Television has always been obsessed with killers: “Dexter,” “Hannibal,” “Criminal Minds,” the list goes on. David Fincher’s “Mindhunter,” a new Netflix original series that premiered Oct. 13, follows suit but changes the meaning of the cop show and the criminals in it.
The 10 episode series is set in 1977, following analytical FBI hostage negotiator Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) at the height of high profile criminals roaming the streets, like Son of Sam and Charles Manson. After a failed hostage negotiation that ended in suicide during the pilot episode, Ford is pulled from the field and sent to the classrooms to train new agents at the FBI Academy. Disappointed at first, Ford starts to realize that maybe there is more to the psychology of the criminals while preparing his classes. After meeting Debbie (Hannah Gross), a sociology grad student at the bar, Ford is amazed by her liberal way of thinking and decides to go back to school to further educate himself on how the very nature of crime is changing due to these serial killers.
Ford starts to challenge the idea that these individuals are simply crazy, suggesting that there is more to why and what they do. Perhaps the most radical idea Ford presents to the force is that they can learn something from these individuals. In episode two, Ford and veteran agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) go face to face with real life Co-Ed killer Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton) and puts the viewer right in their shoes, making them question if criminals or born or formed.
Despite a slow pilot episode and Ford’s bland personality, “Mindhunter” will draw true crime fans in. There isn’t a new case to be solved every episode like Criminal Minds. There are rarely gory scenes or violence shown at all. The violence and fear comes from Ford and Tench’s deep dive into these killers minds, showing how thoughts can be as terrifying as actions. The interview with Kemper, who offers Ford coffee and talks about cutting his mother’s head off in the same breath, certainly exhibits this. Humanizing these criminals without sympathy for what they did, “Mindhunter’s” terrifying argument is that anyone could be a killer.