From the very beginning, Anthony’s crime seemed unusual. He didn’t carry the same emotion around the crime that someone usually does after taking a life. His calm affect hinted at deep emotional scars, but the early investigators couldn’t have had any idea what they’d uncover in the Templet house. Even Burt’s friends and family didn’t fully grasp the depth of the pain he was inflicting on his family, Anthony in particular. He was an abusive alcoholic, and a deeply controlling human being who monitored his son’s every activity, keeping him away from the world and even an education. One gets the impression that Burt was always a monster, but it turned out that he was particularly protective of Anthony’s very existence because he had kidnapped the boy from his mother in Texas in 2008. Anthony would go on to allege that Burt’s escalating abuse led him to believe that Burt would kill Anthony soon if something didn’t change, and the authorities couldn’t help. He killed his dad because he had no other choice.
The truth is that not all murders are equal, and there are two aspects of Anthony Templet’s murder of Burt Templet that make it fascinating enough for a Netflix series: the history and the aftermath. Borgman’s docuseries spends a bit too much time on the former, sometimes repeating details in a way that feels designed to pad out a feature-length documentary into a series. But what’s particularly frustrating is that the most interesting story here starts when the series really ends. What happens to Anthony Templet now? How does he handle being reunited with the family he was torn from over a decade ago? How does he cope with the trauma of his father’s abuse?
Borgman has a remarkable ability to get a very shy, quiet young man to open up as much as possible, but “I Just Killed My Dad” could have been far more powerful in even just two to three more years. I’d love to catch up with Anthony at that point, when the horror of what happened to him has been placed in the context of what is hopefully a brighter future. The truth is that crime docuseries are so obsessed with case details and courtroom theatrics that the human stories often get lost. Borgman does better than most at avoiding that dynamic, but it feels like her team was rushed into this story a little too early. It’s still being written.