The Peacock streaming app recently released the true crime series John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise to audiences. The case is well-known amongst true crime aficionados, and even casual observers have heard the name John Wayne Gacy. What you haven’t heard is the story of this man’s life and his crimes told the man himself, people who worked the case, as well as friends and family.
In fact, showrunner Alexa Danner says the mini-series format allows for a more in-depth exploration of the case. Danner also says that despite the wealth of knowledge on the Gacy case, this version offers so much more than facts from reports and police interviews. These are the elements that make the case so much more intriguing. Here is that clip where I interviewed Danner about her role in the case for the Black Cape.
The fact that Gacy himself is featured prominently in the series set it apart. He is sometimes very open and detailed and at other times clearly trying to muddy the evidence in the case. Danner structures the interview so that everything the man says is followed by another interview, or other video evidence that they have collected on the case. Oftentimes, that information contradicts what Gacy just said. Sometimes, that contradiction was his own words.
This way of letting the evidence tell the story is one that makes for a narrative that audiences will never forget. From boyhood to execution, Gacy’s life and his crimes are laid bear as the man gives his account of it all. We quickly identify him as an unreliable narrator, a tell that makes the series even more interesting. You never know what he would come up with next.
Former Detective Rafeal Tovar talked with me about the Gacy he remembered. Tovar was one of the detectives who arrested Gacy in 1978 and who helped find the 32 bodies in Gacy’s house. He says that a big part of the new series is the interviews. So many people speak out, some who have never spoken before, on their memories of Gacy and the case. The most prominent amongst them is Gacy’s sister Karen Kuzma. She has always ben vocal on the case, but she sits down to tell all for the Peacock series.
Tovar has been sharing his story since the arrest as a way to help others. From helping to profile other killers to helping change policy, he has used his story to ensure that lessons are learned from the case. One of the most important, he says, is the tracking of felons and sex offenders. Another is the Amber Alerts and tracking lost children immediately instead of waiting 24 hours. The other is on information sharing. Watch the clip to see my interview with Tovar and why he believes that Gacy would not get away with the same crimes today.
The episodes are long and may be triggering for sexual violence survivors. The gravity of the information is heavy, so take time to walk away, maybe binge in more than one session. Danner keeps that information clinical, but it is still heinous and some may have a hard time coping after spending too much time hearing from Gacy himself.
John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise is a very intriguing six-hour series that is already streaming on Peacock. True crime lovers will become engrossed and others will be sucked in as well because the story is organized well and presented in an easily digestible manner.
Rating 4 of 5.
Here is a clip from the show.
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