Mindhunter (Season 1)
This compelling drama follows an idealistic young FBI agent as he joins forces with an older, more cynical agent to expand the scope of behavioural analysis within the iconic law enforcement agency. As they break new ground and develop the early blueprints for what would eventually become behavioural science, they spend their time building relationships with incarcerated serial killers, providing training to local police forces, and consulting on local, unsolved murders as they travel around the country. Their experiences play out against the backdrop of political machinations within the upper echelons of the FBI, and the two agents begin working with a renowned psychologist who helps them develop a deeper understanding of behavioural patterns in predators.
Mindhunter was created by writer Joe Penhall, and boasts both David Fincher and Charlize Theron among its producers. It’s based on the book Mindhunter: Inside The FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by legendary FBI profiler John E. Douglas, on whom the character of Jack Crawford in The Silence Of The Lambs was based. This, coupled with the fact that John Douglas is involved with the show as a writer, means that the series has an unprecedented level of detail regarding the early days of behavioural science in law enforcement, as well impressive insight into the profiling of infamous serial killers.
The biggest strength of the show, however, lies in the combination of performance, pacing and tone. Jonathan Groff shines as the lead character, Holden Ford – the man who walks into the FBI’s fledgling forays into behavioural science and spearheads a brand new level of progression. Holt McCallany, meanwhile, stars as Bill Tench – the agent already trying to disseminate profiling techniques to local police forces, and Anna Torv stars as Professor Wendy Carr, the psychologist who finds herself having to chose between a tenured position at Boston University, or a role defining profiling protocols for the FBI.
Series directors David Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia and Tobias Lindholm create a cohesive narrative here that’s ultimately a slow-build drama, with a genuinely creepy atmosphere. It neither veers into goriness, nor exaggerates the strangeness of its serial killing subjects. The result is a show that presents people who could genuinely be the person queuing behind you in the grocery store, talking in detail, and matter-of-factly, about the heinous crimes they’ve committed and the reasoning behind them. At the same time, we see the FBI agents irrevocably altered by their interactions with a vast range of predators. The show is also notable for a writing team of nine that includes four women.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Mindhunter, though, is its comedic elements. Despite dealing with very real, very disturbing individuals and their crimes, the show doesn’t shy away from the inclusion of humour, which is expertly and deftly sprinkled throughout the episodes – bringing further nuance and complexity to the striking tone. We never feel as though we’re chuckling at the agents, the murderers, or their victims, however. Instead, we’re experiencing their macabre amusement at the strangest of moments, which is perhaps the most relatable human behaviour of all.