Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

The Oland Murder is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a murder case told in real time.

Courtesy of Seven Knots Media Inc. / CBC

The popular culture moves along in odd patterns, shifting this way and that. A format or genre is popular and then there’s a reaction against it, sometimes propelled by new technology and sometimes just by human curiosity.

When CSI: Crime Scene Investigation arrived on CBS 20 years ago, it offered something new – a procedural forensics crime drama that relied heavily on the audience’s belief that cutting-edge science took the guesswork out of crime-solving. The show, its spinoffs and shows that imitated it were often unnervingly explicit, especially in depicting sexual fetishism, but also unnervingly admiring of science-based police work.

Real crime-solving is never as cut and dried as depicted on such TV shows and the rise of the true-crime genre, first in podcasts and then in documentary series on streaming services, was the inevitable reaction to CSI-like crime-solving drama. The key ingredients for successful, gripping true-crime docuseries are a murder, a puzzle, possible miscarriage of justice and possible mistakes or bias by those in authority.

Story continues below advertisement

The Oland defence counsel meeting.

Courtesy of Seven Knots Media Inc. / CBC

The Oland Murder (starts Wednesday, CBC, 9 p.m.) has the key ingredients by the bucketful. CBC’s four-part look at the murder of Richard Oland, of the Moosehead Breweries family, and what happened after, is terrific true-crime storytelling. CBC says, “The Oland Murder offers viewers extraordinary and unprecedented access to the accused, his legal team and their private investigators.” That’s not an idle boast. The story is both sensational and macabre, but it isn’t presented as sensationalism. It just digs deeper and deeper with impressive insider access to key players.

We are first given a portrait of “small, foggy” Saint John, New Brunswick. That’s where, on a warm July evening in 2011, Richard Oland was brutally murdered in his office. At first, the visuals seem a bit overstated, but when the brutality of the murder is made clear, they don’t seem overstated at all. Then we hear the voice of Dennis Oland saying, “A small-town police force decided that I killed my father.”

Dennis Oland immediately became the police’s only suspect. You can see why, at the beginning of this tangled tale. The story takes place at the intersection of class, money, power and tricky family dynamics. Assumptions were made on that basis. There was evidence that Dennis had visited his father at around the time of death. There was evidence that Dennis had money troubles. There was history: a successful, abrasive father having a sometimes-tense relationship with his son.

Dennis Oland, seen here, immediately became the police’s only suspect for the murder of Richard Oland.

Courtesy of Seven Knots Media Inc. / CBC

That son was convicted of second-degree murder and sent to prison. He insisted on his innocence. After he spent 10 months in prison, the original verdict was overturned, Dennis Oland was released and a new trial ordered. That’s the point at which this series really starts. Series director Deborah Wainwright persuaded Dennis Oland, his mother and other family members to participate in the project. But it’s not just that access that gives the series depth and force. CBC’s regional resources and archives are a huge part of it.

By the end of the first hour, it becomes clear that Dennis Oland’s defence team has issues with the original police investigation. An extraordinary number of people wandered through the crime scene. And that’s not the only suggestion of incompetence. As one of the defence lawyers says with contempt, “You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to think you might check the bathroom to see if the killer cleaned up.” What arises, as often happens in genuinely gripping true-crime series, is the possibility that the police had a tunnel-vision approach and could not be shifted from their first assumption, no matter how much contrary evidence piled up.

Dennis Oland researches in his own defence.

Courtesy of Seven Knots Media Inc. / CBC

We get to see inside defence team meetings and hear from local reporters and forensic experts. We witness the arrival into the story of a woman, allegedly Richard Oland’s mistress, who was in touch with him on the day of the murder. We hear a lot about a missing cellphone and where it might have been in the hours after the crime. What we don’t get is footage from inside the courtroom. For that, the series uses animation that’s rooted in courtroom sketches. It takes a while to adapt to this technique but it works.

This is a gripping, sobering account of a grisly murder, the knotted legal case that followed and it is insightful about the social landscape of one very particular part of Canada. All four episodes are available for streaming on CBC Gem.

Story continues below advertisement

With that, I leave you for a few days. Enjoy what you watch, be good to each other and wash your hands often. Back next week.

Editor’s note: (March 5, 2020): Due to erroneous information from the broadcaster, a previous version of this review said all four episodes were not yet available on CBC Gem.

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter, with film, TV and streaming reviews and more. Sign up today.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies