Netflix spoiled us last year and introduced us to some truly great series (Dark, Ozark, Godless and The Punisher to name just a few) but there is one series I felt compelled to write about, Mindhunter. If you’re logging in to Netflix to find something to watch that is full of explosions and big fight scenes, then this won’t be for you. What you will find in Mindhunter is a smart, confident, thought-provoking show that is as dark as it is excellent. Fans of other very popular shows such as Criminal Minds, Hannibal and Dexter will no doubt enjoy this. The pacing is spot on and it is written extremely well, giving us some great dialogue and very good performances.
Mindhunter is based on the 1995 book of the same name written by John Douglas & Mark Olshaker, and tells the true story of John Douglas himself. In the series however, his character has been named Holden Ford (played by Jonathan Groff) and among the executive producers are David Fincher (who also directs some episodes) and Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron.
Set in the late 1970’s Ford is a former hostage negotiator turned FBI agent that goes in search of a partner to help him set up a criminal profiling department within the bureau. This leads him to our second protagonist, veteran agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). Together they pitch the idea to the very sceptical unit chief who after some persuasion allows them to set up office in the basement of the department. The duo soon set about putting their plans in to place and their idea is to understand serial killers by studying them, trying to get inside the minds of these killers.
For too long the bureau had been using the classic crime-solving technique, means, motive and opportunity, feeling that serial killers were just born that way. Ford and Tench challenge this, what if they’re not born that way? What if it is a lot more complicated, they ask the question, how can we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?
Our main men travel the US interviewing incarcerated criminals, starting with Edmund Kemper also known as the co-ed killer. Convicted of murdering 10 people including his mother between 1964 and 1973. Ed Kemper is played by the previously unknown Cameron Britton who is outstanding in the role, from the moment he utters his first words I was gripped to the screen and listening intently to everything that he said. A lot of the dialogue from the interviews in Mindhunter is taken from Kemper’s real life documentary interviews. Having watched those interviews, I can tell you Britton’s portrayal is parallel to the real thing, he owns every scene he is in and he is fascinating to watch.
It was well documented that Kemper was eager to tell his story which made him the perfect candidate and the perfect place to start. Standing at 6 feet 9 inches tall and weighing over 250 pounds, the eerily articulate Kemper was an intimidating presence. During his scenes the co-ed killer goes in to gory details about how he murdered his victims, what his thought process was while committing his crimes and how he dismembered the bodies (I did say it was dark).
After interviewing Kemper for a second time they begin to gather a better understanding and find a process to conduct the interviews in a way that fits, not to the satisfaction of everyone though as despite their efforts and success, a lot of Ford’s techniques and strategies come under scrutiny throughout.
Eventually they’re joined by Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), a psychology professor at Boston university, who helps develop a system to categorise killers and to see if it is possible for them to predict future behaviours. The following episodes show further interviews conducted by Ford and Tench including the interviews of notorious killers Jerry Brudos and Richard Speck. Thrown in are some interesting subplots and an insight in to the everyday lives of these agents. It’s clear that spending their weeks face-to-face with the evilest people on the planet takes a toll on their everyday lives and their loved ones. This keeps things real to the viewer and shows that after all, these serial killer-obsessed FBI agents are just like us.
I won’t delve too much deeper in to the details of the interviews and everything else that happens throughout as this is certainly a series that needs to be seen to be appreciated. Trust me when I say, that once you start watching, you won’t want to stop (queue the tears as you wish it wasn’t over before frantically searching Netflix to find something new to watch to help fill the void).
With its success and season 2 already confirmed as well as John Douglas enjoying a long and successful career, it should be safe to assume that we will be seeing much more of the FBI agents in search of new evils to cross-question.