Some Thoughts on the In The Dark Podcast


As I have mentioned previously, I am a fan of the true crime genre. I’m obviously not alone in this; not only have the shows Making a Murderer and The Jinx been wildly popular, but there is an entire network devoted to this stuff in Investigation Discovery. Podcasts like Serial and Undisclosed have also been watercooler fodder, though I admit the second seasons of both have not quite grasped my attention the same way their respective first seasons have. I’m always on the hunt for compelling items from this genre; currently sitting on my coffee table is Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans by Ethan Brown. When done right, true crime can be a fascinating examination of our judicial system and how police build a case – for good and for ill.

In my search for new content, I found the podcast In The Dark; it was mentioned on a recent episode of Undisclosed and piqued my interest because unlike a lot of what’s currently popular in the true crime universe, this podcast wasn’t interested in shining a light on a potentially wrongly convicted person or in trying to solve a cold case. The case at the center of In the Dark has been solved and there is no ambiguity that they have the right person. Rather, the podcast focuses on why it took so long to solve this case and what went wrong along the way. As a person that is always fascinated with process and ways to improve it, In the Dark is right up my alley and has resulted in a fascinating listen.

At the center of the podcast is the abduction and murder of 11 year old Jacob Wetterling, who went missing in St. Joseph, Minnesota in 1989. His body wasn’t found until earlier this year, when the man that assaulted and murdered Jacob confessed and led authorities to his body after being caught for another crime. In the Dark examines why it took 27 years for this case to be solved; what could have been done differently to lead to an earlier conviction of the man who was underneath their noses the entire time? The podcast also examines how this case affected some of the people who were wrongly identified as “people of interest” in the case and the impact of the national registry for sex offenders that was put into place as a result of Jacob’s disappearance. They also put the failure to solve Jacob’s case in a timely manner in the context of other major crimes in the county to see if there is a systemic problem.

It’s been a fascinating listen so far and it has raised some pretty big issues not only about how the Stearns County sheriff’s office conducted their investigation, but about their disinterest or unwillingness to revisit what they could have done better in this case to improve their procedures going forward. Perhaps because of my personality and because part of my day job is to constantly re-evaluate how we do things at my office and how we can improve, I was surprised by the lack of self-reflection and the “we can’t change the past so why think about it attitude” that seemingly pervades the organization. It’s heartbreaking to see how close they were to solving this case – and others – and how failure to follow policing 101 or tunnel vision on one particular suspect handicapped them every step of the way. Combine that with the lack of oversight for the Sheriff – they can only be removed by losing an election – and it doesn’t instill a lot of confidence. It’s also heartbreaking to hear from the man who was deemed a “person of interest” in the case and the devastation that association has had on his life.

In the Dark is great investigative journalism and I’m sorry that there are only nine episodes of the podcast planned (the first eight have already been released). While they may have exhausted all that they can examine in the Jacob Wetterling case, I hope this podcast serves as a model for others; even in a case that is ostensibly solved, there are still issues to be examined. The focus doesn’t always have to be on potential exoneration of an innocent person (though that, of course, is important too). Nothing can bring Jacob Wetterling back or spare his family the pain that they have endured, but hopefully In the Dark will lead to some changes that will honor his memory and help others. If you dig criminal justice, true crime, Serial, or Making a Murderer, In the Dark is worth a listen.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – The Final Countdown Edition


Election 2016 is almost over and I couldn’t be happier about that. I’m a political scientist and I usually eat up presidential elections with a spoon, but I’ve been ready for this election to be over pretty much since it began. I’m so disinterested that I’m not even going to be home for the final debate tonight; while everyone else is watching that sh*tshow, I’ll be seeing Louis C.K. perform standup, which is a much better way to spend an evening. The only potential downside to the election ending is that it will eliminate a topic of small talk around the office; I’m not a morning person and I don’t particularly enjoy pointless chitchat, so I’m not even that bummed for that to be coming to a close as well.

I would, however, be sad if the pop culture roundup came to an end and lucky for all of you that doesn’t look like its going to happen. So take a break from the election and get yourself caught up on the pop culture that you might have missed.








  • Rouge One:


  • Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party:


  • Big Little Lies:


  • Operator:


  • Into the Inferno:


  • The Boss Baby:


  • Assassin’s Creed:


  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe:


  • The Escape:











Odds and Ends

There goes the neighborhood. Daisy Josephine Sudeikis. Born, like a boss, on #internationaldayofthegirl. ❤️

A photo posted by Olivia Wilde (@oliviawilde) on

Mashups and Supercuts

  • 10 most emotional movies of all time:


  • 25 impressions in 2.5 minutes:


  • A 1920s cover of Madonna’s “Material Girl”:


  • Run, Tom Cruise. Run:


  • Arrested Development fact-checks the presidential debate:


  • There’s Something About Mary recut as a psychological thriller:


  • And finally, “Bohemian Rhapsody” sung by 2016 movie characters:

Revisiting Hamilton


This Saturday, I finally got to pay off my Christmas gift to my sister-in-law Beth by taking her to see Hamilton. I had bought these tickets way back in November, so it was nearly a year of waiting and anticipating building. This would be her first time seeing the show, but it would be the second go-round for me and my friend Amanda. Beth, however, has an almost obsessive devotion to the show and had listened to my copy of the original cast recording so much that the cd actually broke in her car. Since I am someone who generally likes to go into shows with as little information as possible, I was worried that there was no way that Hamilton was going to be able to live up to her lofty expectations. Since the cast recording was basically the show, would her familiarity breed disappointment? As for me, I had been incredibly spoiled to see the original cast actually perform the show, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about seeing other people in the roles. I was completely blown away when I saw Hamilton the first time, so it was possible that this was inevitably going to be a case of diminishing returns.

As you may have realized by now, I have a tendency to overthink things.


Turns out my obsessive worrying was all for naught – we all left the show happy and, unlike Alexander Hamilton, satisfied with what we had just experienced. Even though we were all familiar with the show in varying ways, the performance still felt fresh and exciting.

Though no one will ever replace the original cast in my heart, the new actors more than held their own in the show. What I think I enjoyed the most about this second viewing of Hamilton was that the actors were able to put their own spin on these characters and were not simply doing impressions of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the rest of the original cast. These were the same characters, obviously, but the actors interpreted them slightly differently. For example, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton was much more earnest, which isn’t all that surprising if you have any familiarity with Miranda. By contrast, Javier Muñoz made his Hamilton a little more cocky and confident. It was subtle, but it was an interesting new facet of the character. Likewise the portrayal of Aaron Burr shifted depending on the actor playing him; when Leslie Odom, Jr. originated the role, Burr was very reserved and tightly-wound. He seems to tolerate Hamilton, but always views him as a threat. Brandon Victor Dixon’s Burr, on the other hand, seems to initially find Hamilton amusing, then exasperating, and then finally as his chief rival; the audience is watching him slowly unravel. These little tweaks kept the show interesting and added a different lens to hear the songs.

While I was worried that our collective familiarity with the show would be an issue, it was actually an asset. When Amanda and I saw the show back in August of 2015, the cast album hadn’t been released yet so you really had to pay attention to the show to keep up with the story and the lyrics. A lot of the songs are fairly rapid-fire so your focus is entirely honed on whoever is speaking in an attempt, often vainly, to unpack everything that they are saying (this was especially true for Daveed Diggs, who can spit out rhymes so fast that it makes your head spin). This time around, we were all very familiar with the lyrics and therefore didn’t have to have the same laser-like concentration. This allowed us all to take in more of the show as a whole. Hamitlon is a show that is full of motion and there is a lot going on on stage that we were able to more fully experience this time around. Having primarily experienced the show through the cast recording, Beth said that she was blown away by the actual staging of the show, which added so much more to the storytelling. Amanda and I also picked up on a lot of things that we had previously missed.

I don’t know if it was our ability to be more observant of the show or the new cast – or a combination of the two – but this time around Hamilton was also a lot funnier. It seems that the longer the show runs, the more opportunities that they have found to add additional laughs to the production. When I initially saw it, I only remember King George serving as comedic relief. This time, whether it was how they delivered a line or the actor’s facial expressions, there were way more opportunities to chuckle. In fact, this entire production of Hamilton felt looser and more relaxed than when I initially saw it. After over a year of doing the show, they have found their groove.

The only role where I thought it was an obvious step down from the original cast was Angelica. Now, to be fair, “Satisfied” is one of my favorite songs in the entire show and Renee Elise Goldsberry was so amazing in that role that my standards were pretty high for her replacement. So my standards may be unfair to Mandy Gonzalez, but her performance just didn’t gel for me. She can sing, but I just didn’t feel like she had the necessary chemistry with Muñoz for her depiction of Angelica to be full realized. People who have less affinity for that role/song may not be as critical.

Some random thoughts:

  • No matter how many times I see Hamilton, I was always hater Phillip. My only regret is that they don’t kill that kid more than once in the show.


  • I had always thought that the cast recording covered everything in the show, but apparently there is at least one scene that isn’t included as Beth was surprised by it. It’s minor, but it does resolve what happened to one character.
  • They’ve gotten stricter with searching bags as you enter the performance and they wouldn’t let us bring in the cookies that we bought from Schmackary’s in with us, which is a goddamn tragedy. So if you were walking down 46th street and saw a woman trying to shove an entire red velvet cookie in her mouth outside the Richard Rodgers Theater, that was me.


  • We also stopped by the Hamilton pop-up store that has opened across the street from the theater. It’s mostly the same stuff that is available inside the theater, but it is an opportunity for people who can’t get tickets to still get some merch. I didn’t buy anything, because I really don’t need a $40 t-shirt, but they have some nice stuff.

It’s probably pretty non-controversial to say that we all loved Hamilton, but I’m supremely happy to report that even if you didn’t get to see the original cast that you aren’t missing out on that much. The current cast is generally stellar and brings some fresh energy and perspective to the show. I don’t know how actively I’ll seek out the opportunity, but I would definitely go see Hamitlon a third time under the right circumstances. Now that the show is touring, I’m glad that more people potentially will have the chance to see the show.