This image is taken from the first look for “I Am A Killer,” distributed by Netflix.

What makes a murderer? When you try to imagine someone who’s taken another person’s life, what kind of person comes to mind? Are they merciless and cold, or are they remorseful and misunderstood? It’s these questions that Netflix’s “I Am a Killer” invites in its third season.

With its first season airing in 2018, “I Am a Killer” takes a straightforward approach to covering the beloved genre of true crime. The documentary features interviews with inmates serving time on death row and in maximum security prisons. The inmates share information about themselves and their accounts of the murders they were convicted of. “I Am a Killer” pairs these accounts with interviews with the inmates’ families, the families of the victims, the law enforcement involved in the case and supplemental information such as crime scene shots and 911 calls. The latest season features six such cases. While nothing in the documentary is explicitly graphic, the no-frills accounts of the inmates’ backgrounds and the crimes they committed make for a harrowing watch.

While “I Am a Killer” allows convicted inmates to discuss their crimes, it does not absolve them of wrongdoing. Instead, the evidence presented is meant to provoke reflection from the viewers. Depending on the circumstances of the case, each episode opens with a different statistic regarding crime in the United States. The first episode of the third season, “A Question of Loyalty,” opens with the statistic that while 8,000 people are convicted of murder every year in the United States, fewer than half actually confess to their crime. The second episode, “Someone Else,” tells us that of the more than 135,000 people incarcerated for murder in the United States, over 25% have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness. Statistics like these in conjunction with the various differing accounts presented in the documentary cause viewers to think hard about the reality of our justice system. How many inmates in maximum security prisons actually deserve to be there? Even though we hear Victoria Smith, the inmate featured in episode one, say, “I just killed my husband,” can we believe that’s the truth? On the other hand, interviews with loved ones of the victims and detectives involved in the case paint a truly gut-wrenching portrait of families suddenly torn apart by violent crime. In either case, no matter the inmate’s story, “I Am a Killer” tells us that the consequence of their actions is always the same: the death of a human being.

Despite the clickbait-y title, “I Am a Killer” forgoes the sensationalism of murder in favor of a careful examination of each individual case and its relation to the justice system. With painstaking detail, the documentary interviews those on all sides of every case, curating an objective view of each inmate’s story, yet pushing us to think more about the nuances surrounding everyone’s account.

Daily Arts Writer Swara Ramaswamy can be reached at