Documentary Review: The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (Netflix)

Directed by documentary filmmaker Brian Knappenberger, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is a 2020 Netflix miniseries about the 2013 murder of Gabriel Fernandez, an eight-year-old boy from Palmdale, California, who endured prolonged abuse by his mother and her boyfriend. The documentary series offers an inside look at the trial, as well as an eye-opening investigation into the government systems that failed to protect Gabriel despite multiple reports and warning signs.

Overall Season Rating:

When I saw people talking about a new Netflix true-crime series that was to do with a young person being abused, I thought I knew what to expect and prepared myself for its upsetting subject matter. But this hit a lot harder than I thought it would.

The story of Gabriel Fernandez is a heartbreaking one all on its own, but what’s more shocking is how it could have been prevented. And that’s what’s so shocking about this documentary: the bigger picture that Gabriel wasn’t just abused by two nasty excuses for human beings, but of how he was the let down by the system, time and time again.

In dedication of Gabriel’s short life, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is more of an exploration into that neglect, a failure not only by a handful of people in Gabriel’s case, but an exposé of a very broken system that has prevented care and support for people of all ages around the world.

It is a really hard-hitting story but, of course, there is some light at the end of the tunnel as we also meet the people who are fighting Gabriel’s corner. Based on in-depth reporting by L.A. Times journalist Garrett Therolf, the series is a true journalistic effort into, not only exposing those who are to blame for this inexcusable failure, but also showcasing the efforts of those who were looking out for him.

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is a really emotional watch so do be warned of that beforehand, because it could be a trigger for some viewers. However, it will ultimately serve as a wake-up call to those in charge and bring viewers together to call for action, for those involved to admit to their wrongdoings and for measures to be taken and the system reexamined to hopefully save children in need like Gabriel in the future. We can only hope that something like this will never happen again, and for the cases that too often slip between the cracks to become a thing of the past.

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About Charlie Morris

Proofreader and film blogger living in Cornwall.

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