as much about Polanski as it is the judge in his case, Laurence Rittenband, and how all the publicity sort of poisoned the judge’s well. D.B. Cooper is a much less fraught topic, for sure. Here it looks like Zenovich is focused on “citizen sleuths”, and one particular effort to unmask D.B. Cooper by Tom Colbert. This is one of those mysteries I’m happy to leave unsolved—there’s no stakes either way—but I am always interested in the processes people use to arrive at different conclusions. And the Cooper case is like the Isabella Gardner Museum heist, there’s no harm in speculation, so we can all get super obsessed and trade theories guilt free. Because either D.B. Cooper got away with it—amazing, inspirational, legendary—or he really did die when he jumped out of that airplane, which, at least he died doing what he loved—being totally f-cking rad.