Lifetime's Murdaugh Murders: The Movie. Recap, review from trial expert, SC Lowcountry locals

If you are a fan of Southern Gothic true crime, you probably have plans for this weekend: watching back-to-back episodes of Lifetime’s four-hour, two-night move event, Murdaugh Murders: The Movie.

Murdaugh Murders: The Movie premieres on Lifetime at 8 p.m EST on Saturday and Sunday, and each episode can be streamed the next day.

But in case you have been living under a rock since 2019, or all you watch is Jersey Shore and the Kardashians, here is the true story this major movie event is based on. (Click! Action!)

Murdaugh Murders: The Movie follows the twisted true story of Alex Murdaugh played by award winning actor Bill Pullman, who was found guilty in the double homicide of his wife, Maggie and his son, Paul, while still facing more than 100 other criminal charges and vowing to appeal his case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Watch the show and follow this live blog in real time by Gannett journalist, author, historian and Hampton County native Michael M. DeWitt Jr.

Lifetime's Murdaugh Murders: The Movie: Follow Part 2 Sunday with trial expert, SC Lowcountry locals

Lifetime Murdaugh movie concludes with Judge Newman's haunting words

As Alex Murdaugh tries to sleep in his holding cell, the "ghosts" of Maggie and Paul visit and torment him and the Colleton County jury deliberates his fate.

Unless you have been living under a boulder, you know how this ends: Alex, "loving husband and father," is convicted of spilling family blood and sentenced to two life sentences.

The next time he will return to his hometown of Hampton County will likely be when the Dept. of Corrections ships his body to be buried in Hampton Cemetery with the other Murdaugh family members. But will they accept him as one of their own?

As the clerk reads "guilty," we finally see the face of Alex Murdaugh that murderous night, wearing the blue raincoat and holding a weapon.

Is that what Maggie and Paul saw?

Just before the movie credits roll, Judge Newman says, "May God have mercy on your soul."

What do you think of this dramatic reenactment? Feel free to comment on our social media pages.

Alex Murdaugh takes the stand in Lifetime movie

As expected, the witnesses testifying that it Alex Murdaugh's voice on Paul's cell phone video was the most powerful evidence.

Then Alex insists, over his lawyer's objections, that he take the stand in his own defense.

Cue the waterworks from actor Billl Pullman, and the cutesy nicknames "Mags" and "Paw Paw."

"I would never hurt Mags, and I would never hurt Paw Paw," said a red-faced, emotional Alex.

Great acting from Bill Pullman, but there was no snot dripping like Alex displayed during the real trial.

Trial of Alex Murdaugh heats up in Lifetime movie

So far, the trial depicted appears to be sticking mostly true to real-life events. The actor quotes Murdaugh attorney Dick Harpootlian almost word for word: "a square peg in a round hole."

There is talk of video evidence, blood spatters, the mysterious blue jacket, etc.

But in the movie, just like the real true crime saga, the central theme is that Alex Murdaugh's stories don't add up.

And prosecutors continue to point out Alex's "odd" behavior, as well as the fact that he quickly offered up alternative motives and suspects - sharing the "long story" of the boat crash.

But Shelley Smith takes the stand, and his alibi is now shaky, and then there is the blue raincoat coated in gunshot residue.....

'Judge Newman' indicts Alex Murdaugh, trial begins

The actor who portrayed Judge Clifton Newman did a great job, but he is no Cliff Newman. There was no Southern drawl of "brang the jury."

Alex begins meeting with his lawyer and planning his strategy- and his web of lies.

"Speaking to a jury is like a work of art for a good lawyer," says Alex. "I just need one juror who has a shred of doubt. Because that's the game here, sir."

But there is a tell-tale video out there, and Bubba has a chicken in his mouth. No good ever comes from a chicken eating dog.

But, "I'll think of something," says Alex with an sinister, confident smirk.

The trial begins with a brutal opening statement from prosecutors, who vividly described the killings, and the "perfect storm" that surrounded Alex Murdaugh, that was Alex Murdaugh.

Negative reviews begin early in Sunday's episode

Locals and true crime fans were critical of the opener, and that trend appears to continue tonight.

"Part two isn't any better than part one," said Monica Grainger Robison, administrator of The Murdaugh Murders Facebook group.

But the plot moves along, and Alex is arrested, first with the roadside shooting fraud, and then with the Gloria Satterfield scheme.

Lifetime movie opens Sunday with Alex Murdaugh's lies

After Saturday night concluded with the brutal shootings of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, Sunday night's episode opens with Alex telling his version of how he wasn't home but found the bodies, much of which has has been proven unlikely or outright lies.

"Did you touch Maggie at all," an investigator asks.

"I did," Alex replied.

Yet with all the blood and water around the bodies, Alex's hands, clothes and shoes were clean. Too clean.

Then we have the frightened Murdaugh caregiver, Shelley Smith, as Alex tells her the words that will support his alibi.

But the most powerful opening scene is Alex grieving and weeping over the dead bodies of his wife and baby boy - people the S.C. justice system and a Colleton County jury say he shot and killed.

Even 80 percent of an online poll, cites the movie, think that Alex is guilty of familicide.

Can you imagine killing your family, and then holding your other loved ones and grieving together?

But blood begets blood, and skeletons never really vanish from our closets, even whispered rumors of skeletons and Alex Murdaugh learns that police are looking into Stephen Smith's death.

As investigations swirl around him, Alex makes a phone call, and arranges the all-too-well-known roadside shooting on Old Salk Road.

Surprise, surprise, police arrive and there are more Alex Murdaugh lies. He holds a press conference, and confesses his drug addiction, and "diverting funds."

The Lifetime Murdaugh movie ends in family murders

The Lifetime Murdaugh movie ended in the brutal shooting deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh. We experienced technical difficulties about two-thirds of the way through Saturday's episode, but we have corrected the problem and will be live blogging through the entirety of Sunday's episode, to include a recap and even more reactions and comments from S.C. Lowcountry locals. See you Sunday night!

The plot thickens as Alex Murdaugh continues to plot, steal

Alex Murdaugh's bank accounts are overdrawn, but no worries for Big Red: the Gloria Satterfield settlement has come in, and now the crooked lawyer has $4.3 millions in his hands.

But other clients are getting suspicous. Where is their money?

But it isn't the disgruntled clients Alex needs to worry about. Paul, who has his brother's ID and his Dad's boat, and is about to go for a tragic boat ride.

Cut to a nighttime scene" Cries of "Mallory" ring out, as police question a drunk Paul Murdaugh. Now, the Murdaugh family rallies to Paul's aid and defense in the hospital, as more lies and a new conspiracy begins.

This scene would also be painful for locals, friends and family members to watch.

"My heart is broken seeing the boating scene," said one local, who knew both the Murdaugh family and the Beach family. "Brings bad horrible memories for me.

She also points out another fact check: Maggie wasn’t at the hospital with Paul and Alex, as depicted in the movie.

"Maggie didn’t even go to the hospital," added Robison. "It was Alex and Randolph and according to Miley and Connor, Paul had already told Handsome that Cotton Top was driving. Also if I remember correctly they drew Paul’s blood because they believed he had a head injury and LE later got a warrant for the results. The blood wasn’t drawn because of a warrant."

And Alex begins a plan to pin the crash on someone else.

Locals, avid Murdaugh followers react to Gloria Satterfield scenes

The second segment transitions from the steps of Moselle, where Gloria fell, to the hospital, where she is in a coma surrounded by her upset sons.

Then Gloria dies, and of course, Alex chats up her son Tony, and pitches what we know will become the insurance scam that helps bring him down.

"It’s hard to see the scene of Ms Gloria like this," one local wrote to The Guardian. "Knowing her family so well and knowing the heartache they went through, and also knowing they could be seeing this also on TV. It absolutely breaks my heart. They are having to relive this tragedy all over again."

It's showtime for Murdaugh true crime followers

The "curtain" rises. The movie opens at a black tie affair, then shifts to a breakfast table scene at Moselle, complete with manufactured Southern accents. Then a wholesome family scene, lots of greenery on the Murdaugh lawn as Alex and Maggie present Paul with a new truck for his birthday, then a close, personal moment between Maggie and family employee Gloria Satterfield.

Then Alex drives away and pops a pill. But wait, there is more trouble on the horizon, as a senior law partner confronts Alex and ask why he needed a loan. And begins asking him about his cases.

"Just don't embarrass me," he warns Alex.

And we learn that Buster Murdaugh, Alex's other son, is facing accusations of plagiarizing his college law school thesis.

There is more trouble ahead. Paul is pulled over after drinking in his new truck, and promptly mentions his father's name.

This is where the first break from reality, true facts, begins. Alex bails Paul out of jail. Paul Murdaugh, and no other Murdaugh in the family's history, was ever placed in jail until Alex Murdaugh came along.

"Paul would have never been in a jail cell, much less made it to the jail," said one Murdaugh Facebook group administrator, a local who asked not to be identified. "Alex would have never scolded Paul for drinking, he encouraged the behavior."

"The movie makes it seem like Paul was not allowed to drink. Not true, at all," said longtime Murdaugh crime saga follower, Liz Donahue.

"So far it feels more like fiction than a true story because a lot of this stuff doesn’t align with the facts that we know," said Monica Robison, Facebook group admin.

Then a mysterious man in a pickup truck - is this Cousin Eddie - delivers Alex more pills, but demands his money. Alex gobbles a handful - consistent with Alex's alleged stories about his outrageous drug abuse - but not consistent with reality. Alex's claims were seldom consistent with reality, as most true crime fans know. But the conflict, the storyteller's "rising action," continues to build up, as Paul finds Alex's pills and confronts him.

Cut scene: in a moment of foreshadowing, Alex and Paul are target practicing with a 300 Blackout, then asks a life-changing question: Can I borrow the boat?

"Don't tell your mother."

But "mother" has her own problems. She just got a call that her check had bounced. Is Alex having money problems?

Then, suddenly, Gloria Satterfield falls. While the movie deviates from fact again here (all of the family is there in the scene, which is not based on known facts).

Imagine how hard this scene would be for the Satterfield and Harriott families to watch?

Locals, Murdaugh experts live blog Murdaugh Murders

There are two kinds of people watching the Lifetime Murdaugh movie: true crime fans who know little about the people and places involved, and the locals who have to live it every day.

Watch Lifetime's Murdaugh Murders: The Movie, and check out this live blog during commercial breaks as several Murdaugh crime saga "experts" and S.C. Lowcountry locals share their thoughts and analysis.

Hear from Liz Donehue, Monica Grainger Robison, Caroline Stanley, and other S.C. locals and Murdaugh Facebook Group Administrators and avid true crime followers.

Behind the scenes with Murdaugh Productions, consultants

Did you know that LIfetime's Murdaugh Murders: The Movie was filmed entirely in Vancouver, Canada?

Want to know more behind-the-scenes information?

Murdaugh Murders: The Movie is produced by Murdaugh Productions Inc. in association with Johnson Production Group. Stacy Mandelberg, Timothy O. Johnson, Jason Ryan, Oliver DeCaigny and Michael Vickerman Executive Produce, while Navid Soofi produces. Greg Beeman directs from the script written by Michael Vickerman.

While Murdaugh Productions is simply the name of the Canadian production, and not a firm established by Alex Murdaugh in a seedy plot to make dirty money, there is at least one executive producer from the South Carolina Lowcountry: Jason Ryan, author of Jackpot, who is currently putting the finishing touches on a book about the Murdaugh dynasty and crime saga, Swamp Kings.

Ryan, like the author of this blog, and only a handful of other journalists and authors, endured almost every day of the six-week Murdaugh murder trial, covering it in person from inside the Colleton County Courthouse.

While this is a dramatic reenactment — and screen writers can take creative liberties — a serious effort was made to base this story on true facts and add authentic local flavor and color, said Ryan.

"I worked as a consultant and executive producer on the film," said Ryan. "My main job was to help the filmmakers get the facts straight. I shared notes from my on-the-ground reporting, gave guidance on the Lowcountry and the South, and suggested edits to the script. I provided a lot of information about the murder trial of Alex Murdaugh, including details of what happened outside the courtroom. The filmmakers seemed committed to telling a true story and portraying the unsettling killings accurately."

Before the Fall: The Murdaugh Solicitor files - A scandalous case of a pedophile preacher

Setting the scene for Lifetime's Murdaugh Murders movie

For over a hundred years in the gothic, moss-covered, swampy Lowcountry of South Carolina (thanks for setting the scene, screenwriters) the Murdaughs of Hampton County have built a dynasty of wealth and power gilded with Southern charm and mystique.

And then along comes the troublesome family of Alex Murdaugh, a fourth-generation personal injury lawyer and part-time prosecutor turned pill-popping con man looking to cash in on his family’s name, connections and generations of trust.

Alex’s youngest son, a tortured lad with a reputation for being a reckless, mean drunk, crashes Murdaugh’s boat and allegedly kills a beautiful blond college coed in a Deep South scandal reminiscent of the Kennedy car crash of the 60s (for you older viewers back home).

Faced with a harsh, often crazed media spotlight and a multi-million wrongful death suit, Murdaugh does the unthinkable and murders his wife and drunk-driving son to cover up his decade-long financial and drug crime spree.

Okay, all caught up now?

Ready? Grab a seat, and don’t forget the popcorn.

About Michael DeWitt Jr.

Hampton County native Michael M. DeWitt Jr. is a multiple-award-winning journalist, longtime editor of the 143-year-old The Hampton County Guardian, and author of Wicked Hampton County and Fall of the House of Murdaugh.

DeWitt’s boots-on-the-ground coverage of the Murdaugh crime saga has been published in print and online around Gannett’s nationwide USA TODAY Network, and he has appeared on ABC’s 20/20, CBS’s 48 Hours, Dateline NBC, and Netflix documentaries to discuss the case.

This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Lifetime Murdaugh Murders movie: Updates with trial expert, historian