Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski in Discovery's "Manhunt: Unabomber"

Tense, Thrilling Finale ‘Manhunt: Unabomber’: Why Did Ted Kaczynski Choose Guilty Plea?

“Manhunt: Unabomber” wraps up its run on Discovery Channel with “USA vs. Theodore J. Kaczynski”. Without getting Kaczynski to plead guilty the Justice Department feared he’d be released. It was all about the search warrant and if it could withstand a motion to dismiss. Even if the warrant was upheld, a months-long trial would be a disaster in the opinion of the feds.

They feared months of testimony splashed across the news media, with some folks sure to think Ted’s arguments about modern society had merit. They couldn’t afford that. Sure he killed people and terrorized many more, but his point of view had appeal, as we saw once the manifesto was published.

You’d think that after the FBI realized Kaczynski was the Unabomber, then executed a masterful capture under time pressure from CBS the last bit would be mere clean up. It wasn’t, and that’s good for viewers. We get the brain-to-brain battle of James Fitzgerald vs. Ted Kaczynski.

From the moment Ted was in custody he asked to read the search warrant. In last week’s episode we watched him pour over the information used to get a judge to sign it, concluding there was probable cause to believe something illegal was occurring at the cabin in Lincoln, Montana. It contained nothing but an analysis of the similarities between the manifesto and scores of letters and papers written by Kaczynski.

“Manhunt: Unabomber” introduced us to the concept of forensic linguistics, which was why James Fitzgerald’s name was listed on the search warrant. It was up to Kaczynski to bury Fitz as an amateur, without academic credentials. Fitz was tasked by the FBI to talk the former fugitive into pleading out.

Fitz had to appeal to Kaczynski’s deep need to impress, to be “someone”. Ted had to break Fitz’s confidence and reach his deep insecurities. It’s a great way to end a smart and entertaining series.

“Manhunt: Unabomber” airs its finale on Discovery Channel, Tuesday September 12 beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT   Image credit: Discovery Communications, used with permission

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