Mindhunter (2017- )
by Julie Toft Carlsen
Mindhunter is based on the true story of how criminal psychology and profiling was developed within the FBI. The tv-series follows FBI agents Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), and psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), as they interview convicted serial killers in the late 1970s. By studying known murderers, the team works to understand the motive behind some of the most gruesome murders.
The show was created by Joe Penhall and is executively produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron, with the first season premiering on Netflix in 2017 to rave reviews (season 1 is still ‘Certified Fresh’ on Rotten Tomatoes). The show balances the storylines of each of the main characters’ private lives with the work they do. The agents are drawn in to assist on active cases, where they’re able to apply their newfound knowledge; this adds very real stakes for Tench and Ford, as they’re able to see a direct link between their study with Dr. Carr, and its applications in the field. Season 2 followed on August 16th this year, with some interesting shifts in the narrative. This season focuses less on Ford, and more on Tench and his family, as well as Dr. Carr, as she tries to manage work and dating as a queer woman in the early 1980s. The season also follows the same active case throughout the entire season: the Atlanta Child Murders – a case which remains unsolved to this day.
Casting a group of real-life and well-known serial killers can’t be easy, but Mindhunter has done a superb job. Edmund Kemper (also known as the Co-ed Killer) appears regularly in season 1. He’s a physically intimidating serial killer who speaks in a calm and calculated manner about the ways in which he murdered and mutilated his victims. The dynamic between Ford and Kemper is chilling, with Ford unable to hide his fascination with Kemper, and Kemper revelling in the attention and admiration he’s getting from the authorities. As the show progresses, Ford’s motivations and mental state become increasingly ambiguous, occasionally confusing the line between analysing and empathising with the murderers.
The three main characters are different enough that they form a compelling group dynamic. Though the characters are appealing, and the casting is phenomenal, it’s hard to ignore the prevalence of straight white men, talking to other straight white men. There’s a lot of hypermasculinity, and the single female lead character does little to counteract this. A few scenes in season 2 show Dr. Carr being highly skilled at performing Ford and Tench’s serial killer interviews, but she’s denied the due credit and future opportunities to do so because of her gender. However, the show never deals with this storyline further, as though they just wanted to say, ‘look! She’s denied opportunities because she’s a woman under the control of her male boss. Anyway, back to Tench and Ford!’.
That being said, Mindhunter is an intriguing and well-paced show that’s definitely worth your time. It’s complex and unpredictable, and is a fresh take on a true crime show –