The Good Nurse Continues Netflix's True Crime Fascination, For Better Or Worse

It feels inappropriate to call the true crime genre "entertainment," but it's never been more evident that audiences can't get enough of dark stories based on real-life events. The true crime bubble keeps getting bigger, and Netflix is cashing in on these stories in a very big way. Despite the protests from the living family members of the victims of Jeffrey Dahmer, Netflix forged through with Ryan Murphy's "Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story," and the show was a massive success. Murphy's follow-up project, "The Watcher," was so popular it impacted the sales of home security cameras, and the recent release of "The Good Nurse" is proof the streamer doesn't have any intention of changing pace anytime soon.

The latest true crime adaptation is based on Charles Graeber's book " The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder," which detailed the shocking story of nurse Amy Loughren, who helped police capture her co-worker, the serial killer Charles Cullen. The book also revealed the institutional and moral shortcomings of the world of medicine that allowed Cullen to continue his reign of terror, similar to Dr. Christopher Duntsch, who was the subject of Peacock's "Dr. Death." Cullen was confirmed to have killed 29 patients, but it's been rumored that the number could have been as high as 400.

"The Good Nurse" stars Academy Award-winning actors Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne as Loughren and Cullen, making the combination of high-profile acting prowess with a "based on a true story" hook a recipe for success. The film is currently sitting comfortably on the Netflix weekly top 10, which is likely exactly as the streaming juggernaut predicted.

Charles Cullen is something out of a nightmare

Serial killer movies have been popular for decades, but the fortunate advancements in criminal investigation and forensic science, as well as a more defensive society, have made it a lot harder for people to get away with murder. This is why people are fascinated to learn about the presence of new serial killers, who can often go unnoticed due to systemic failures. Charles Cullen is a perfect example of this type of serial killer because no amount of avoiding hitchhikers or dark alleys can save us from someone as meticulously monstrous. This was a serial killer who was murdering in plain sight, which makes the story of "The Good Nurse" like something out of a nightmare.

Part of why Cullen was able to get away with his streak of killings for as long as he did was due to hospital negligence. All of the hospitals he worked at conducted private, internal investigations, which often resulted in the only repercussion being his firing. Hospitals were afraid that they'd become financially liable for his actions, and without any concrete proof, it's clear they felt their suspicions weren't enough to warrant further action. Unfortunately, it's this inaction that gave him the window of opportunity to move along to new hospitals, and continue killing innocent people.

With an injustice this grave, it's unsurprising that people would be interested in the story. As ethically questionable as it is to turn anyone's real-life trauma into fodder for entertainment, the natural instinct for self-preservation is what keeps people craving stories based on real events. There's an innate urge to need to know how this killer got away with it all, so we can perhaps learn how to save ourselves.

The Good Nurse creative team is impressive

Jessica Chastain is the reigning Best Actress Oscar winner for her performance in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," and while it's been a few years since Redmayne took home the Best Actor statue for "The Theory of Everything," he's been dedicating his time to leading the "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" series of films. It's been a while since Redmayne has been given as dramatically challenging of a role as Charles Cullen, which makes "The Good Nurse" even more enticing to audiences.

The film is directed by Danish screenwriter and film director Tobias Lindholm, who has directed true crime projects like "Mindhunter" and "The Investigation," in addition to co-writing the Mads Mikkelsen-starring black comedy, "Another Round." Krysty Wilson-Cairns provided the script for "The Good Nurse," her latest in an already impressive resume of titles like "Penny Dreadful, "Last Night in Soho" with Edgar Wright, and "1917" with Sam Mendes, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

To top it all off, "The Good Nurse" is produced by Michael A. Jackman, Scott Franklin, and Darren Aronofsky, the latter of whom is currently the topic of many water cooler discussions thanks to his Brendan Fraser-starring drama, "The Whale." Combining all of these easily identifiable names with the proven track record of Netflix's true crime offerings, there was no way "The Good Nurse" wasn't primed to be an explosive success.

Is there such a thing as ethical true crime?

In the wake of the surviving family members of Dahmer's victims speaking out against Netflix, there have been many discussions regarding the ethics of retelling true crime stories. Many true crime aficionados as of late have pivoted into refocusing stories on victim advocacy rather than sharing exploitative details of crimes committed, emphasizing documentaries that allow those close to the situation to tell the story in their own words, directly working with the surviving family members to handle the story with respect, or just providing a safe distance from reality by presenting the story as a horror movie. It's a necessary, long-overdue change to the genre of true crime, that hopefully will become standard practice across all platforms.

Consuming true crime media requires navigating a moral minefield, and enjoying it should hopefully spark an internal interrogation for the viewer as to why they are enjoying the retelling of real-life suffering. Watching and enjoying films like "The Good Nurse" will always be complicated, but as the Netflix top 10 has proven time and time again, that complicated feeling is a surefire way to boost viewership numbers.