Tuesday, October 24, 2017

TV Show Review: Mindhunter

Netflix's new crime drama explores the origin of the term "serial killer" as it explores the development of behavioral science at the FBI. Holden Ford (Jonathan Goff) is a hostage negotiator that has had a bad run of luck understanding these new types of crimes without a clear motive. A conversation with an expert gives him interesting ideas and when he meets a graduate student Debbie Mitford (Hannah Gross). She opens his mind to new sociological questions that pushes him to new methods of teaching. Unit Chief Shepard (Cotter Smith) is skeptical of this new take but allows him to start taking classes at the nearby university. The first episodes are a bit slow as David Fincher directs the first two and definitely leaves his imprint on the series but the series picks up as the main conceit begins to play out.

Holden is recruited by Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) to be a part of the behavioral science division. Bill teaches local law enforcement techniques of the FBI and consults on unique cases of a brutal nature. Holden uses his FBI credentials to gain access to Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton) who is willing to discuss his vicious murders. Shepard discourages this approach to violent criminals but Holden believes the information could help them stop these murders in the future.  The study expands as they recruit academic Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) to help them turn the interviews into something more scientific. Wendy pushes for more interviews and a focus on the data while the two agents work to solve cases in all the places they visit to teach police and learn from killers. They begin to classify the different types of criminals and come up with a language of which to speak about the deranged personalities. They received funding from the Justice Department that makes their progress more legitimate.

An exceptionally difficult case has the Holden and Bill returning to Pennsylvania where their profiling discovers a murder involving a whole family. Wendy struggles with moving to Washington D.C. full time to work at Quantico as her liberal girlfriend in Boston looks down on the FBI. She decides to make the move and becomes curious about a cat outside the laundry room window and so she feeds, the opposite behavior the study is discovering killer exhibit towards small animals. Holden becomes suspicious of a school principal who is tickling kids. He believes the man exhibits the same characteristics as killers and doesn't want to risk allowing a crime to happen. His investigation ruins the life of the man and his self-centered focus on his work causes issues with his relationship to Debbie.

The investigation takes a toll on all the team as Tench argues with his wife since their adoptive son in uncommunicative and stumbles upon a gruesome picture in his home office. Wendy is approached by Shepard since there have been complaints by the murderers against the FBI, especially Holden and his strange approach to get killers to talk. The team adds a new member of Gregg Smith (Joe Tuttle) who rubs Holden the wrong way and eventually rats him out when asked to lie about a recording of an interview. Holden's life spins out of control as Bill refuses to go on interviews anymore and Debbie breaks up with him. Holden goes to the hospital to speak with Edmund and has to run out in fear. Throughout the show, a silent killer prepares for murder but these separate scenes never come to anything in this season.

Mindhunter is one of my favorite shows of the year utilizing Fincher's style to explore the horrifying true story of the origin of the study of serial killers. Goff is great as the optimistic young agent who slowly turns bolder as the effects of the awful stories take their toll. Holt McCallany plays my favorite character Bill Tench whose gruff responses to the killers answer counters well against Goff's understanding tone. I've seen McCallany in other films but this role really suits him well. Torv is also great as the analytical mind of the group while the scenes of Hannah Gross's discussions with Ford help center the series and explain the thinking of the agent. I am interested to see where this show goes if it goes through with a second season. 

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