TV Review: “Mindhunter” Season 1 – Obsession

Written by Danielle Sing November 16, 2017

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Netflix and David Fincher (one of my favourite directors) team up for a second time to bring a new series, Mindhunter. Mindhunter is a crime drama set in the 1970’s. It’s about the early research of criminal profiling and psychology by the FBI, based on the true-crime book “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. For context, John E. Douglas – one of the original criminal profilers at the FBI – is the inspiration for several fictional FBI Agents in film and television, including Jack Crawford from The Silence of the Lambs series, and Jason Gideon and David Rossi from Criminal Minds. Mindhunter succeeds with Fincher’s signature tone and the authentic science but falls short in its drab finale.

Following a failed interrogation at a hostage situation, FBI Special Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) gets an invitation to be mentored by FBI Special Agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). Bill and Holden travel to police precincts across the USA to teach criminal psychology and profiling. While traveling, Holden interviews Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton) a ‘sequence killer’. Holden gains new insight about murderers like Kemper and seeks others like him to pry for information.

“How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?”

Mindhunter bases its fiction on fact. The lead, Holden Ford, comes from John E. Douglas. Bill Tench comes from Robert K. Ressler, who coined the term ‘serial killer’. Dr. Wendy Carr comes from Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess, a Boston College professor who worked with survivors of sexual abuse, and also worked with the FBI. Still, the serial killers are based on real killers and FBI conversations. If you Google ‘Edmund Kemper’, you’ll find a wiki page for the real “Co-ed Killer”. Mindhunter brings a science that’s lacking in most cop shows (if you can call this a cop show). Its authenticity works with America’s love/hate obsession with serial killers.

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Cameron Britton as Edmund Kemper in Mindhunter compared to Edmund Kemper’s mugshot.

 

Mindhunter has the familiar Fincherisms seen in Gone Girl, Fight Club and Zodiac. His tone focuses on the cinematic visuals, using muted colours and minuscule details. Mindhunter has a keen eye for even-handed character development. It’s as if there’s no difference between the FBI agents and the convicted killers. Mindhunter builds its suspense slowly, with only scattered moments of relief, as if they’re saving up for the finale.

“If what we’re doing doesn’t get under your skin, you’re more screwed up than I thought, or kidding yourself.”

The one thing about Mindhunter that’s very different from other Fincher projects is the finale – which is strange since Fincher actually directed it. Fincher has explosive finales, bringing together every tiny piece of the puzzle. Think Se7en‘s ‘what’s-in-the-box?’ scene. Mindhunter‘s finale has a small element of surprise, but it’s more like a break in character, and it fails to connect all the pieces. It seems as if connecting every piece was too overwhelming. It incapacitates the characters instead of coming to a conclusion. But even though the finale may not encourage the audience to watch the second season, the mystery identity of the Kanas ADT employee just might.

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Now, I know who this mystery person is, but I’ve watched a lot of stuff on serial killers. It’s incredible that the science from countless films, documentaries, and TV series’, comes from true events that inspired Mindhunter. If you’re a fan of David Fincher and Criminal MindsMindhunter is a must. Just prepare for a lackluster finale. Let’s just hope the second season comes out sooner than later to make up for it.

My Rating: 8/10

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