An airline mechanic who possesses low intelligence – for a time, that was the workable profile that was being used to track down, and end the reign of destruction, carried out by the domestic terrorist, known as the ‘Unabomber.’ In truth, Ted Kaczynski, was a mathematics prodigy, who skipped two grades in school, and, in 1958, at the age of 16, began attending Harvard University on an academic scholarship. Upon graduating in 1962, he attended the University of Michigan, where in 1967, he would earn his Ph.D. in mathematics. After graduation, he moved to California, and taught for two years as an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The two years Kaczynski taught at Berkeley were unsuccessful, so he left academics. He began to work with his brother, David, at a factory, where David was a supervisor, but he would eventually be fired for inappropriate behavior in the work place. Not long after, Kaczynski moved into a cabin, in the woods of Lincoln, Montana, where he would live for the next two decades. Three people would be killed, and twenty-three other individuals would be injured, between the years 1978 and 1995, when Kaczynski mailed his bombs to individuals associated with airlines and universities. The reasoning behind his madness, was Kaczynski’s protest of what he viewed as the impending dangers that would be caused by the continuous advancement of technology. In 1995, his brother, David, and sister-in-law, Linda, turned him in, after Kaczynski’s manifesto was published in the Washington Post; he was arrested by the FBI on April 3, 1996. Two years later, Kaczynski was sentenced to eight consecutive life sentences. He is currently incarcerated at The United States Penitentiary, ADX Florence, in Fremont County, Colorado. (As an aside: While at Harvard, Kaczynski underwent intense psychological experimentation, which is thought to have been a contributing factor for his actions).
The eight-part, Discovery Channel’s Manhunt: Unabomber limited series, was not merely a biographical piece devoted to Ted Kaczynski, who was portrayed, and completely embodied by BAFTA nominee, Paul Bettany (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World). Instead, the interesting and suspenseful, crime drama, explores a fascinating matching of intellectual wits between the serial bomber, and FBI profiler, Jim ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald, played by Sam Worthington (Avatar). Fitzgerald was a former Philadelphia police officer, who, while attending the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, demonstrated to his instructors that he had a great mind for profiling. Upon graduation, he is assigned to work for the FBI’s ‘Unabomber’ task force based in San Francisco, California. Fitzgerald would wind up becoming an integral part of the FBI team that caught, captured, and brought Ted Kaczynski to justice.
From the start, Fitzgerald brought a fresh approach to the methods the FBI had been utilizing, such as psychological profiling and searching for physical forensic evidence from the bombs and packages, for example, fingerprints. Fitzgerald offers a new approach, the use of linguistic forensics, a mode that had not previously been considered. He worked tirelessly, but at almost every turn, at least at the start, his efforts were rebuked by his superiors: Don Ackerman, the Bay Area divisional head of the FBI, who supervised the Unabomber Task Force, played by two time, Golden Globe nominee, Chris Noth (The Good Wife); and FBI investigator, Stan Cole, portrayed by Jeremy Bobb (The Knick). Ackerman and Cole, wanted Fitzgerald to work off of the existing profile that had already been constructed. Ackerman was especially hesitant to approach his superior, Attorney General, Janet Reno, played by Emmy and Golden Globe winner, Jane Lynch (Glee), with any plans to utilize tactics that were outside the box of normal FBI procedure. When Ackerman finally acquiesces to one of Fitzgerald’s scenarios for capturing the Unabomber, it leads to one of the more action packed scenes in a series that is heavy on drama.
The series begins in the year 1997, as FBI agents are attempting to bring Fitzgerald, who has himself, after helping to capture the ‘Unabomber,’ resorted to an isolationist lifestyle in the wilderness. The reason his superiors need him, is because Kaczynski, will only talk to the man who was ultimately responsible for his being caught. Fitzgerald’s inexorable drive to capture the ‘Unabomber,’ knew no bounds, even when it came to the alienation of his family: his wife, Ellie, played by Emmy nominee, Elizabeth Reaser (Grey’s Anatomy); and sons, Dan (Michael Banks Repeta) and Sean (Will Murden). Fitzgerald had few friends amongst his co-workers, one of whom was, FBI Agent Tabby, portrayed by Oscar nominee, Keisha Castle-Hughes (Game of Thrones), a street smart agent, who was willing to break the rules in order to help Fitzgerald, but once she was caught, he did nothing to help her. One of the few other people who cared about Fitzgerald was Natalie Rogers (Lynn Collins), a Stanford University, linguistics specialist, who assists him in deciphering the patterns in Kaczynski’s now infamous 35,000 page manifesto.
“Manhunt Unabomber” premiered on August 1, 2017. The well-executed series was created for The Discovery Channel by Andrew Sodroski (The Handmaid), former FBI Special Agent Profiler and New York City Prosecutor, Jim Clemente, and Tony Gittelson (Awakenings). The series was, in essence, a captivating study of two men, that would go to any lengths in order to achieve their goals. As of the writing of this post, the series has now been made available for streaming on Netflix.