Beware. Spoilers below.
Confession time – I wasn’t all that blown away by season one of the Netflix series, Mindhunter.
Now do not get me wrong. I enjoyed the show. I admired its technical brilliance. Mindhunter was after all immaculately put together by the ingenious, David Fincher.
Fincher, of course, created the classic Seven & the criminally underrated Zodiac (even though Fincher’s antagonist in that film, Arthur Leigh Allen was not the damn Zodiac).
My beef with Mindhunter was this – I’d read John Douglas’s book (the show is based on) way back in the late nineties. I have no idea what drew me to that novel but I saw the cover in my local library & took it home. Douglas made an impression.
I remember the intricate details. The FBI extracting a confession from a murderer by leaving a bloody stone in an integration room. The Behavioural Science unit discussing, Richard Speck’s ritual slaughter of nine young student nurses & Douglas ”bonding” with The Coed Killer.
Even almost twenty years later – I knew what was coming in the show. These horrid stories don’t leave you. It wasn’t just that though. Something was stopping me from fully embracing Mindhunter Season one.
Then it hit me – the problem was Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff). The character & the actor. Holden is John Douglas’s alter ego. The thing is. John Douglas was never that much of an arsehole. Even back then. Douglas is fiercely intelligent, witty & outgoing. The Holden in Mindhunter is anything but. Let’s face it – he’s a bit of a know it all cunt & that’s ok. However, Groff is a piss poor actor. He’s not believable or engaging.
As Christopher Molstanti would say ‘’Holt McCallany took Groff to fucking acting school.’’
Holden’s story in season one, ends with an entirely fictional scene. Our hero, suffers a panic attack after a run-in with Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton) at a local hospital.
Thankfully (& I hate to say this), season two of the series sidelines Holden. His panic attack seems to be barely an afterthought and I for one am very grateful for that.
This time out, Mindhunter is all about Bill Tench (McCallany) & Wendy Carr (Ana Torv).
Facing a crisis at home, Bill struggles to balance his work & family life. His young adopted son witnesses and participates in an accidental murder. This story is made up & perhaps a little too on the nose, however, McCallany is mesmerizing. We invest in him. That’s what a good actor does. He makes you a part of their struggle. Groff. Please take note.
Wendy begins dating a barmaid, Kat (Lauren Glazier) although their initial hook up rings a little false. A group of soldiers in the 1980s don’t bat an eye when an attractive female loudly and proudly tells a full bar, ‘’I play for the other team.’’? But I am nitpicking. The couple’s relationship is fascinating if ultimately doomed.
The opening scene of Mindhunter season two is a claustrophobic nerve shredder. Roxy Music, “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” trembles. A young woman comes home to find her husband dressed up in lingerie & wearing a peculiar mask. Did I mention that he is indulging in some erotic asphyxiation (look that up yourself)? This is BTK (Sonny Valicenti). If you don’t know, BTK stands for bind, torture, kill. You may remember the character dropping in on us from time to time in the first series. Some of you call him ADT Security Man. Most of these new episodes kick off with a cold opening involving BTK. Although these are extremely creepy & disturbing, I gotta say after a while they started to annoy me.
Why you may ask? Well, I am going to tell you. In the show’s current timeline, Dennis Raeder aka The BTK won’t be apprehended for another twenty-five years or so. I guess that is maybe the whole point. The BTK did not fit the conventional profile of a sexual sadist. He was a family man & seemingly well adjusted. That very normalcy, allowed Raeder to remain undetected for so long. No sophisticated FBI technique could pinpoint him. I just wonder – will the show ever get around to The BTK being caught? There is some way to go before that happens.
Being as this is Mindhunter as well as BTK, we get a whole array of infamous criminals. Son of Sam, Dave Berkowitz (Oliver Cooper)& Charlie Manson (Damon Herriman) both make an appearance. But not before everyone’s favorite serial murderer,Ed Kemper’s hilarious cameo. Interestingly, Herriman also plays Manson in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. You have to say it is easy to see why. When it would be so easy to fall into caricature, Herriman embodies all of Manson’s peculiar tics.
The main plot of season two consumes the pursuit of The Atlanta Child Killer. Between 1979 & 1981, two adults & 27 children were murdered in the Southern state. If you love podcasts then check out Atlanta Monster. It’s one of 2019’s best & covers the case in excruciating detail.
Anyway, I digress. The hunt for The Atlanta Monster is breathtaking & makes for great tv.
David Fincher directs the first three episodes of the series before handing the reigns over to Andrew Dominik & Carl Franklin. Both men are skilled craftsmen in their own rights.
Franklin, in particular, understands the poor black Atlanta neighborhoods that Holden & Bill find themselves in. The FBI men are outsiders here & Franklin perfectly encapsulates the troublesome role of the white savior that Holden unknowingly casts himself in. The FBI cares little about the community. They are here to snare a killer at all costs.
When they do finally pin the crimes on a young black male, Wayne Williams (Christopher Livingston )they are surprised that the locals are suspicious as to their reasoning & motives.
Decades on, there are still plenty of questions surrounding the case. Many people in Atlanta believe that Williams is an innocent man. He was only ever convicted of killing two adults. He maintains his innocence to this day.
Mindhunter more than alludes to the FBI partly being partly responsible for the demonization & racial profiling of young black males. Ford does not understand why the local community becomes upset when he zeros in on a black suspect. Forty years later, young black men are still being incarnated on an industrial scale. However, we could discuss this all night.
Putting politics aside for one moment, The thing I love most about Mindhunter that in a time where true crime is all the rage, Fincher & co never go down the exploitation road.
The audience never gets to witness any of the murders. We only deal with the aftermath. There is a gripping scene, when a man who survived BTK explains to Bill & a local Kansas detective, how he managed to escape. This victim, Kevin (Andrew Yackel) sits in the back of a police car in an abandoned parking lot & tells his story. His face has been blasted away by The BTK. Fincher doesn’t even show us what Kevin looks like. He maintains the victim’s sense of dignity. That’s what works best about the series. It’s not for the morbidly curious. Our imagination runs wild. That in many ways, is much, much more frightening.
Mindhunter season 2 is tense, restrained & spectacular.
Mindhunter Season 2 is available now on Netflix Hungary.
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