Vigilante: Season 1

Topic: Investigative Journalism
Network: Kast Media
Podcast Year: 2022

I feel like there is some misunderstanding about this pod. At least it seems that way when you read the reviews. Some people seem to think they’re going to be dialing up a true crime, murder mystery pod. The pod is called Vigilante. So, in reality, the pod focuses on a man out for vengeance for the murder of his daughter. And, sure, in doing so he must try to solve the mystery of a murder, but the point of this thing is to get into the mind of, and see the lengths to which, this particular man, Tim Miller, will go to exact that vengeance.

First, I’m pretty sure there are like ten famous Tim Miller’s. This ain’t one of them. This dude is what one might call a sociopath. I won’t get into the psychological definition of that, but he displays all the traits that the Internet tells me are part of that malady. Which, in fact, makes him a perfect vigilante. Or, if you take him at face value, a tireless finder of lost souls. Kind of the R-rated version of America’s Most Wanted’s John Walsh. But instead of starting a TV show after the abduction and murder of his child, he started a search-and-rescue organization called Texas EquuSearch, which was ostensibly spun up to track down missing persons. But, of course, what Miller was really up to was creating a front (albeit a helpful and semi-successful one) to keep on top of, and eventually bring to justice, his own daughter’s murderer. Vigilante style.

Because this dude is no holds barred. He will shame a person to suicide. He will kick a perfectly innocent person out of their house by deceptive means just to get at some material he thinks will help him in the case of his daughter’s murder. He will interfere with police investigations and/or bug them until they tell him to STFU. He will out-and-out lie, cajole and put anyone else in danger to get at the truth. Even if that truth is somewhat suspect. But, hey, if he ultimately gets the result he’s looking for, who cares who gets pissed, or even hurt, in the process? And that’s where the vigilante thing comes in. He’s not getting on the NYC subway with a gun looking for petty criminals to shoot. He’s not fucking Batman. But he’s also not law enforcement. So he is, in fact, taking the law into his own hands. And not following the same rules that a typical police investigator would have to. At all.

Tim Miller, with all his flaws, is a pretty interesting guy. He’s this mix of altruism, earnestness and — like I said — a touch of sociopathy. He doesn’t give two Fs what anyone thinks. On the other hand, the Pod’s narrator — who, in fairness, needs to make a podcast — interjects a bit too much of herself into the story. And, sure, Miller does put her in a bit of jeopardy, playing a bit fast and loose with stuff while trying to bait a man he thinks is a serial killer (among his victims being his daughter) into exposing his crimes to him. But this supposed serial killer, Clyde Edwin Hendrick, looks like a dried-out muffin these days than a hardened psychopath he may have been back in the day. Yet the podcaster fears for her life from this man who looks as though he’d have a hard time dragging his ankle monitor around his sad half-way house, let alone plan and execute some sort of nonsensical murder of a young, able-bodied podcaster because maybe Miller let on that the coverage wasn’t going to be be positive for him. It’s a bit hyperbolic. And kind of a distraction. I appreciate her diving deep into this man’s personality and the lore of the Texas Killing Fields murders, but her amping up of her peril is just a touch too much. Bordering on silly.

I binged this season one on a cross-country flight, and it was a great distraction. It is interesting that the host — a journalist — went and got her private investigator license and essentially shadowed this dude, Tim Miller, for her first gig. The man is a walking contradiction in a lot of ways. A man who ostensibly does the hard work of tracking missing persons in order to put loved ones’ minds at ease, while on the other hand ruining the lives of anyone who stands in the way (real or imagined) of him achieving his goals. A still-grieving father obsessed in finding out who murdered his daughter. We get it. A man trying to bring a serial killer to justice. We get it. It’s just fascinating to see this man’s mind tick. He’s devious and ruthless, and as humans it’s difficult to sometimes parse his motivations. Or reconcile the two sides of him. I do wish the host would have stepped back at times, but all in all, it’s a really interesting view into the mind of a vigilante; a man with the best intentions, but a seriously questionable methodology.