Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Now on Netflix: Mindhunter, Season 1 (2017)

Mindhunter, Season 1 (2017) - Created by Joe Penhall; Starring Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Hannah Gross, Joe Tuttle, Cameron Britton.

By Kenny Howell

Mindhunter was one of those shows that over the last two months I thought to myself, I need to watch that.

It was partially directed by David Fincher (Gone Girl), who I think is great, and it is about serial killers. Fincher made Zodiac, maybe my favorite modern serial killer movie. There are also other great directors attached to it like Tobias Lindholm (A War) and Asif Kapadia (Amy).

But I didn't watch it. There was other stuff to get to since every time I get on Netflix it says we have added 67 new shows you might like in the last 10 minutes.

But about a week ago I started watching. And now I am done. I could have watched it in a day if I didn't have other responsibilities like taking care of my children. It has a little trouble figuring out exactly what it is, but even though all of that, it is fantastic.


Mindhunter is based on the book of the same name, John E. Douglas' account of his interviews with serial killers when he was a FBI agent trying to understand the motivations behind their murders. He was a ground breaker in understanding the psychology of serial killers. His partner even coined the term.

For the TV series, Douglas is changed to Holden Ford, a young, headstrong, if not slightly peculiar FBI agent who is determined to understand the crimes. He gets fellow agent Bill Tench (was named Robert Ressler in real life), to go along with him to interview serial killers and learn their traits as to help stop future crimes before they start, or catch them quicker once it had been committed. The show balances the interviews that Ford and Tench do which are based on Douglas' interviews, interwoven with them solving crimes. The agents travel to police departments to help educate them on what they have learned and what to look for in similar cases. While there, detectives struggling with cases approach them for help.

Mindhunter seems to be confused at first just what show it wants to be. Is it a historical document of the actual interviews, or is it a detective show? It takes a few episodes to figure out that balance, but luckily the first few episodes are some of the best, thanks to Groff (Frozen), Holt McCallany as Tench and Cameron Britton as Edmund Kemper, the man who murdered his mother and several co-eds in Oregon in the 1970s. Britton brilliantly balances welcoming and terrifying, as the presumed highly intelligent murderer has a down home charm, but the evil is always there underneath just lurking. It is one of my favorite performances of the year, even if it comes in just a few episodes.

By the end of the season, Mindhunter settles into its balance and then adds the psychological toll that being around such horrible murderers takes on a person's psyche. It has set itself up for being a very strong series going forward. It already is.

The first season of Mindhunter is now on Netflix.

Rating: ***1/2



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