From May 1972 to April 1973, 7-footer Edmund Kemper killed and did unmentionable things to eight people that included six college students, his bickering mother and her friend. In a shocking murder spree, Richard Speck killed eight student nurses one after another in the summer of 1966. Jerome Brudos, who had a serious shoe-fetish and enjoyed dressing as a woman, ended up luring and mercilessly killing four young women. These are some of the killers profiled in the chilling crime/science drama Mindhunter.
The show, that premiered on Netflix last month, gives us a glimpse into the FBI Behavioural Science Unit. The unit was set up to comprehend the ‘process’ and ‘origin’ of crimes committed by pathological killers.
Show’s three protagonists — FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench, and Dr. Wendy Carr, a psychology professor at Boston University — immerse you in their world. They make you feel like a part of their conversations as they try to unravel the rationale of the killers behind the most brutal societal killings.
FBI agents Ford and Tench lock themselves in a room for hours where they enquire, probe and record conversations of murderers for ‘study purpose’.
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The show starts with Ford Holden unsuccessfully negotiating with a criminal, who’s taken hostage as he ends up shooting himself in the face.
Holden seems dissatisfied with the result and wants to get an insight into how a criminal is born.
He says, “How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?”
And this gives rise to forming his new research study to understand the nuances of a criminal mind.
Such kind of voyeuristic peek into the lives of experts who are on their way to come out with something ground-breaking and iconoclastic was also seen in the show Masters of Sex where William Masters and Virginia Johnson conducted series of experiments to understand human (special women’s) sexuality better. I can’t imagine the kind of background research that must have gone into creating something based on real-life science.
However, Mindhunter was based on former FBI agent John Douglas‘ non-fiction book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.
Executive producer David Fincher has given us an account of a serial killer in the past too with Zodiac (2007).
However, Mindhunter isn’t a whodunit crime drama where agents are just out to nab criminals and make them confess to the crime.
The show is really verbose and full of delish conversations, so much so that it will put Aaron Sorkin scripts to shame.
Doctor Carr is such a master of discerning conversations you’ll want to pause and sometimes rewind to fully understand the context of what she is saying. I did that.
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Coming back to Ford Holden, he initially gives you the impression of a timid guy and seems an unlikely candidate for an FBI agent.
Gradually though, he proves his mettle by navigating through tactful dialogue with serial killers.
Ford’s fluid impression is balanced by his dispassionate partner Bill Tench.
Tench is a man of gravitas and is hardly dismayed by the confessions of the criminals.
Bill Tench and Dr. Carr undoubtedly lend depth and heft to the show.
Without them, Ford Holden would have just looked like a kid talking to Pennywise.
I think fun happens when a show is so salubrious you try to find a show inside the show; you want to lacerate its skin, revel in peeling out details in every scene unhurriedly.
No doubt, I can’t wait for Season 2 as the last episode has left us with a hook.
Mindhunter Season 1 delivers. It is an intellectual and an incisive drama. A huge part of the show is theoretical and you may feel like it’s not giving you a conclusion. But I feel there’s a storm in the offing.
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By Saurabh Rathore
Disclaimer: This article first appeared here.