Produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron, and based on the true crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E Douglas and Mark Olshaker, Mindhunter is dark exploration into the minds of real life killers.
The series is set in 1977, at a time when criminal psychology was in its infancy – there was no attempt to understand the behaviours of serial killers up until now, with most instead being institutionalised.
It follows Special Agents Holden Ford (Jonathon Groff), a former hostage negotiator, and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) of the FBI’s Behavioural Sciences Unit as they embark on a journey to study the minds of convicted serial killers in the hope that they can help solve and prevent future cases. Enlisting the help of Dr Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), their research gains national coverage and interest, allowing them to go on and interview some of America’s most notorious serial killers.
If there is one thing that we know David Fincher does well, it’s serial killer stories. Following the success of his film’s Se7en and Zodiac, it was only a matter of time before he ventured back into the grizzly genre.
The series takes a different route through the genre than one may expect. Taking the focus away from the thriller and horror aspects of crime, it creates a dialogue about the subject, replicating the journey the characters go through themselves. The killers they interview are already convicted, so this isn’t about showing horrific murders on screen. What’s more disturbing is the killer themselves describing what they did, how they did it and why. With famous killers coming into play such as Edmund Kemper, Jerry Brudos and Richard Speck, the personality dynamics which are brought to the forefront are nothing short of completely awe-inspiring, intriguing and unmissable.
Of particular note is Cameron Britton as the giant Edmund Kemper, or Big Ed. He dominates every scene he appears in, and captures the intelligence that Kemper was known to have as well as the amicable nature he oozes. Also, the pure menace of his killings are so brilliantly executed in his dialogue, he becomes equally terrifying as he is endearing.
With a series like this, there is less opportunity for sub-plots, however the writers have managed to weave in the odd crime to solve every few episodes. These coincide with the behaviours and themes they are exploring with each interview. We also get to see the personal relationships each of the agents have, which helps to explain the reasons behind their reactions to their subjects’ stories.
It provides the backstory to the world’s obsession with serial killers. Holden Ford’s drive to pursue the research shows that he may have been ahead of his time, and this is a slice of history with added flair to make it incredibly entertaining.
Unfortunately, the series ends with a bit of an anticlimax. It provides no explanation for the appearance of one character with his own separate story arc. He appears in each episode, but only for a snippet of time; however in the end we are left without explanation. There is no development here, and it leads us on to believe that the two stories will collide and create a climactic finale. This is quite a disappointing and almost devious way to present such a storyline, and we can only hope that this will be the basis for season 2.
It is for the reason above that we cannot give Mindhunter the full 5 stars, but what is left is a truly great and original show. It knows what its audience wants and shoves it straight in their face. 4 stars is well deserved, and we cannot wait for the next season.
Watch Mindhunter Season 1 now on Netflix.