Mindhunter: Episodes 1 and 2
Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
Ever wonder what it would be like if Hannibal and Zodiac had a baby?
David Fincher is back on Netflix to take a look at the birth of profiling and we’re hoping that the signs line up for TV’s answer to Zodiac.
As a location title appears on the screen reminiscent of a vintage postcard; Mindhunter welcomes you to the United States of America in the ‘60s: the turbulence of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, Watergate and the emergence of modern serial killers. Series creator Joe Penhall and executive producer David Fincher come to the small screen to chronicle the development of the method to pursue their madness.
Mindhunter is based on the twenty-five-year career of Special Agent John Douglas. Douglas began his journey as a profiler; an interviewer for the very worst serial killers in United States history. Douglas probed the likes of Charles Manson, necrophile Ted Bundy, and skin peeler Ed Gein. Douglas used his familiarity with the patterns of serial killer behaviour to adopt their mindset to great success, often unravelling seemingly unsolvable cases.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Douglas eventually became an internationally renowned investigator and the basis for Will Graham in Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novel Red Dragon. Ever wonder what it would be like if Hannibal and Zodiac had a baby? Well now you don’t.
Fincher is an auteur particularly enraptured with psychopaths; SE7EN, Zodiac, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl. He’s behind the lens for the opening two and final two episodes of the first series. Mindhunter has flurries of Fincher’s signature appraisal of obsessive loners. Fincher continues to use living spaces as metaphors for the characters’ internal workings.
When we encounter Holden, his apartment may as well be a ‘70s Holiday Inn. There’s a spartan, deliberate precision that even he is unwilling to disturb. Once Holden collides with Wendy (Anna Torv) and her ruddy, unkempt bohemian studio, his discomfort and disgust (and some sweaty sex to distract) paves way for his own enlightenment. Mindhunter maintains appeal because the idealistic Holden wants to enhance law enforcement’s ability to diagnose and detect serial killers at a time when distrust for government institutions is at its peak.
Jonathan Groff plays Holden Ford (a confusing name for Aussie revheads), a failed hostage negotiator turned tutor for the FBI. Mindhunter uses the template of the Jake Gyllenhaal Richard Graysmith character from Zodiac, but he’s got the look of young, Robin Hood: Men in Tights Cary Elwes.
Zodiac’s Graysmith was an outsider cartoonist, eventually consolidating his findings and becoming THE significant authority on the killer. This approach doesn’t quite work with Holden. He’s meant to have the acumen of a law enforcement practitioner but his social naivety is profound. It’s difficult to reconcile how he’s been assigned to expand his knowledge for the good of the bureau. Thankfully, the awesome and terribly underrated Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), the behavioural specialist assigned to mentor Holden, a pragmatic and road weary force that stops him from stumbling into an open fire – so to speak.
Australian Anna Torv plays Wendy and delivers a small but essential role. There is a level of world weariness and intuition for human behaviour in Wendy that makes Groff’s Holden feel like he’s deficient by comparison. The only frustrating element of her contribution is that she’s not the main character. The towering Cameron Britton plays the tormented teddy bear Edmund, their first taste of a serial killer. The highlights of the second episode are Holden and Bill Tench interviewing Edmund.
It would be incredibly unfair to judge the overall quality of Mindhunter from a two-episode arc, which is all that we got to for this review; however, they’re likely to be the worst of the series. The final seconds of the second episode are filled with the most promise. The Fincher Zodiac-eque deliberate and unflinching gaze keeps it worthwhile. For now.