Netflix’s new crime series Mindhunter had two things going for it. David Fincher was attached and directed a couple of episodes and it was about true crime. The first two episodes set up what is to become the whole purpose of the series, but it is not a drag-your-feet pilot. Unlike Star Trek: Discovery, the series takes its time to set up the characters, pacing, and point of the series. If you are not captivated by the first episode, then the series will be lost on you.
The series follows a burnt-out hostage negotiator Holden Ford, who is tired of dealing with “crazy” people and want to know what brings it out. After a hostage situation goes awry, in Holden’s mind, he is sent back to Quantico to train future hostage negotiators. During a free moment, he begins to hear the discussion that the FBI is lacking in identifying habitual killers without a motive. Taken by this theory, Holden discusses the possible breakdown in society to spawn these killers. Not only that, the FBI would not divert resources or manpower in the study of them.
Holden is eventually transferred to Bill Tench, a trainer in behavioral science. Bill goes around the country training local law enforcement in techniques. Holden goes on the road to assist in the training, but he will not let go of the craziest idea he has: talk to serial killers. Dig into their mind and find out what makes them tick. Holden’s ideology is if they can learn more about these people “rotting away in prison”, they may be able to figure out how to catch future killers.
You Know, there are More Like Me
The series focuses on Holden, who is a dichotomy of the FBI. He fits the old J. Edgar Hoover version of a fed, but society is changing around them. Set during the capture of the Son of Sam, Holden realizes that the Son of Sam case will not be an isolated incident. Against Bill’s and the bureau’s wishes, while in Vacaville he visits with Ed Kemper. Dubbed the sorority girl killer, Kemper seems like the opposite of what he has been convicted for.
Cameron Britton’s performance of Ed Kemper is fascinating and disturbing at the same time. His balance between the cool, every-day-joe and the silent terror of the killer makes the scenes captivating to watch. What makes Kemper more terrifying primarily because he is real. It would be Hannibal Lecter personified, which is a terrifying thought. When Bill, finally, talks with Kemper, the silent hatred of Kemper’s mother and grandmother becomes blindingly clear.
Murdering Someone is an Interesting Vocation
Part of the training of local law enforcement is to offer unofficial help with crimes that may be beyond their wheelhouse. In Iowa, a mother and child are brutally murdered and raped with a foreign object and they have no idea how to help. The crime was so random that they have no research to go off of. This motivates Holden to push for studying criminals of this nature and find out what makes them tick. The story goes as Holden begins to piece together what Kemper has felt to what might help them in future chases.
During a trip to Sacramento, Bill and Holden are asked about a Hispanic woman that was brutally beaten. The local law enforcement believes that it is someone that is local to the neighborhood, so either black or Hispanic. However, the throat of her dog was slit. That gives Holden and Bill something new to think about, as well as dispel rumors that it was part of some satanic-ritual.
How Do We Get Ahead of Crazy If We Don’t Know How Crazy Thinks?
Once Unit Chief Shepard learns of what Holden has been doing as a side project, Holden is threatened with suspension, censure, and transfer. After finally coming around, Bill stands up for Holden and believes they have something. The concept of using these people for their benefit shouldn’t be looked down upon but as research for the future.
Stuck in the old model of the FBI, which the first two episodes set-up neatly, it is difficult to see the forest for the trees. The pacing of the two episodes takes its time to set up the world between the Vietnam War and larger national issues of the late seventies. Many in the FBI, or law enforcement generally, believe that by studying these killers is somehow helping them. These “feel sorry” cases should be left to rot. However, the personal feelings of these officers cloud their judgment and possible benefits against future ‘sequence killers’.
Mindhunter is a slowly developing study of the criminal mind and hurdles law enforcement faced to utilize these prisoners. However, in the second episode, the introduction of the ADT Serviceman seems to be used in the cold open of episode two and is going to come of something. It is fascinating if you love true crime and learning of its history. There are some graphically sexualized moments in the first two episodes, as well as visual brutality, but it is a good watch. As I progress through the rest of the series, I will continue reviews of the remaining episodes.