New York Times
By MIKE HALE
MAY 18, 2017
What quality does a true-crime story need most to become a national conversation piece? Lurid details (“The Jinx”)? A complicated mystery (“Making a Murderer”)? A social-justice angle (“Serial”)?
“The Keepers,” a seven-part Netflix documentary series (available on Friday) bidding to be the next true-crime must-watch, has all of those in abundance. It incorporates a half-century-old unsolved murder case, shocking details of sexual abuse and devastating indictments of the indifference and obstructionism of the Roman Catholic Church as well as of the Baltimore and Maryland criminal justice systems.
All of these make “The Keepers,” directed by Ryan White (“The Case Against 8”), an often fascinating and devastating experience. If it’s not quite as addictive, across seven hours, as the best of its competition, it’s not for lack of effort or craft. But yoking together the disparate elements of the story Mr. White is trying to tell would have been a tall order for anyone.
The show’s primary hook is its cold case, the murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, a young Baltimore nun and schoolteacher who disappeared in November 1969 and whose body was found two months later, dumped in a field. No one was ever charged in her death. Mr. White starts with that story and immediately introduces two memorable and appealing figures: Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub, former students of Sister Cesknik’s who have devoted themselves in recent years to investigating her case.
But there’s more. In the series’s second episode, we meet Jean Hargadon Wehner, who figures significantly in the Cesnik case but has her own, separate story to tell, about horrific abuse at the hands of a male faculty member at the same school where Sister Cesnik taught.