MH370: what to think of the Netflix series?

The Netflix series “MH370 the plane that disappeared” raises many questions without providing credible answers. Worse, it ventures uncritically into the most questionable pathways.

It was on March 8, 2014 that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens before later disappearing. 9 years later we don’t know much more about what really happened and the debris that has been found is still unable to tell us the story of this tragedy and explain what really happened.

From the general public to the avgeek everyone was eager to see “MH370 the plane that disappeared”, the series that Netflix released to tell the story of this flight. For what result: an inevitable disappointment.

MH 370 the plane that disappeared

It was on March 8, on the anniversary of the disappearance of MH370 that Netflix released its series.

A long-awaited series about one of the greatest mysteries of the 21st century, of a fact which had a major repercussion throughout the globe and of a great emotion which can only be shared when one thinks of the victims and their families because if there is one thing worse than such a tragedy it is not to know the cause of it, or even to have so few certainties that for years some have continued to hope.

A series intended mainly for the general public and a little for the avgeeks, the fans of the air sector, because if the first ones always try to understand what happened the second ones know that for lack of new elements the series was not going to teach us anything that we did not know already.

So in the absence of revelations we expected pedagogy and a good storyelling.

A series that teaches nothing

“MH370 the plane that disappeared” will not teach anyone anything, at best it will refresh the memory of those who have finally forgotten the details of the case.

Because once again, nothing new has happened since: MH370 has disappeared, we know for sure that it crashed at sea and we know nothing about what caused the tragedy. Anyone who claims to add anything is only making more or less credible assumptions but is not providing any information.

So we could have at least hoped that the series would propose solid scenarios with a solid critical look and for lack of being able to say that one or the other is the good one allow the spectator to be able to make an opinion. But it is not the case.

Conspiracy theories and suspect witnesses

For as far as hypotheses are concerned, the series goes astray on the least credible ones.

It’s ok for what concerns the theory of the pilot’s suicide which seems to be the most commonly accepted one, even if once again I find it difficult to understand why the pilot continued to fly instead of throwing the plane into the water as in the case of the Germanwings A320 that the pilot threw against the mountain. Did he want to enjoy his last hours? Did he want to give himself a chance to get out of it by the greatest of chances? All this is questionable, but it is perhaps the least unlikely cause.

Les deux autres hypothèses traitées, a hijacking by the Russians or the fact that the plane was shot down by the United States because of its cargo are totally crazy and have been dismantled by many experts with explanations much more credible than those provided by the supporters of these theories. Some of these experts were upset to see that their comments or the analyses they had provided to enlighten the directors of the series had been passed over in silence.

And this is the other limitation of the series. Let all opinions be expressed, why not. But in this case it is also necessary to give as much visibility and consider with as much rigor the contradictory opinions, which is not the case here. Generally speaking, the series gives voice to a little bit of everyone, in all directions, without any rigor in the verification of the assertions of the ones and the others.

It raises more questions than it answers, but it could not be otherwise. On the other hand, if it covers a lot of ground in terms of questions, it seems to take great pleasure in providing only far-fetched answers without trying to question their credibility.

But could it be otherwise? This is where the families of the victims come in.

The role of the victims’ families

As I said above, if losing loved ones in an air disaster is a tragedy, the inability to provide any solid and verified explanation must add an unbearable anger to the pain of the families.

It is therefore not surprising that they have a major role in the series. But it also contributes to confusion by giving visibility to the most far-fetched hypotheses. But this is nothing but logical.

The families cannot be satisfied with these silences, with the absence of explanation. So they look for them, listening, in desperation, to anyone who tells them a credible scenario. And when you’re desperately looking for an answer you can’t find, all answers become potentially believable.

And, beyond the weak documentary rigor of the series, this is perhaps what made me the most uncomfortable. The families could not expect the series to provide them with answers, just to carry their voices and make their struggle heard. But with the treatment of the information as it was done by the directors I just have the impression that the families of the victims have been instrumentalized, that one tried to get an audience on their pain even if it meant losing their credibility by putting them at the heart of a story with the most questionable rigor.

But would we have acted differently than the families? With more calm, rigor, discernment? We were talking about it the other day with Olivier and the answer was obvious. We would do exactly as they did, trying to cling to the slightest hope, the slightest snippet of explanation, however fanciful. This thing would certainly have inhabited and haunted us until we knew…so maybe for the rest of our lives. Even if it makes us advance the theory of an abduction by the Martians? Who knows…

Well known by the French, what Ghyslain Wattrelos is experiencing is particularly poignant. To add to his woes, he was “lucky” enough to be able to stop working to devote his life to the elucidation of this mystery. A life that is now like a torment with nothing else to think about until he finds the answer. He and his fight deserved infinitely better than this series.

Bottom line

Netflix got it wrong by applying the recipes of a blockbuster fiction to a real-life human drama. All that remains is a sense of vagueness, unease and incomprehension.

Conspiracy theorists in the lead roles, suffering families for a bit of drama, inaudible experts if they disqualified the former too much, and in the end, if there is a moral to the story, it is that not everything is good to attract an audience.

Netflix could have made a solid documentary but based on the facts there isn’t too much to say that we don’t already know. Netflix could also have chosen the opposite path and make a fiction from a scenario (a bit like the Dutch series The Crash currently being broadcast on Canal+ with the crash of the El Al 1862 in 1992 as a starting point), no matter which one, whether it is credible or not. But they chose the middle way: between amateur documentary and bad fiction.

The victims and their families deserve better. The spectators too, some of whom confided to us that they felt uncomfortable or even guilty after having watched this documentary which is not one. “I felt guilty of supporting the conspiracists and unhealthy voyeurism in relation to the families” a friend told me.

What is Travelguys’ opinion on the disappearance of MH370? We are certain: the plane disappeared from the radars, reappeared, flew for many hours before crashing permanently. For the rest, all we know is that we don’t know anything and that the families deserve better than a creativity contest to answer their questions.

If you want a more solid and enlightened opinion on the subject, we recommend this video (in french) by Xavier Tytelman with a duo of experts as clear as credible in their explanations. Who confirm at some point that Netflix only heard what they wanted to hear.

What about you? Have you watched the series? What do you think? And on MH370 in general? Tell us in the comments.

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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