Mindhunter makes you imagine how a deadly crime would have taken place as it throws open the psychological reasons behind it
Season two of Netflix’s Mindhunter kicks off the proceedings with a dull first episode. After such a haunting, spine-chilling and thrilling season one, the very beginning of the second season puts you off. But the magic begins in the second episode as Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), FBI agent, comes to his own. Even Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), his colleague, remarks that “he’s back”. Well, Holden was the most interesting leading character in the first outing. And it’s only in the second episode when the intriguing interviews with serial killers commence (where the greatness of Mindhunter lies). This is where Holden slyly manipulates killers who are being interviewed. He gets them to talk about instances that are gruesome, brutal and violent which, otherwise, they won’t easily reveal. Jason Hill’s fantastic background score takes care of the rest.
Based on the non-fiction called Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, the series tells the story of FBI agents who seek insights from imprisoned serial killers, study their behaviour, thoughts, and actions, and use that to find other such killers out there. (Ed Kemper, played by Cameron Britton, is a serial killer from season one. His interview with Holden made a tremendous impact. The season two makes sure of honouring this character by allowing him to make a brief appearance here). These are the killers who, as Bill states, “develop a sickening personal signature” and resort to committing “compulsive crimes”. Mindhunter is an exceptional and remarkable series for some important reasons. It never shows a person committing a heinous crime. It only talks about it. It shows photographs of dead persons taken by security officials for investigation. It makes you imagine how a deadly crime would have taken place as it throws open the psychological reasons behind it. David Fincher is one of the executive producers and has even directed a few episodes. So, you can expect the series to be extraordinarily suspenseful and thrilling as his films are known for.
Impressive cinematography lifts Mindhunter’s quality even further (Helmed by Erik Messerschmidt and Christopher Probst). Take this scene for example. In this, you get a longshot first. The surrounding isn’t bright where a car is parked at. But a little daylight has sneaked in. This shadowy place has a creepy aura about it. A guy approaches towards this car and enters inside it. You, then, get closeups as you see Holden sitting in the front seat of the car and the guy who just came in is sitting right behind him. While Holden does his usual manipulatory tricks while hurling questions at this guy about a serial killer, the camera juggles between side views and front views. The camera never focuses on this guy’s face as you get a blurred view which makes it even more intriguing. And in several other scenes, the camera also does little tricks to make a just-another-scene into a fascinating one. For instance, while a prison gate is thrown open and closed, it feels like the camera is affixed to the gate.
Anna Torv, who plays a psychologist Wendy Carr, was brilliant in season one. (She arrests you with her marvellous act). But she has less screen space. Wendy’s role in the investigation, albeit impressive to watch, is limited and fades away as her lesbian relationship take the centre-stage (which seem interesting at first but even this loses the sheen). Talking about personal problems of characters, even the problems that Bill confronts at home seems to be developing into something more serious and riveting. But that turns out to be repetitive and predictable.
The series also tries to keep its viewers guessing about the crimes and the motives. But it falters with the execution. It takes too long to create the confusion in your mind and ends up wearing you out. For instance, there are concerns of racial discrimination and attacks by Ku Klux Klan that seems to be turning into a grim situation. A political game gets triggered too. But the intensity, that the series wants to show through such politics and hate crimes, is never attained. Such long and tiresome instances aside, the series is otherwise a supremely engaging crime drama. It’s the want of knowing the answers behind the killings that make it worthy of binge-watching.