Hopelessly tailing a serial killer in the 80s when courts didn’t have much of a rapport with DNA evidence mustn’t have been an easy job for a detective. In the case of Linda, the overeager cop who recently graduated from the academy, learning the ropes at her brand-new job doesn’t go as smoothly as she might’ve hoped. Lifetime’s based-on-real-events shtick is surprisingly convincing this time around as How She Caught A Killer torments the rookie cop with a case that has the whole town on edge. Let’s see how well Linda fares against the enigmatic serial killer targeting sex workers on Route 60.
What Happens in the Film?
Losing a loved one to the overwhelming emotional strain of a job would certainly make most people steer clear of that career. But that’s not how Linda functions. At the cost of her mother’s understandable disdain, which stems from her trauma of losing her husband, Linda can’t wait to make a difference as a cop. She couldn’t have picked a better time to join the force, as the usually sleepy town is under the threat of having its peace of mind shattered. As is usually the case in a small town such as the one How She Caught A Killer sets itself in, the detectives have a jolly relationship with the townsfolk. So, you can imagine just how hard it must’ve been for Detective Goodman to be the bearer of the terrible news that a father has lost his daughter to a blood-curdling murder.
Now, Joyce was a sex worker, and considering personal safety isn’t a privilege that’s handed to women in that line of work and the violence inflicted on them is rather normalized, the subsequent investigation is even more complicated. Things, however, get outrageously out of hand when another prostitute is found to have been tortured and killed in the same manner. Frustrated with being handed cases where she’s harassed more often than she gets to make a difference, Linda’s increasingly obsessed with finding the psychopath who’s been brutalizing the women of Route 60.
How does Linda find the suspect?
If his bosses and Joyce’s aggrieved father breathing down his neck weren’t hard enough on Goodman, getting an unfriendly visit from FBI agent Carter frustrates the poor old detective to no end. It’s only when another woman falls victim to the same fate as the other two that even Carter starts taking the case as seriously as he should’ve in the first place. With not a lot of resources at their disposal and Linda’s incessant rants about the department not doing enough, Goodman has no choice but to allow Linda to go undercover without any prior training.
While Linda was already losing her mind pondering over the kind of danger these women face on a daily basis, her time posing as a prostitute and befriending them proved to be absolutely unnerving. Seeing girls of her age with hopes and dreams get humiliated and thrashed by the likes of ne’er-do-well Red feels like a nightmare Linda desperately wants to wake up from. But with the bait ripe for the picking, it doesn’t take long before the killer shows up in his menacing van, where three other girls were subjected to mindless torture. And while Linda does somehow obtain the fabric of his van’s carpet, hope isn’t the first thing that floods her mind, as even getting a match with the fibers found under the corpses’ fingernails doesn’t mean the court would validate the evidence.
How does Linda catch the serial killer?
How She Caught A Killer doesn’t contain itself within the bounds of the central mystery. The attached socioeconomic issues that demand a spot at the forefront are what drive the narrative as you stew in the nail-biting suspense. Linda’s exacerbating paranoia about the safety of the women she’s come to befriend and care about proves to be excruciating. What sticks out are the depressing limitations of the police department, which, despite having the best of intentions, is haplessly chained by the regulations and the commands of the higher-ups. Even the terrifying possibility of being murdered doesn’t hold a candle to the privations of hunger and homelessness. So, despite knowing there’s a killer out there looking for the likes of them, Shelly and Crystal can’t afford to not do the dangerous job. A hungry stomach overpowers Shelly’s survival instincts as she gets in the van, which she was told might belong to the killer.
Shelly was found dead, and with her died any faith Linda had in the police department. So naturally, being the apple that didn’t fall far from the tree, she follows in her father’s volatile footsteps and takes matters into her own hands. It’s no news that there’s a self-destructive, almost suicidal aura to Linda. But it’s through her unfaltering determination and Carter’s support that they even get to locate the killer, Wilson. When further investigation compels the detectives to break out of their comfort zone and try their hands at a new approach to making a suspect cower, Linda isn’t fazed by any of it. What does send chills down her spine is just how normal Wilson seemingly is. No one would even suspect the mall bunny with two daughters of his own to be the same man who butchers women on his whim.
The more Linda’s eyes are opened to the horrifying truth about the world she calls home, the quicker her hope of ever being of any use declines. But Linda doesn’t budge. She doesn’t relinquish her pursuit, even when the investigation gets increasingly frustrating. You can, however, practically see her crack under the daunting vexation when a bloodstain found in Wilson’s van turns out to be insufficient to bring him in. Add to that Wilson’s disturbing mockery of her hands being tied, and you’d probably understand why Linda would make the grave mistake of confronting him at the bar. Perhaps this was one of the very few times when a signature Lifetime happy ending didn’t come off as entirely ludicrous.
The staggering amount of stress and emotional burden Linda’s been under has tried its best to destroy her. But even when it got so overwhelming that she had a difficult time staying upright, Linda didn’t give up. It is, however, a matter of sheer luck that she’s right there when Wilson drives by with another woman he’s captured. When she does catch up to him and save the woman, the psychopath with a death wish is hell-bent on giving her enough reason to blow his head off. It might’ve been his peculiar way of evading jail time, but as he purposefully triggers Linda with the disturbing details of the crimes and his sickening motive, you know he’d rather die right there than get arrested.
The victory that Linda achieves in How She Caught A Killer‘s ending isn’t restricted to bringing Wilson to justice. It’s also in knowing that by not pulling the trigger, she’s proven herself to be a far more reliable and level-headed cop than her father ever was. Triumphant over the demon that haunted Route 60 and the ones that tormented her mind, Linda exceeded even her own expectations of herself. And most importantly, she stood as the one person who showed the women that they were just as human as everyone else and that someone was looking out for them, too.