Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

Dept. of Crimes and Misdemeanours


While watching the Super Bowl early Monday morning I couldn’t help but ask myself if I was, in some way, complicit in an American conspiracy.

As I watched another wide receiver get hit hard, I asked myself, is that the kind of hit that ruined Aaron Hernandez’s life?

Over the weekend I finally sat down to watch the latest true crime documentary released by Netflix, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. Admittedly, the timing was a little odd; the Super Bowl was in a couple of days and I had only just about recovered from watching my team lose in the NFC Championship game. Maybe it was all the hype (from both the documentary and the upcoming Super Bowl) that I finally pressed play on a documentary that had been sitting in my “Watch List” ever since it came out in early January.

First, some background. Aaron Hernandez was an exciting, young, up-and-coming football player signed to the dominant New England Patriots in 2010. Three years later, however, he was arrested for a murder that shocked fans of the sport everywhere.

Over the course of 3 episodes and 200 minutes, the Netflix documentary breaks down the history of Aaron Hernandez, from his upbringing as one of two sons of a high school football legend, his early run-ins with the law, his collegiate sporting life, his professional career, and ultimately, his downfall.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez does more than just tell the audience about the case. In Serial style, the documentary uses prison recorded phone conversations between Aaron Hernandez and his wife, mother, and cousin. In those conversations he is heard as someone who is loving to his wife and young daughter, a little distraught at his mother, and caring for his cousin. The normalcy of the majority of those phone conversations can be striking, especially knowing what he had been accused of doing. He sounds happy-go-lucky when he’s talking to friends over the phone. He laughs and coos over the phone to his daughter. In a phone conversation with his agent who tells Hernandez that Nike is considering canceling his contract because of the court case that was about to start, Hernandez jokes that maybe the agent should try and see if he can get a contract with gunmaker Smith & Wesson.

Aaron Hernandez in court in Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

What this series doesn’t do, however, is shed new light on the case. This isn’t Making A Murderer, where the filmmakers followed the Steven Avery case for over 13 years. This isn’t HBO’s The Jinx where new information was potentially uncovered. Killer Inside is essentially a very good Wikipedia entry. The documentary brings up a lot of questions about Aaron Hernandez but does very little in terms of answering them. There are interviews with friends and his former teammates, but nothing from the man himself. With good reason. Two years after his conviction in 2015, Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in jail while waiting for his appeal hearing. 

As a true crime documentary series, this isn’t necessarily the best of its kind. Maybe because as a fan of American football I had known a little bit about the what had happened with Aaron Hernandez. And as a fan of American football I had heard of the problems with concussions and the brain injury called CTE. It’s a problem that’s faced by NFL players, and if you know where to look, it even showed up on HBO’s series Ballers.

And maybe that’s the point. Killer Inside isn’t for me. Killer Inside isn’t for the fan that already knows this story. This documentary is for the fan of the true crime genre. This documentary is for the person that may have heard of the story but not know the details. And for that, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez does a great job of scratching that itch. The documentary paints a picture of a troubled mind with a problematic childhood. A troubled mind that was potentially made worse by drugs and access to drugs, because of his fame, both in college and as an NFL professional. A problematic childhood possibly made worse by the sport that he loves. Or vice versa.

Aaron Hernandez being taken away following an injury in a game.

So, as I watch Jennifer Lopez and Shakira perform at the Super Bowl halftime show, I have to ask myself: how many of those players in the locker room are dealing with a splitting headache? Are any of them having trouble with their balance and their vision? How many of them are playing through the pain because of what is expected of them? How many of them are telling themselves to suck it up and be a man? How many of them are hiding secrets? 

In 2011, Dave Duerson, a retired NFL player, committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He left a suicide note requesting that his brain be donated to be studied for signs of brain trauma. It was later confirmed that Dave Duerson, at 50, had CTE. 

As a companion piece, watch Concussion from 2015 with Will Smith, which tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the first pathologist to link head trauma in American football to CTE. And also how the NFL organisation responded to that finding.

Side note: soccer (or for us non-Americans: “football”) players are also susceptible to CTE.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
Netflix, Limited Series, 3 Episodes
Director: Geno McDermott
Cast: Aaron Hernandez, Susan Candiotti, Dan Wetzel, Ryan O’Callaghan, Chris Borland, Leigh Bodden, and Jermaine Wiggins

Bahir likes to review movies because he can watch them at special screenings and not have to interact with large groups of people who may not agree with his idea of what a movie going experience is. Bahir likes jazz, documentaries, Ken Burns, and summer blockbuster movies. He really hopes that the HBO MAX Green Lantern series will help the character be cool again. Also don’t get him started on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (#NotMyArthurCurry).

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