Unsolved Mysteries Season 3 Review: The Well-Produced Revival Unleashes More Inexplicable Stories

There's a certain nostalgia that comes with "Unsolved Mysteries." The show, in its original incarnation, brought mysterious tales of murders, disappearances, and of course, the supernatural. These stories were hosted by the singular presence of Robert Stack, who stalked around fog machine-heavy sets wearing a trench coat, as if he were really pounding the pavement and investigating these mysteries himself. I can distinctly remember huddling close to our boxy old TV at night, watching "Unsolved Mysteries" with all the lights off, and growing more and more terrified. It was a fun type of fear, even though it shouldn't have been. These were true stories of loss and death (and sometimes ghosts and aliens) that affected real people. In some cases, it ruined their lives. And yet, it was hard not to grow excited as Robert Stack's smooth, deep voice intoned horrors at every turn. 

The Netflix "Unsolved Mysteries" revival has tried to confront this disconnect by making their show very serious and as respectful as humanly possible. At the same time, the same types of horrible, tragic stories are unfolding, just with a glossy coat of new paint. And try as it might, the new "Unsolved Mysteries" can never replace Stack — they didn't even bother to find a new host, likely assuming his trenchcoat was too big to fill (they were probably right).

None of this is to say the new "Unsolved Mysteries," which drops the first episodes its new season on Netflix today before unfolding over the course of a three-week event, is worth ignoring. The show remains as captivating as ever, unfurling stories that have you leaning toward your TV screen, as if getting closer to the action will miraculously solve the mystery. But as much as I enjoy watching this "Unsolved Mysteries," I can never shake the fact that it doesn't feel like "Unsolved Mysteries." There was an air of horror-tinged mystery to that original run that is nowhere to be found here, and I miss it. I miss getting scared. But perhaps that's the point; we should stop turning to stories like this for cheap thrills, and we should care more about the aftermath. 

A series of mysteries

As is customary, the latest "Unsolved Mysteries" season runs the gamut of topics. "Mystery at Mile Marker 45" involves the death of a teenager who was struck by a train. The authorities ruled it a suicide, but as the facts are laid out, it becomes almost painfully clear that something else was going on here (but is that the truth, or just a case of good editing on the part of the "Unsolved Mysteries" crew?). "Something in the Sky" details a series of UFO sightings near Lake Michigan. "Body in Bags," the most emotionally devastating episode this season, follows a murder where the clear suspect has managed to evade capture for years. "Abducted by a Parent," which is almost as emotionally draining and horrifying as "Body in Bags," tells two stories of parental abduction. 

"Death in a Vegas Motel" focuses on the death of a colorful character from Los Vegas. "Paranormal Rangers" tells of two Navajo Rangers investigating the supernatural, like a real-life Mulder and Scully. "What Happened to Josh?" tracks the disappearance of a college student. "Body in the Bay" is another story of a potential suicide that might have been anything but. And "The Ghost in Apartment 14" follows a haunting.

The ghost episodes were always my favorite, so I get a little thrill when this new "Unsolved Mysteries" explore the paranormal. But this season's ghost episode only uses its potential ghost to launch into the story of a serial killer, and it feels like a cheat. It also feels needlessly ghoulish — the serial killer story never feels connected to the ghost story, and to go into this territory strains credibility. 

Addictive TV

The strength of "Unsolved Mysteries" comes from how it lays out facts, and how it conjures up unnerving recreations. The recreations follow a format: high-def, slow-motion footage that painstakingly recreates actually scenes. But it's the facts that help make the series all the more disturbing. When you see them laid out, side by side, and follow them along, your mind begins reeling as you attempt to piece it all together. 

"Unsolved Mysteries" season 3 is suitably haunting. "Mystery at Mile Marker 45" features a bit of trail camera footage that looks straight out of a horror movie; the UFO episode finds a way to make UFOs genuinely scary; "What Happened to Josh?" will have you trying to solve the mystery yourself. All of this is solid stuff, but I can't help but shake the idea that the show continues to sensationalize tragedies, but your mileage will vary. But "Unsolved Mysteries" remains a well-polished addictive piece of TV. I just wish they'd give me a few more ghost episodes. 

"Unsolved Mysteries" season 3 will release its 9 episodes with 3 episodes a week, starting October 18, continuing October 25, and concluding November 1, 2022.