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March 26 2011

io9's 10 Perfect Murders in Sci-Fi. io9 lists 10 "perfect" murders in (apparently) modern science fiction, including The Operative's termination of Dr. Matthias in Serenity.

The list, which covers moments in TV and film sci-fi where the killer basically gets away with the act scott-free, also includes Morena as Visitor queen Anna and her recent acts of crushing rebellion in the last few episodes of Season Two. Spoiler warnings mainly for anyone who's not watched the ending of this season of V, never read Dune or has never seen any of the Alien films before. Or watched the Zowie Bowie (Duncan Jones) directed Moon. Or has never viewed any version of Blade Runner ;D

If I may add, HAL 9000 did a nearly perfect job in "2001".

Dang those computers!
Err, this phrase "perfect murder", I do not think it means what they think it means.

How did Leon get away with it ? Or the evil Bill and Ted ? Or Lunar Industries ? Or The Operative for that matter ? So 'perfect' how exactly ?
The Operative was a government assassin, not a murderer.
Assassination (including state sponsored assassination) is murder (as compared to e.g. killing an enemy combatant during a state sanctioned war).


ETA: Actually, maybe if he has an openly (i.e. endorsed by the electorate) government supplied "licence to kill" anyone he sees fit then you could say it's not murder (which is unlawful killing).

[ edited by Saje on 2011-03-26 10:03 ]
Murder is killing with intention. Lets not get sidetracked here. A "perfect" murder is, not only being a suspect, but being able to sidestep the thing in whole.

'Course, I wouldn't know just things, I'm just an innocent bystander.
No, it's unlawful killing with intent. Which is why soldiers, though presumably usually intending to kill enemy combatants, aren't murderers but assassins usually are.

You're right about the 'sidestepping' aspect of a perfect murder though, which is why many of the entries shouldn't be on there (HAL also didn't get away with it, hence, as you say 'Hatter, nearly perfect).
Murder is unlawful killing, sure- but it's unlawful because it's taking the life of another in a non-self-defense situation. In that sense, The Operative is definitely a murderer.

And if that scene wasn't a murder scene, then his attacks on people who gave shelter to the crew of Serenity certainly were.
Well, it's unlawful because it's breaking the law, simple as that. What separates murder from other forms of killing (like e.g. manslaughter) is both its lawfulness and intent (s'where the well-known phrase "malice aforethought" comes into it).

Self-defence can be a legitimate justification for killing in some circumstances but it a) isn't always and b) doesn't necessarily make the killing lawful (it may just make it "less unlawful" so to speak).
I thought it's only murder if the most prudent thing afterwards is to run away, elimintate the witnesses, or hide the body. The Operative did none of the above. Maybe he just wasn't being prudent. Or because, y'know... He "had people" for that.

Killing, murder, assassination, execution, extermination, elimination, slaughter...
Y'know that saying about how there's so many more words for snow in the Inuit language because it's such a major concern of that culture?

We got a lotta words. Just sayin'.

...Homicide, collateral damage...

You have to have plenty of different words so you can do the same thing the bad guys are doing but call it something else and so keep telling yourself you're the good guys. It's a mental thing.
Saje, you're trying to thread a tricky needle here, but I'm game.

What the Operative did was state sponsored which I generally frown upon, depending on the subject. Lets face it, some people are just so plain twisted, they need to be removed. Now, the right and judgement to make such a call....well, guess that falls on the beholden.
Webster's Collegiate Dictionary supports Saje (murder is unlawful killing; assassination is murder whether state-sponsored or not).

The Operative's statement, "I don't exist," makes it pretty clear that his killing of the doctor was a clandestine operation even though he made no effort to cover his tracks. We may infer that what he did in the lab was unlawful even though it was done under direction of the government.

So the distinction I made doesn't hold up, apparently. However, I would still make some sort of distinction between the doctor's killing, which appears to be an execution ordered by a higher-up, and the indiscriminate killing of everyone in Mal's social and business network, which seems to have been an improvisation by the Operative for the purpose of completing his mission to capture River. I would imagine that under Alliance law, he would be able to present some sort of following-orders defence for the first but not for the second.
I once saw Hitchcock being asked if the perfect murder had ever occurred. He said that of course it did, all the time - but we don't know about it because it's perfect.
If we're talking elegantly planned and executed intellectual "murder accomplishments" like we see on 'Columbo' (as Hitchcock probably means) then i'd say the number of perfect murders committed ever is vanishingly small (though not zero). If we just mean "getting away with it" then since only around 70% of US homicides are solved there're around 3,000 "perfect murders" every year in the US alone (numbers of murders are much lower in both Canada and the UK and probably relatedly, in the UK at least, detection rates are much higher but scaled appropriately the principle holds).

I would imagine that under Alliance law, he would be able to present some sort of following-orders defence for the first but not for the second.

Maybe, yeah janef. I'd say he'd at least be in trouble with his superiors for his scorched Earth approach since as you say, it's meant to be under the radar (in general, whether they'd write both off as necessary for his mission would probably come down to whether it worked).
Homicides successfully disguised as deaths from natural causes or accident, and most disappearances in which the body hasn't turned up, don't even make it into the case-clearing statistics.
The reason it's so hard to come up with "perfect murders" (in the sense that the murderer never pays for his crimes) in movies and TV is because we don't like for murderers to get away with their crimes. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the viewers, so writers don't feel they can write those stories and get them on screen.

Speaking of near-perfect murders, anyone ever see "Suspect Zero"?

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