If you’re into detectives and sleuths, one of Netflix’s top thriller/crime dramas may be just the right choice for you. We’re talking about Mindhunter, the David Fincher-produced drama about the man who pioneered the science of profiling serial killers. The show is based on the 1995 true crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker and it scored 8.6/10 on IMDB and 96% on the Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer. Starring Jonathan Groff as Holden Ford, special agent in the FBI's Behavioural Science Unit, and Holt McCallany as his partner Bill Tench, Mindhunter focuses on the birth of criminal profiling within FBI in late-70s America. The duo awakens to the idea of using the minds of real-life killers to help stop similar criminal and monstrous activities happening in the future.
Early Days of Criminal Psychology
The show is set in 1977, and follows the activities of the two FBI agents Ford and Tench as they are coping with the issues of criminal psychology and criminal profiling at the time when such things have just beginning to gain recognition. Along with psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), the two protagonists conduct interviews with imprisoned serial killers in order to understand how their minds work. The characters of serial killers used in the show were modelled on the actual convicted criminals; the showrunners went as far as to include dialogues from real interviews into the prison scenes. The agents and the psychologist are also based on real people: Holden Ford is based on FBI agent John E. Douglas, Bill Tench is based on pioneering FBI agent Robert K. Ressler, whereas Wendy Carr is based on psychiatric forensic researcher Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess.
Through the eyes and mind of Ford and Tench you’ll witness the forging of the notion and the term of serial killing and some weird and gritty scenes. Episode after episode, the show jumps from procedural mode, events of meeting a murderer and scenes in which we’re given insights into Ford and Tench’s screwed-up home lives. Season one, comprised of 10 episodes, went live on Netflix on October 13th, 2017. It was announced that the show would get a second season before the first one even premiered.
Arguably the Best Show about Criminology and Serial Killers Ever Made
In times when crimes were solved with a simple MMO (means, motive, opportunity) credo, two ingenious investigators asked the question of not whodunit by whydunit. In hopes to use all the knowledge and experience they’re getting from interviewing monsters for preventing future crimes by getting ahead of the killers, child molesters and sexual predators, Ford and Tench become pioneers of psychological profiling as the main tool in crime investigation.
Sounds like one hell of a show. But don’t get misguided - Mindhunter is not a spectacle. It is a realistic crime drama with all the qualities of Fincher’s Se7en and Zodiac. The first season features intriguing characters such as Ed Kemper, the hulking and intelligent Californian necrophiliac played brilliantly by the previously unknown Cameron Britton, Monte Ralph Rissell played by Sam Strike, Jerry Brudos played by Happy Anderson and known as ‘the shoe fetish slayer’ and the infamous Richard Speck captured by Jack Erdie. In season finale, the lead detective duo faces the case of Darrell Gene Devier, which was also based on real-life events described in Douglas’ book. In the show, this was the first time the agents used methods derived from their previous conversations with serial killers. You’ll have to watch the episode to find out the outcome of their approach, because we won’t spoil it!
Some may describe Mindhunter as the series about Ford and Tench going to work each morning, interviewing some serial killers, discussing their results with Wendy Carr, then going home to their respective families or girlfriends. Partially, that’s true - but there’s so much more to the show than that; the cinematography, the relationships, the technique - they encourage continued viewing. The show is recommended to viewers who have the stomach to endure some disturbing scenes, though. Introducing something sinister in the final few episodes without much detailing, the show is left as open-ended as possible.
Ever since Hannibal there hasn’t been a small-screen crime thriller that has picked brains so well. Now there’s Mindhunter.