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What You Need To Know About The True Story Behind Manhunt: Deadly Games

Contains spoilers for Manhunt: Deadly Games

Netflix's Top 10 list is always a great way to find cool new stuff to watch, and this week is no exception, seeing as the list is dominated by the latest season of the true-crime drama Manhunt. The first season of the anthology series centers on FBI agent Jim Fitzgerald's (Sam Worthington) quest to find Ted "Unabomber" Kaczynski (Paul Bettany), and the stakes are no lower on Manhunt: Deadly Games, the anthology's second installment.

Manhunt: Deadly Games starts with the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, a pipe bomb incident at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics that killed two people and injured over 100 more. This, of course, is bad news for everyone involved — especially Richard Jewell (Cameron Britton), a security guard who discovered the bomb and played a major role in moving tons of spectators to safety, only to find himself become the reviled suspect in the extremely high-profile case. 

Jewell is eventually exonerated, but his reputation is put through a wringer. Meanwhile, the true bomber, Eric Rudolph (Jack Huston), remains free for years, and embarks on another reign of terror in a series of four bombings in 1997. It's an enticing and tragic story, and one that's been told in a rather controversial manner before. 

With that in mind, here's what you need to know about the true story behind Manhunt: Deadly Games.

The biggest changes in Manhunt: Deadly Games are about Eric Rudolph

Every TV show tasked with condensing years of real life into a handful of episodes has to take the occasional liberty, and Manhunt: Deadly Games is no exception. However, it appears that the biggest changes in the story don't concern the tragedy of Jewell, but rather, the life of Rudolph, the true bomber.     

After his bombing attacks, Rudolph lived in the mountains for five years – meanwhile, in the valleys, law enforcement embarked on manhunt that involved dogs, high-tech gear, and numerous agents in an attempt to find him (via The New York Times). 

The thing is, there's not a lot of information about his life during these years, which means that in Manhunt: Deadly Games, virtually every scene featuring Rudolph's fugitive life is made up to at least some extent. The show's depictions of Rudolph killing people, and that exciting scene in which the law chases the bomber through the woods? Sorry, there's no strong evidence about stuff like that ever happening. The real Rudolph's encounter with the law was significantly less cinematic, as he was dumpster-diving in the middle of the night when an officer happened to catch him (via CNN).

Fans think the accuracy of Manhunt: Deadly Games leaves a lot to be desired

In a Reddit discussion about the show's accuracy, several viewers make clear that they feel Manhunt: Deadly Games is fairly inaccurate – specifically because it plays fast and loose with Rudolph's mysterious fugitive years and the support he supposedly got from the people in the area. The way the show depicts Murphy, North Carolina as a hotspot for militia activity also draws criticism from folks who know the area and are familiar with the real story. 

"I live in Murphy," Redditor u/Beaverfever94 wrote. "I've lived here my whole life. I did not like the way my town was portrayed [...] I enjoyed the show, but I didn't like the liberties they took with Murphy NC." The user also explained that, in their experience, the area's overwhelming militia influence is completely made up: "We know no one personally who is in a militia, and I probably should google [the Regulators, a militia group on the show], because that's the first I've heard of this group."

Others concurred with these statements. "I live in Cherokee County, NC and the historical inaccuracies were unacceptable," user u/Less_Ad5065 wrote. "From what I've read I cannot find anything about the killing of two men," another Redditor said, criticizing the show's portrayal of Rudolph's wilderness years. "I also couldn't find where the townspeople bought him things, but instead he would steal items and leave money for stolen property."

User u/indochris609 summed up the feelings in the discussion thread by writing, "Thanks for the discussion, validates my thought that basically the second half of this show is completely made up."

Manhunt: Deadly Games avoids the most glaring mistake of the Richard Newell movie

Manhunt: Deadly Games marks the second time Jewell's story has been told on screen recently — the first, of course, being Clint Eastwood's 2019 movie Richard Jewell, in which Paul Walter Hauser plays the titular role. Unfortunately, that version was somewhat controversial, thanks to its inaccurate portrayal of certain events. 

Eastwood's Richard Jewell famously stumbles in its depiction of Olivia Wilde's Kathy Scruggs, the real-life journalist played by Carla Gugino in Manhunt: Deadly Games. The movie's version of Scruggs offers sexual favors to a source to acquire the information that allowed her to imply that Jewell was the bomber. This rather unsavory research method obviously didn't happen in real life, and the ensuing backlash did little favors for the biopic, which ended up a box office bomb.  

Fortunately, Manhunt: Deadly Games avoids this particular pitfall, and Gugino's Scruggs is an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter who gets hold of a tip about FBI's suspicion of Jewell in a much less unsavory manner.