Two Shallow Graves True Crime Documentary Review, The McStay Family Murders

What Two Shallow Graves is all about without spoiling the show

The high-profile disappearance of the McStay Family of four (Joseph, Summer, Gianni, and Joseph Jr.) is the case discussed in this true crime documentary. This is a case many people followed when it was merely a missing persons case. There was a ton of speculation about them leaving for Mexico.

Shortly into this documentary, the bodies are eventually found. After some media clips covering their disappearance leading up to where the documentary really begins, Two Shallow Graves reveals the man who is imprisoned for their murders and on death row. In a twist from some other documentaries that seem to already have the answer, Two Shallow Graves dives into the story down a different path. Joseph’s former business partner, Chase Merritt, defends himself while in a prison jumpsuit throughout this series. We hear the evidence that ultimately convicted him while also learning other facts which may suggest he isn’t guilty.

You may come away as a one-person hung jury.

Did you know anything about the Two Shallow Graves story before watching?

Other than the constant barrage of advertisements I would see on Amazon while watching other things, the only thing I was familiar with was the famous image of the McStay Family potentially crossing the border into Mexico. As we quickly learn in this documentary, it wasn’t them. The story and the results of the investigation were all brand new to me. This is a case that somewhat disappeared in the public eye when it was no longer a missing persons case and now a homicide.

Will Two Shallow Graves make people feel uncomfortable?

There are no graphic images and because there is no confession, the only things that may make us feel uncomfortable come from the imaginations of the investigators discussing the crimes and how they may have occurred. Two children were murdered along with their parents which is always a little uncomfortable even if not much detail into how is given or shown. Two Shallow Graves doesn’t get excessive with the grim details. The documentary doesn’t ignore it either. The title itself is pretty dark.

What was good about Two Shallow Graves?

Two Shallow Graves has a brilliant way of telling the story. There’s a reason why documentaries about known serial killers aren’t favorites of mine. We already know a lot of that information. In this seven-part series, the tale unravels with all of the evidence right in front of us or maybe a whole lot of red herrings.

Merritt continues to deny he was the murderer and there is a lot of evidence to help his case. There is plenty pointing directly at him. It’s not all just circumstantial either. 

Seven parts might seem intimidating for some viewers but there’s a lot of content out there. We don’t spend a whole lot of time in the courtroom either. Much of what we see is speculation and the two sides pleading their case.

Two Shallow Graves is incredibly dark. It suits the material well. I usually prefer to have people like Joe Exotic or John Mark Byers in my true crime documentaries. An eccentric or two in a story never hurt anyone. In this case, completely dark is the only way to tell this story. An innocent man may be behind bars while the real killer(s) are free. This is the kind of documentary that could have future parts to it whether there is any change in the case or not.

What would have Two Shallow Graves better?

There isn’t much more Two Shallow Graves could have done to become a more enticing documentary. I finished and wanted more. The finale was a little anticlimactic as the penultimate episode led into the first conversation with one of the other main suspects. With no knowledge of where things stood upon production, I was expecting something different.

My only worry about any future episodes would be that the same dark theme doesn’t continue. A slightly better conclusion might add a little more satisfaction. I’m still convinced one of the major suspects had something to do with the murder. Maybe this is why when I think of my favorite true crime documentaries, Two Shallow Graves often comes to mind.

Is Two Shallow Graves worth watching?

Absolutely! Two Shallow Graves is a sleeper true crime series that should have gained a lot more attention. If it was on a better platform, it probably would have. Netflix tends to lean toward series where the case is closed or the person behind bars might really be innocent, like in Making a Murderer. As they even say in the documentary, Merritt is either the murderer or the unluckiest guy in the world.

A lot of what happened in Two Shallow Graves stuck with me. It’s easily in my top 10 true crime documentaries and one I would watch again. I’m not convinced of a final conclusion.

Overall Score: 10 out of 10

Two Shallow Graves will age well as a true crime documentary. We may have only seen the beginning.

Interested in watching Two Shallow Graves or learning more about the case? Below you will find affiliate links to the series as well as other information about this case. By using this links, I may receive a small commission of any purchase you may make.

Watch Two Shallow Graves on Amazon

No Good-Byes: The Mysterious Disappearance of the McStay Family by Rick Baker

McStays, Taken Too Soon: A True Story by Patrick McStay

If you have a series or film you want to know my opinion on, please leave a comment below. I may have already written about it. I can save you some time from watching a dud.

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