Mindhunter: Season 1 created by Joe Penhall (Netflix, Denver and Delilah Productions, Panic Pictures)
Starring Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Hannah Gross, Anna Torv, and Cameron Britton.
Who was the first person to make a sandwich? Why did he or she bother with creating all those layers and when did the realization dawn on here that she had discovered something monumental? Honestly, cheers to all the people who tried the poisonous combinations that lead us to our culinary masterpieces.
It doesn’t happen often, but those eureka moments are special. You can send thoughts in orbit around your head as you try to arrange the puzzle pieces the right way. Time and time again the pieces don’t seem to fit; when they do, it feels like a new world might be possible.
This feeling permeates the psychological/procedural drama, Mindhunter. The show, following FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), depicts the seminal stages of behavioral research that created the profiling mechanisms and nomenclature for serial killers.
Profiling a Show Profiling Serial Killers
On the one hand, the narrative foundation provides intriguing angles as smart people manufacture a premise and measure out robust research techniques to create the necessary data for the project.
On the other hand, the ubiquitous nature of the content (Dateline anyone?) creates tension between characters and the viewer. Sandwiches are amazing but that doesn’t mean you want to watch a re-enactment of the first sandwich creator fail many times before perfecting the technique. We know the technique! Likewise, the serial killer nomenclature and the clues that provides hints to possible murderous activity are old hat. We know enough about the process to be more educated than the characters.
Sprinkle in some questionable dialogue (especially in the first episode, the worst of the bunch) and poor character development—who are you really, Debbie (Hannah Gross?—and you have a shaky foundation for a television show.
To Watch or Not to Watch?
If you’re still reading by now, you’re likely wondering why I even watched the show if I don’t like it this much. Truthfully, I found the show incredibly interesting and believe it worth a valuable slice of your viewing time.
Mainly, the value of Mindhunter exists within its interviewing methodology and its procedural work when cases arise.
On methodology, Holden and Bill seek out the most notorious murderers—soon to be named serial killers—to better understand the psychology of such despicable people. What did the killer think and feel before, during, and after? What does the killer think of himself?
These illuminating questions coupled with excellent casting for these real-life murderers conjures chilling scenes, especially the interviews with Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton).
Similarly, the newly acquired insights into the mind of the killers finds tangible use as agencies across the United States approach this behavioral science team with tricky cases. Game to provide assistance, the formula almost takes the shape of a case-of-the-week format, just with serial killers mixed in.
All in all, the methodology and cases counteract the rough dialogue and characters, to the point where a second season is welcomed. If you like psychology to go with your murder cases, check out Mindhunter.
Verdict: 3 out of 5