And with these stories, “Children of the Underground” embraces nuance at its most empathetic. It gives the survivors space to talk about how certain memories can be hazy, even though the events have had such a big impact on their lives. That alone is a striking part of the series’ courage, which at times can be dedicated to precisely getting these first-person experiences on record.
In its expansive look at the period, “Children of the Underground” also offers a striking context of how people did and did not know how to talk about child sexual abuse in public or in private. The series captures the growing pains of understanding mental health, which includes the people and children who were abused in the process. It is all the more sobering when you realize how certain parts of family law have not changed, or that the same problems can arise. Some may be tempted to watch “Children of the Underground”. ” like pitch-black true crime fodder, but it’s more of an outraged activist doc akin to Cowperthwaite’s SeaWorld-breaking ”Blackfish.” “Children of the Underground” is an epic about a person who led a charge against a system that was and continues to be misguided.
“Children of the Underground” has a lot on its heart, and the focus on different survival stories and news can almost get a little tangled when it goes from one life story to the next. It’s difficult enough that the series almost disappears when it focuses so much on the satanic panic of the late 80s and how it made adults (especially Faye) even more out of touch with the real horror that could have took place. For both its content, but also its widespread editorial focus, the series may be the definition of “a lot,” and it’s certainly not something you can binge on just to satiate an appetite for sickeningly sad documentaries.
Because as bleak as the material is, its muddy visual approach becomes all the more apparent. The interviews use a repeated motif that causes the camera to move to the side while someone is speaking; it tries to create a reflection for the one being filmed, but it does not connect thematically with the current ideas. The stories are best illustrated with its excess of photos and videos, including all the time-capsule talk show clips and mothers and daughters’ professional candies while on the run. They are both striking for their composition but also the moments they capture, those faces in the shadows, unsure of what will come next but driven by an inner resilience we hope never to need.
Throughout the series, the series revolves around the idea of whether or not Yager did the right thing, asking the same question people ask of caped crusaders: Who gave you the right to be a vigilante and take the law into your own hands? The complicated part about Yager and her work drives the series through its darkness and makes its expansive storytelling here compelling and harrowing.
Full series shown for review. “Children of the Underground” is now streaming on FX on Hulu.