The documentary series Evil Genius is now streaming on Netflix.
By Greg Wheeler
Split across four informative parts, Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist is an in-depth true-crime documentary series exploring the infamous Pizza Bomber Heist in America. For those outside the US this is likely to be a relatively unknown story and the incredulous way this tale unravels raises a lot of questions early on. Those more familiar with the story will still find interest here though as the series combines archival footage, interview segments and mainstream news reporting with never-before-seen footage to help piece together the bizarre mystery that gripped America for years.
The first and second episodes reveal in detail what happened beginning with a pizza man calmly robbing a bank with a bomb strapped to his neck. What follows is a stand-off with the police which ends in a violent, visceral explosion as the bomb goes off. From here the plot continues to thicken as another dead body is found in a freezer near the crime scene and it’s at this point the investigation starts to pick up momentum. Letters revealing an elaborately constructed rat race for the bomber bring his willing participation in the scheme under scrutiny and as the pieces begin to align, the final two episodes pick up a few years after the heist to show the FBI closing in on who’s really to blame. With a combination of archival footage, interviews and voice recordings, Evil Genius is far less artistically crafted than other Netflix Documentary series, instead focusing solely on the story rather than slickly presented camera movements and reconstructions.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though; the gritty presentation helps keep the focus squarely on the bizarre tale being told. Each episode is well told and informative enough to keep you hooked on every part of this elaborate scheme. There’s a good amount of interviews with friends and family of the culprits too helping to give a fair and impartial view to each of the characters which certainly helps keep this one balanced. As the series progresses it becomes apparent that most of the string-pulling and scheming point to one woman – Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong – who, despite vehemently protesting she isn’t involved, is at the centre of every shocking revelation. The latter episodes feel far closer to a cat and mouse game as the police and FBI try to nail substantial evidence on her and the others involved.
With conflicting accounts from the various suspects involved in the heist and an air of mystery hanging over large swathes of the investigation, the final episode, conveniently called The Confessions, goes some way to answer the questions raised in this series with a few revealing interviews from people involved. The conclusive ending is satisfying enough to bring closure to this incredulous investigation and solidifies Evil Genius as another very good documentary series from Netflix. If you’ve seen any of the streaming giant’s offerings in this category, you know exactly what you’ll be getting by now – an engrossing, absorbing series well worth a watch and Evil Genius is no exception.
I give Evil Genius a B.