Mindhunter Season 1: Series Review

I initially wanted to watch Mindhunter back in 2017 before Netflix even picked it up but because I cut my cable subscription, I wasn’t able to follow it until very recently, when Season 2 was announced and released by the streaming giant. Good thing too because after I’ve seen Season 1, I wonder how fans of the show kept their sanity with that type of cliffhanger ending.

Synopsis: Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) is one of the FBI’s top negotiators but after his first encounter of failure, he is called back to the bureau to teach in Quantico. As he begins to share his experience with young agents, he realizes just what is lacking in the FBI’s curriculum and begins to develop the idea of creating criminal profiles of a different breed of criminal called serial killers, in order to detect patterns in their behavior and prevent them from taking more victims. He is aided by his partner Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) from the Behavioral Science Unit, as well as Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), an academic who takes an interest in their objective and helps them develop the protocols for their study.

I must admit that I had my mind blown by Mindhunter. For some time, I have been quite fascinated by the driving factor for these serial killers after I’ve read and watched the backgrounds of Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the BTK Strangler, and Charles Manson and the shocking crimes they have committed. Having a show that takes inspiration from the work of real life federal agents as they come face to face with these criminals is just something out of the ordinary.

Agent Ford is loosely based on FBI legendary agent John E. Douglas while his partner Bill Tench is actually inspired by Agent Robert K. Ressler. Dr. Wendy Carr was based on Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess whose groundbreaking research on the treatment of trauma and abuse victims is considered one of the biggest breakthroughs in the field of Psychology. These three worked together like their series counterparts to release several books and researches about their findings gathered from interviews conducted with the most notorious psychopaths and sociopaths that law enforcement has ever dealt with. In doing so, they have set the precedent for modern day profiling used by the FBI until now.

I was impressed by the psychology of the series. The question of ethics. What constitutes right and wrong? These basic concept hooks you to the show. It questions your judgement time and again as it challenges simple logic and posits different possibilities based on different mindsets and behaviors. Like the series protagonists, viewers will wrestle with their own conscience as they try to figure out who the culprits are and if the end does justify the means of acquiring a confession.

The series introduces the concept of deviant and depraved, and this was being done in the 1970s when views were much more conservative and limited compared to today. Yet, the questions that were raised before on the field of criminal justice and psychology is surprisingly still relevant today. Are criminals born or created by society? And this is what makes the series relatable.

The series also inspires the asking of questions and asking the right ones, in particular. It highlights the importance of research and data gathering, the precision of the information and the processing of this to become something quite useful for generations of agents.

However, while Holden was the main star of the show, I was actually quite annoyed by his character development. It was realistic, the way his obsession with his goal started to eat at him but still, he was kind of getting out of hand towards the end. It was a real eye opener of a finale and seemed like it was predestined. I was really torn whether I should hate him for his arrogance and single mindedness or should I understand him because his heart was really in the right place.

I liked Bill because he seemed more human. He had the same drive but he knew his limits. Perhaps, it was because he was older than Holden that he had a better handle of balancing politics and innovation but I liked that he had his partners’ back, even when he was being a jerk. I also liked Wendy Carr, because she stood her ground and kept things in order, although sometimes, she is outvoted by the organic agents. She’s also super smart and competent, a trailblazer for women.

I liked how each of the serial killers had a different way of “sharing” their experiences, given their different triggers. It was very interesting to see how the agents try to get under their skin to get the data that they need, and it becomes like a never-ending game of cat and mouse. There’s also a sense of darkness to the series (as it should, given its gruesome concept) and makes me wonder whether this shadow will fall at the feet of these agents in Season 2.

The series was groundbreaking, to say the least and it has potential to go a long way as there are plenty more serial killers that need to be explored. I was really bummed that they teased the BTK Strangler for an entire season and copped out in the end, leaving him for Season 2. Good thing its now available now for me to binge. All in all, I learned a lot from Mindhunter and it made me even more curious about the human psyche. I would count that as a success for the series.