In Search Of S05E03: Lee Harvey Oswald
We open on some suspenseful music as a largely unseen figure walks across a deserted room to a window, aims a rifle and fires.
Let me lay my cards on the table before I begin: I’m not a Kennedy Assassination buff. Do I think the whole thing was kind of suss? Sure. Do I think endlessly poring over thousands of details of the event will produce an answer that satisfies anyone? No. I’ve used Dealy Plaza in things I’ve written, but mostly as shorthand for ‘weird conspiracy stuff’, and let’s be honest, that’s the best we’re ever going to get.
As such, I watch Kennedy conspiracy media with very little real interest. They consist largely of people talking about discrepancies in the ‘official’ story. But any story, official or otherwise, is bound to have some discrepancies. Fiction is supposed to avoid plot holes, but the real world has no such obligation. The people listing these flaws are rarely interesting speakers, and the visuals on display are often just pictures of old-timey typewritten documents, so there’s not even much that’s interesting on a production level.
Sometimes, rather than just poking holes in the ‘official’ story, someone will try to construct an alternate narrative out of the evidence. This is usually the only interesting aspect of Kennedy documentaries – but In Search Of’s frequent tactic of suggesting a thesis rather than directly stating it might stand in the way here.
We start with footage of Kennedy giving a speech, footage of a reenactor in what I assume is the Texas Schoolbook Depository, a very long segment about recreating an audiotape of the shooting. Conclusion? Shot fired from Grassy Knoll. Recreation of the questioning of Soviet defector/possible double agent Nosenko. We talk to a very vehement reporter named Edward Epstein who thinks that the Warren Commission on the Assassination dropped the ball. A handwriting annalist talks about Oswald’s diary, arguing that it was not written day to day.
To my surprise, this all sounds like they’re going somewhere – blaming the USSR for the assassination. But then, after asking what the Russians were hiding, Nimoy wonders whether it was ‘a plot so bizarre that no one would have thought it possible’ and then we’re in a reenactment of Oswald’s autopsy, and I’m genuinely confused now.
Fortunately, there is an elderly pipe-smoking Englishman in a book-lined study to explain things. Oswald wasn’t Oswald, he was a KGB lookalike who came to the US to kill Kennedy. Reasoning for this is some inconsistencies between the autopsy report and earlier descriptions of Oswald.
So an actual conclusion. Oh. But we already said that the killing shot was fired from the Grassy Knoll, not from where ‘Oswald’ was. Whether or not the shooter in the Depository was Oswald, ‘the bigger mystery remains: who fired the shot from the Grassy Knoll?’ So even though we have a theory, we still somehow don’t have a theory.
We finish on footage of Oswald’s (or ‘Oswald’s) grave. Ponderous sign off and close.
So there we have it. If you’re not into Kennedy conspiracies, it’s kind of boring and if you are into Kennedy theories, this one is thirty years out of date. There are a couple of effective moments, mixing footage of crowds with audio of gunshots and screams, but it’s mostly unimpressive in terms of production values. I only hope the next episode is more interesting.
Next episode: Daredevil Death Wish!
Oswald: 5/10, Kennedy: 5/10, Electronic Music: 6/10, Nimoy:6/10, Oh, God, this again: 4/10. Overall: 26/50. Pass.