While being fairly paint-by-numbers, a sweeping cast of interviewees and mind-blowing twists and turns make Netflix's Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife worth watching.
The latest in a string of true-crime hits on the streaming giant, Love Under the Knife tells a dueling story of the disgraced doctor Paolo Macchiarini, who commits "one of the biggest frauds in modern medical history" (via Netflix) while pulling the wool over the eyes of the woman he (quote-unquote) loves.
The three-part series cemented a stellar debut, rising to second place on the Netflix streaming charts in North America shortly after its release.
But with a myriad of true crime docuseries on any number of streaming services, what makes Bad Surgeon stand out from the pack?
The Good Doctor Goes Bad
Emmy-nominated director Ben Steele knows how to weave an engaging narrative.
Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife tells the tale of Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, an Italian surgeon touting how he can save lives by way of stem cell-infused plastic tracheal implants, only for his patients to die cruel and terrible deaths. Those deaths are then covered up without a trace of evidence.
These treatments earned Dr. Macchiarini international acclaim, leading him to meet his eventual fiancée, NBC journalist Benita Alexander.
From there, it slowly builds, telling an in-tandem narrative of a too-good-to-be-true romance and a miracle-working doctor. This is done to such great effect that, despite knowing this house of cards is about to blow over, it is hard not to buy into Dr. Macchiarini's exploits.
However, everything comes to a screeching halt when both the doctor's potential marriage and his career come tumbling down all at once, with his crimes finally brought to light.
This is told mostly by way of some stellar primary source interviews. The filmmakers talked to everyone from Macchiarini's ex-fiancee, Benita Alexander, to doctors who worked alongside him in the operating room at Sweden's Karolinska Institute to family members of the victims of Macchiarini's crime.
While there is a fairly large Paolo Macchiarini-sized hole sitting in the middle of this docuseries, with the disgraced medical professional not sitting down for a conversation, he is still very present thanks to archival footage, interviews, and even pieces of a 2016 documentary that exposed his crimes.
The Netflix Formula Still Works
Bad Surgeon is the latest series to cash in on Netflix's vertical of "I cannot believe that happened" docuseries.
The slow pans, talking heads, and shocking soundbites to end an episode are all present here. But given the story being told is as engaging as it is, this is the Netflix true crime formula working.
Like many Netflix true-crime series, Love Under the Knife is a brisk journey that never stays anywhere too long. Coming in at a mere 159 minutes, this series does a fairly effective job of telling this story in just over two and a half hours.
In fact, by the end, audiences will likely be left in awe of just how much and how many planes of action the series covered.
Yes, for those who have seen plenty of Netflix's other deep dives into this format, Bad Surgeon will seem a little familiar. Most of its moves feel a little telegraphed; however, there are some truly eye-popping twists even the most seasoned true-crime buff will not see coming.
Bad Surgeon's Sickening Message
One may wonder how someone like Dr. Macchiarini got away with what he did for so long, but that is ultimately the crux of the series.
This is a show about honest people not being able to see the dishonesty right in front of them.
As Swedish investigative journalist Johannes Wahlstrom says in the series, "Macchiarini was selling dreams, but he wouldn’t be selling them if there were not any buyers.”
The blind faith people seem ready to give to get what they so desperately think they need is what Love Under the Knife leaves viewers questioning.
It is a sobering and stomach-churning realization that even those people society has deemed as holier than thou may be nothing more than a slick conman looking to make a quick buck.
While not the happiest sentiment to send audiences home on, it is one that does not often get explored in these sorts of escapist true-crime stories.
Is Bad Surgeon Worth Watching?
Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife is a great option for those looking for a quick weekend or evening binge.
While it does little to innovate on the Netflix true-crime format, it tells an engaging, mulit-plane story, without overstaying its welcome thanks to a tight 159-minute package.
This, plus the series of incredibly candid interviews that make up the series' central narrative, makes this particular docuseries something that needs to be seen to be believed.
When queueing something up on Netflix or some other streamer, one could do worse than Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife.
Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife is streaming now on Netflix.