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A Mindhunter is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

I used to try and make these streaming series last. I would take my time, watch an episode a day, and really just soak them in. But social media has all but ruined that, with people jumping on something and showing off how they watched an entire series in one sitting. “I spent all day on it!” Bragging that they’d finished first. Blah. It gets tiresome. And then come the spoilers. Most people don’t mean to do it. Sometimes they’ll let something slip in a comment or in passing conversations. It’s inevitable. So nowadays, I try and watch shows as quickly as I can, which means in a few days, if I’m lucky. And while there is a certain thrill to the headlong rush through a storyline, I do feel like I’m missing some things by not taking the time to slow down and reflect. Such is our culture today.

So, what about season two of Mindhunter? Most people I know were big fans of the first season. It was dark, moody, creepy, but also a bit detached from human emotions (this has always been one of my criticisms of David Fincher as a filmmaker, his propensity to tell his stories from an almost sociopathic point of view). Season one described the carnage of the mind of a serial killer, sticking (mostly) with Ed Kemper and his relationship to the FBI interviewers Ford and Tench, and how this ultimately affects the stony and aloof Ford, causing a breakdown by season’s end. It was a terrific introduction to this world and its characters and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Again, the coldness that Fincher (director of many episodes and producer) brings was an asset to the story, helping us to really dig in and get comfortable in such a sick and deranged world.

Season Two starts pretty much at the end of the first season. Ford is coming to grips with what has happened to him. He was an ordered, compact, logical and clinical person and now he’s had to deal with real, tangible, human emotions. Ford is a lot like the people he interviews, just a step or two away, I think, from being just like them, and I took his brush with Kemper as being a wake-up call. We get to see more of his development of compassion and care in this season. And not just with him, but particularly with Tench and Dr. Carr, their other major colleague. Anna Torv is terrific as Carr but the show doesn’t give her a whole lot to do other than be a character who other characters bounce off of. She gets some fleshing out this season, and it’s interesting to watch her deal with a budding romantic relationship, especially considering her lesbianism and the time frame in which the story takes place. It’s easy to forget just how hard it was for gay people to find love and still function in our society that was even worse then about condemnation and judgement. Torv strikes a fine balance of pathos and career professionalism. I particularly loved the way she handled a male colleague who was pulling every sexist workplace vulgarity on her. She chopped his tree down quick. Tench also gets a lot of room to shine this season. This involves a subplot with his adopted son and his wife. He’s trying to attend to both his personal and professional responsibilities, never able to give fully 100% to each, and both of his worlds are crashing down around him. Add to this a new boss for the team and the whole crew is walking on eggshells.

This season, like last, we get to see some riveting interviews with some very crazy criminals. The highlight, of course, is the Manson segment. Damon Herriman gives flat-out the best Manson portrayal I’ve seen (and Steve Railsback was a tough one to beat out). His few moments of screen time were enthralling. Also, the David Berkowitz and Tex Watson interviews were smashing. There were other, peripheral criminals spotlighted, and while all were fine, none held the stage quite like these three. There really are stars when it comes to serial killers and mass killers. But unlike Season One, these forays felt more like a distraction from the main storyline, once it got rolling, and this storyline directly ties in with the more human feeling theme of Season Two, and that is the Atlanta Child Murders.

I was alive during this time. I was eleven years old when children were going missing from the streets of Atlanta. Sure, I was supposedly safely far away in Kentucky, but the terror down there resonated throughout the South. I still remember the feeling in the air, as far away as I was. The show does an excellent job of capturing this, as well as digging into the dirt and really examining all the peripherals.

It is with this story that we find Ford coming out of his shell. He meets the mothers of several victims who ask for his help, and he tries but he is met again and again with bureaucratic obstacles, frustrating his well-meaning. He has developed a profile of the killer, one that is not politically correct, and time and time again has to step aside from the correct pursuit to follow the needs of both the local police and the local politicians. In short, nobody can believe a young black man is doing the killings, and they focus most of their investigations on the local Klansmen. This is understandable, given that the community feels this same way, as well. Ford fights against even his partner Tench until finally, when all else fails, they give him a shot. Of course he’s right and they get their man (or do they? That’s a question that still, to this day, has never fully and satisfactorily, been answered). In the process, we learn a lot more about Ford and his character grows.

In short, Season Two is an expansion on the mythos. It spreads out from its roots, the cataloguing and understanding of serial killers, to putting what they’ve learned into practice in hopes of catching a live predator. But more than this, the characters are opening and expanding as well, bringing some much needed warmth to a very cold subject. Season Two doesn’t have the same splash or verve as Season One, but it hands down wins because we start to care much more about our main characters. And while the depravity depicted in the first season was shocking and resounding, this added layer of humanity, for both the investigators and the victims, just makes it all even more resonant.

Really looking forward to Season Three.

Four Buckets of Blood out of Four


Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews, he likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh.  He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website: 


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