Directors: David Fincher, Andrew Dominik, Carl Franklin
Writer: Joe Penhall
Cast: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Sonny Valicenti, Cameron Britton, Damon Herriman
Holden Ford, Bill Tench and Dr. Wendy Carr pick the twisted brains of a raft of psychopaths in the gripping, superbly shot second season of Mindhunter.
Based on the book, Mindhunter: Inside The FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, season two starts off exactly where season one ended, with Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) in the throes of a panic attack brought on by a hug from serial killer Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton). In the meantime, things are shaking up (for the better) at the FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit (BSU) in the form of Ted Gunn (Michael Cerveris), their new boss. He believes the BSU has immense potential and especially puts stock in Ford’s “boy wonder” act. Bill Tench, Ford’s senior partner and fellow agent, and psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr are appointed as Ford’s guardians and the team sets out to interview serial killers about their ‘work’.
This time, the BSU is split up. Ford, who was centrestage last season takes a reluctant backseat. The spotlight is on Tench, who must battle personal trauma while tackling cases. Carr is given a few moments to shine during interviews (new territory for her). However her narrative is dominated by a budding and complicated relationship with bartender Kay Manz (Lauren Glazier).
There’s no shortage of psychopaths and the team plays mental chess with David Berkowitz aka Son of Sam, Charles Manson (Ford finally gets his wish), Kemper (in arguably the standout performance of the series), William Pierce, Elmer Wayne Henry Jr, Tex Watson and Paul Bateson among others.
However her narrative is dominated by a budding and complicated relationship with bartender Kay Manz (Lauren Glazier).
The season’s focus is the Atlanta Child murders, a series of crimes committed in Georgia from 1978 to 1981. Ford gets obsessed with the Atlanta Killer when none of his theories about the murderer bear out. And Tench’s frustration is compounded by the team’s failure to capture the killer.
In what is one of the more memorable scenes of the series, Fincher smartly illustrates the adage that what’s in your imagination is scarier than reality. Tench interviews Kevin, a survivor of the BTK killer (more on him later) in the backseat of a truck. We only see glimpses of his silhouette, a condition put forth by Kevin to hide his bullet-riddled face. The way the camera offers teasing glimpses of his shadow, the raindrops on the window through which you catch glimpses of Kevin…moments of smart and atmospheric cinematography like these are what make Mindhunter brilliant.
The BTK (Bind Torture Kill) killer’s presence has been a constant throughout season one, and the suspicious ADT Securities serviceman (Sonny Valicenti) is back in season two. Whether he’s prancing around in a creepy mask, fervently sketching out his sexual fantasies in a library or trying out knots, his on-screen appearances are truly unnerving and leave you with a sense of foreboding.
Groff plays Ford with admirable restraint. His emotional and mental stability is often questioned by his teammates, and his seeming indifference to their concern makes you wonder whether he’s developing a lack of apathy just like the criminals with whom he’s obsessed.
McCallany is in top-form as the grizzled and gruff Tench. His moments with his son and wife allow the actor to showcase his range, from vulnerable husband to tough detective. Torv has her moments of brilliance, and it’s interesting to see Dr Carr’s icy exterior thaw under the warmth of a new romance. However, we do wish she’d been given more screen time.