REVIEW: ‘McMillions,’ Episode 2

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McMillions Episode 2

McMillions, the six-part HBO documentary series directed by James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte, returns with its second episode aptly titled, “Episode 2.” The episode begins where the previous one closed as the FBI reveals the identity of Uncle Jerry, the prime suspect all of the winners had been speaking to.

In the ongoing investigation, the FBI had reason to believe Uncle Jerry was actually Jerome Jacobson, the head of security at Simon Marketing. In case you missed it, Simon Marketing was the firm running McDonald’s promotional games. This offered Jacobson unprecedented access to the game pieces and also gave him the authority to oversee any security measures for the game, also granting him insider information on how to commandeer the pieces.

In addition to speaking with the FBI, “Episode 2” also features commentary from Jacobson’s ex-wife, Marsha Derbyshire, and his stepbrother. Their testimony allows viewers to see the type of person Jacobson was and gives a background on how he got his job at Simon Marketing. The additional interviews with Derbyshire, in particular, helped in framing the story overall as well as setting up the timeline of the events. Jacobson is a former police officer who was forced to give up his career due to a disability. After moving to Atlanta with his wife, Jacobson started work with Simon Marketing. To complicate matters, after the move Derbyshire worked security for Dittler Brothers, the printing company responsible for printing the game pieces.

McMillions episode 2

Dittler Brothers had exceptional security measures to stop fraudulent winners. Former employees of Simon Marketing and the printing company explain in painful detail the meticulous and seemingly overboard methods used to ensure every winner was legitimate. The explanation about just how much security was in place showed how difficult this scam was to pull off. Overall, the interviews with the Dittler Brother employees gave a lot more clarity to how everything unfolded. But as the FBI learned more and more about the security measure, they determine that while Jacobson was involved, he more than likely was not Uncle Jerry. After digging further, the FBI realize this scam could very well be run by the mafia.

Adding organized crime and the mafia to any case makes it that much more interesting. The slow pacing that brought down the first episode of McMillions is not an issue in “Episode 2.” As the FBI looks into a different Jerry, one with mafia roots, they also concocted another undercover plan to speak to all of the past winners and make them relay their stories. By doing so, the FBI wanted to keep the timeline straight and also see just how many similarities they were between each story. Since the undercover operation had the FBI working with McDonald’s as a film crew, the real-life footage and interviews from the investigation is heavily featured.

Special Agent Doug Mathews retells the undercover events in between cuts of the real footage. In the previous episode, a lot of Mathews’ commentary was played for laughs making him come off an inept. However, in “Episode 2,” Mathews’ retelling only adds to the suspense and while he is still a very humorous guy, it is less obnoxious.

As the case in McMillions ramps up, it becomes more compelling. While the first episode wasn’t perfect, the fascinating details of this case kept me around. And I am glad they did. “Episode 2” is exciting, thrilling, and offers even more twists and turns in an already fascinating subject. Fans of true crime and documentaries or even heist movies should tune in.

McMillions is streaming now on HBO with new episodes dropping Mondays at 10:00 pm EST.

McMillions, Episode 2
  • 9/10
    McMillions, Episode 2 - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

As the case in McMillions ramps up, it becomes more compelling. While the first episode wasn’t perfect, the fascinating details of this case kept me around. And I am glad they did. “Episode 2” is exciting, thrilling, and offers even more twists and turns in an already fascinating subject.