What Jennifer Did

What Jennifer Did

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A fascinating but flawed documentary about revenge and murder

On November 8, 2010, Jennifer Pan, a 24-year-old woman dialed emergency services and reported an incident where three gunmen had invaded their home in Markham, Ontario. 

Upon arrival at Jennifer’s house, they found her unharmed but both Bich and Huai were shot. Her mother’s name was Bich while the father’s name was Huai who was however still fighting for his life.

The case began as a home invasion before police began suspecting Jennifer of involvement in the crime. During the investigation it came to light that she had been part of it which were inexplicable and surprising.

Jennifer’s story is now a documentary called What Jennifer Did available on Netflix. It is quite gripping, especially since much of it is interrogation footage from police interviews with Jennifer herself. At first she goes along with her original story denying any participation in the attack on her parents but over time we see her visibly falling apart as the truth draws closer and closer.

What motivated Jennifer to want her parents dead? Most of this can be found out from watching the documentary so I won’t go into too much detail here. However some glaring omissions have been made in its course.

For instance we learn why she wanted them killed but not about what actually happened to her mentally during this time. One of the police officers describes Jennifer as “evil” though as far as we know she was not under some demonic possession or something like that.

Yes, it was a cold calculated decision to hire those men to kill her parents but why did she do it? We know that they put too much pressure on their daughter academically and prevented her from having many friends including Daniel Wong who was not approved by them either.

But will this make you want your parents murdered? These are things one might be tempted to do when your parent’s laws get too harsh but how many would actually go ahead with it? There must be more than ill-will as motive for that, right?

Maybe in Jennifer’s case. However, it would be useful to have some more details about her background so that we can understand better the kind of relationships she had with her parents. They were strict with her, maybe too much but this aspect could have informed a more rounded view of Jennifer as an individual.

When I think about how the police interrogated Jennifer, I just wish they had explored it more. The Canadian system allows for law enforcers to lie to suspects during questioning according to one person who was interviewed by the police. It is not only Canada though; most probably all over the world cops do that. But one obvious question remains after watching: if they want Jennifer to tell them the truth why shouldn’t they be truthful too?

In one scene, Jennifer is deceived into revealing what ‘truth expert’ wanted to know. This is unsettling to watch, even though Jennifer is not an angel. There isn’t enough time in the documentary for discussing the morally problematic methods that police employ but separate doc on this would be fascinating and damning.

Jennifer’s only interviews are in the recorded interview footage. We also see Daniel Wong, Jennifer’s ex-boyfriend being questioned by police who was also involved in the crime.This makes him somewhat pitiable since it appears that Jennifer forced him into her plan; nevertheless, we should not pity the man considering how heinous a crime he committed.

Not much information is provided about the individuals whom Jennifer hired to kill her parents. This is regrettable because more knowledge about their background could have given us deeper understanding of why they helped her. Granted, this documentary focuses primarily on Jennifer (the title doesn’t lie), but as she didn’t work alone, interview recordings of other defendants would have been instructive.

However, What Jennifer Did remains a spellbinding experience with lots of extended interview footage from Jennifer herself. She tells one lie after another which makes for compulsive viewing as you know she’ll be found out eventually.She leaves as many gaps in her story as Jenny Popplewell does in her doc but that doesn’t make it any less interesting once finished.

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