Connect with us
Web of Make Believe review
Image: Netflix


Netflix’s The Web of Make Believe Gets Off to a Scary Start 

Conspiracy. Fraud. Violence. Murder. What starts out virtual can get real all too quickly–and when the web is worldwide, so are the consequences.

Netflix this week is debuting Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet, a new series about the Internet and the terrible things people do on it- and the way terrible things tend to spill over into real life. It’s a six-episode series, each episode about an hour long. 

The show, which debuts all six episodes on June 15, covers some somewhat familiar ground and sometimes falls into cliche, but it’s nevertheless eye-opening. 

The series was created by Brian Knappenberger, who previously made such tech-focused documentaries The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, and Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are executive producers. 

The first episode of the series, “Death by SWAT,” is appropriately chilling, focusing on the act known as Swatting. It’s a crime — sometimes, very understatedly, referred to as a “prank” — in which someone calls the cops on someone else, usually telling them that a terrible crime was committed at the person’s home. 

Image: Netflix

When the SWAT teams and other police arrive, preparing to confront an armed killer, it’s meant to scare the victim. But in the worst-case scenario, the victim ends up dead. Other times, it results in school lockdowns, the suspects shooting at cops, or lasting trauma even if no shots are fired. It also — much lower down on the list of concerns — costs police a lot of time and money. 

The “Death by Swat” episode details some of those scenarios, a couple of which resulted from low-stakes video gaming disputes, including a $150 bet. We hear from the people affected by a couple of instances of such crimes, including the children of one man who was killed in a SWAT attack when the caller gave the wrong address. 

It’s scary stuff, in large part because there’s not exactly an easy solution when it comes to putting a stop to swatting. 

Web of Make Believe
Image: Netflix

Other episodes of the series deal with more politically salient topics. The second, “A Murder in DC,” deals with the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich in 2016, which led to rampant conspiracy theories involving Wikileaks, and eventually to QAnon. The third, “I’m Not a Nazi,” deals with a woman who fell into extremism, while the fourth, “Sextortion,” speaks to women faced with sexual blackmail. 

The final two episodes are a two-parter called “The Stingray,” dealing with hackers and the FBI’s pursuit of them. 

The episodes have some of the hacky touches often associated with Internet-based documentaries, most notably spooky music. But to its credit, it mostly avoids trying to animations of cyberspace, since that’s been an annoying cliche for about 20 years now. 

It’s not the best documentary about the worst parts of the Internet today — that honor goes to last year’s Q: Into the Storm on HBO — but Web of Make Believe, in the early going is finding an interesting way in. 

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. A.

    July 13, 2022 at 7:55 pm

    It was a $1.50 bet, not $150.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches


Don West Don West

Remembering Wrestling Sports Broadcaster Don West


The Last of Us Infected The Last of Us Infected

The Last of Us Looks for Love in a Hopeless Place with “Infected”


Hear Me Out Hear Me Out

Hear Me Out Never Finds Its Own Voice


Kaleidoscope Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope (2023): How the Newest Hypnotic Netflix Toy Stumbles with its Unique Format


Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Top 5 WWE Wrestlers To Win The 2023 Royal Rumble


Bill Nighy is a Living Marvel in This Kurosawa Remake


The Last of Us When You're Lost in the Darkness The Last of Us When You're Lost in the Darkness

The Last of Us Begins with the Bleak, Familiar “When You’re Lost in the Darkness”


Sundance 2023: The Eight Must-See Films at the Festival


WWE Royal Rumble 1992 WWE Royal Rumble 1992

Why the 1992 WWE Royal Rumble Match is Still The Best


maxwell jacob friedman maxwell jacob friedman

MJF and Three Potential First-Time Feuds for 2023 


When It Melts movie review When It Melts movie review

When It Melts Continues an Important Conversation with Unflinching Pathos


Magazine Dreams Review Magazine Dreams Review

Magazine Dreams is a Volcanic Study of A Self-consuming Bodybuilder


Ranking The Chicago Bulls Dynasty Opponents In The ’90s


WWE sale - Vince McMahon WWE sale - Vince McMahon

The Available Options For A Potential Sale Of WWE


They’re All Alright: Ranking the Ten Best That ’70s Show Characters They’re All Alright: Ranking the Ten Best That ’70s Show Characters

They’re All Alright: Ranking the Best Characters fromThat ’70s Show