Spoilers might ask you to step closer to the glass.
There’s something about the idea of a serial killer, as in a person that commits murder repeatedly, that differs in tone with a regular mass murderer, a person that just killed several people at once. I think it’s not going to be a stretch to say we’re intrigued by someone that would commit murder, evade capture and repeat this heinous act on complete strangers. Capturing such a person alive is one thing. The idea of interviewing them makes one’s hair stand on end.
That is exactly where Mindhunter wants to bring us. The Netflix show created by Joe Penhall was intriguing from its first season, giving us a rare look at the beginnings of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit with agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). The show stars in the late seventies, giving us the entire era’s flavour: wardrobe, music and the occasional macho talk. Holden is the strange, quirky almost Mulder-like natural at the job that gets involved too much. He’s based on FBI Profiler John Douglas, co-author of the book the show is based on. Bill is the no-nonsense FBI agent who is all business and can talk up a room with stories about his battle scars. Wendy is a woman in a man’s world, tough as nails and ready to deal with the job at hand regardless of the nature of the people they interview.
There are common plot devices in the show you’ll recognize immediately. As with every show involving characters who work in law enforcement, everyone is passionate about their job to the point of letting it affect their personal lives. Holden starts a relationship with Debbie (Hannah Gross) which is really a plot device to give us an inside look at what makes him tick. Bill’s story goes a little bit further than that, with the first season being about him keeping his work separate from his family – which has the effect of keeping his family at a distance from him, something that will have consequences later on. Carr is a closed book to her co-workers, but she’s hiding the fact that she’s a lesbian which given the era might be the right call.
Their antagonists come from two backgrounds. In the first season, they often come head to head with Assistant Director Robert Shepard (Cotter Smith) who is often not interested in what they do but what wasp’s nest they’ve stirred. The more conventional are the actual captured serial killers, particularly the imposing but soft-spoken Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton), the Co-ed killer, who seems to have taken a particular interest in Holden. Three facts about Kemper that will make you lose sleep: one, he’s a real person; two, he’s the inspiration for Buffalo Bill in Thomas Harris’ novel Silence of the Lambs; three, he’s still alive and serving his time at California Medical Facility in the same block as Charles Manson.
Highly recommended for a dosage of intrigue, suspense and tension. As a thriller, it’s not meant to deliver a definite threat but expose one coming from several sources. It’s not really a criminal procedural but more or less a bit of an expose in how society ignores the mental issues and harbours predators in their midst. It never tries to excuse their behaviour, but it does try to hold the people that ignore it accountable. The protagonists are never heroic, but rather act more as witnesses trying to document and prepare for an uncertain future that seems to become darker every moment. Dark, gritty and realistic, it’s really more than worth your time to watch. Make sure you fill the proper report when you’re done.
That will do for now.