On Friday the 13th, Netflix dropped one of their newest original series, “Mindhunter”, and when I found out it was all about serial killers, I couldn’t hit the Add To My List button fast enough!
The 10-episode series, created by the one and only David Fincher, follows FBI Special Agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as they develop new methods for profiling violent crime offenders, even coining the term “serial killer”. Helping them in this endeavor are the killers themselves, as they travel the country interviewing notorious criminals from prison. As the series progresses, we can see the exposure to these sick minds begin to take their toll on our heroes while also gaining fascinating (though highly disturbing) insight into what creates a serial killer.
Here are the top reasons why you should fire up “Mindhunter” on your next Netflix binge sesh!
True Crime Goodness – If you’re a fan of true crime docs like Making a Murderer and/or crime procedurals like “Law & Order”, this series is for you, as it feels like a healthy mix of both. Bonus points if you’re a fan of “Criminal Minds”, as this show also deals heavily with the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI. And, of course, if you have any interest at all in serial killers, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.
Attention to Detail – While the characters of Ford and Tench are fictionalized, their subjects are not. The FBI agents are based loosely on John E. Douglas, whose book Mind Hunter: Inside The FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit inspired much of this series, and many of his conversations with serial killers were lifted verbatim for “Mindhunter”. As someone who has railed repeatedly against movies and TV shows adapted from real-life stories that for some reason decide to play fast and loose with historical fact, I wholeheartedly appreciated this show’s adherence to accuracy where the killers were concerned. Real life is often crazier than fiction anyway, and that’s rarely more true than when it comes to guys like Ed Kemper and Richard Speck. I also enjoyed the creepy little “bumpers” at the beginning of each episode taking a glimpse into the life of the BTK Killer, Dennis Rader.
Great Performances & Chemistry – I won’t lie, this show is hella wordy. Some scenes get pretty lengthy with the talky-talky, but luckily the actors and the writing are so compelling that you barely even notice. The chemistry between Groff and McCallany (as the eager young agent partnered with the grizzled veteran, respectively) really makes the dialogue pop, and Groff in particular, mostly known for lighter fare like “Glee” and Frozen, really shows off a more nuanced side of himself as an actor. Not to mention, of course, the almost mesmerizing performance of Cameron Britton (“Stitchers”) as Ed Kemper.
‘70s Aesthetic – This kind of ties in to the “Attention to Detail” part above, but in a different way. So often lately, I feel like shows and movies that take place in the ‘70s, ‘80s, or ‘90s rely too heavily on the nostalgia factor, which can take away (or, in some cases, deliberately distract) from the actual story. In the case of “Mindhunter”, the time period (late-‘70s) is not emphasized, and yet the overall verisimilitude is spot-on – from grocery stores to airport terminals to a beauty salon that was on screen for all of 5 seconds, the painstaking detail of the time period only enhances the mood rather than overwhelm it.
Surprisingly Funny – Leave it to David Fincher, I guess, but his offbeat sense of humor is on full display here and I found myself laughing out loud way more than I would have expected to from watching a TV series about serial murderers.
However, like most things, the show isn’t perfect, and I came away from it with a few questions (WARNING: SPOILERS)…
Payoff? – So, it wasn’t until the last 10 minutes of the entire series that we are finally told what all this has been leading up to, and frankly it felt like a rather “easy” and predictable conclusion. Personally, I was waiting for some kind of epilogue where we find out that Tench’s troubled adopted son had grown up to become a serial killer himself. The entire series was about gathering this research to enable law enforcement to see the red flags earlier and help prevent wannabe serial killers from doing their thing, and I felt like the ultimate dramatic irony would be Tench’s inability to see the warning signs developing in his own son. (Season 2 maybe?)
I was also left cold by the above-mentioned BTK bumpers. I was hoping they would actually tie in to the main storyline somehow, but they ended up just being cute little easter eggs for serial killer enthusiasts.
Ladies? – For some reason, the only 2 major female characters in this series, Wendy (Anna Torv) and Debbie (Hannah Gross), were absolutely insufferable. I really don’t understand the reason for this. I mean, I kinda understand it where Debbie is concerned – as Holden’s girlfriend, her constant criticism and ultimate abandonment of him was, like many of his research subjects, the tipping point for his breakdown. But I do not understand the decision to make Wendy, Holden & Tench’s colleague, a constant source of antagonism for them. They already had enough opposition from their higher-ups, they didn’t need MORE grief from the woman whose idea this was in the first place. So that was a pretty weak aspect of the show in my opinion.
But overall, it’s a highly engrossing show that you should definitely check out, just don’t get too invested or you may end up like Holden – on the floor of a prison hospital in the fetal position!