When I first heard of the new Netflix series “Mindhunter,” which was released on October 13, I wasn’t impressed. Just another crime show, right? But after watching the first episode, I knew I was mistaken. “Mindhunter” tells the thought-provoking story of the trailblazers in the field of criminal psychology.
— Rotten Tomatoes (@RottenTomatoes) October 16, 2017
The series is based on John E. Douglas, one of the first criminal profilers in the United States. Douglas taught hostage negotiation at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Quantico, Virginia and then created the FBI’s Criminal Profiling Program. His interviews with famous serial killers such as Edmund Kemper, Charles Manson, Richard Speck, and Jerry Brudos made enormous headway in advancing our knowledge of criminal behavior, data collection of violent crimes, and interrogation tactics.
Agent Holden Ford, Jonathan Groff’s character, is based on Douglas, and his colleagues, Agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), are based on Douglas’ real-life partners Robert Ressler and Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess. The show’s executive producer David Fincher directed “Gone Girl,” “House of Cards,” and “The Social Network.” Fincher attains his signature somber aura in “Mindhunter”’s videography, scenes, and music.
The story starts out in the late 1970s. Back then, the United States did not have much more information on the minds of criminals except that they were “evil.” Ford believes that the infamous killers who have been locked behind bars for life can actually serve as a valuable resource for the future of criminal profiling. He wants to know their backgrounds, family histories, motives, and thought patterns. Ford hopes that law enforcers can use this standard of psychopathic characteristics to investigate violent crimes.
Ford’s aspiration to learn the minds of these killers is not taken well by his partner Tench and his boss. When Ford begins interviewing psychopaths, his investigations shed light on the gripping mind of a serial killer. Because he is able to draw parallels between the criminals he interviews, his colleagues see this research project’s potential in educating Americans about the tell-tale signs of disturbing behavior.
“Mindhunter” confronts riveting questions: “Are criminals born or formed?”, “How can we see the motive behind strangers murdering strangers?”, and “Why do we behave the way we do?”
To me, the criminology questions that Ford proposes are the most interesting aspect of the show. I am sure that many viewers, however, are drawn to the disturbing, unsettling, and engrossing crimes that the interviewees talk about with no remorse.
At the beginning of the season, Ford is a relatively “normal” FBI agent: young, naive, inexperienced, and driven. Yet, as the season progresses, he becomes a little too close to the killers he interviews. He understands them so well that it is uncomfortable both to the viewer and to Ford’s colleagues. Ford’s ability to empathize with serial killer interviewees makes it easy for him to befriend them and understand their motives. These killers stay on his mind on and off the job. Ford says to his girlfriend Debbie, “’I can’t let these guys rub off on me. They way they view sex—’ ‘And women,’” Debbie added.
No matter what the second season has in store for us, I am excited to see how Ford’s character will develop. My prediction is that he will subtly begin to adopt some of his interviewee’s behaviors as he becomes even more attached and invested in their twisted psyches.
Fincher has been nicknamed the “prince of darkness.” In “Mindhunter,” this nickname rings true. His series bravely explores the unknown, unsettling, and perplexing mind of a serial killer.