Netflix, and their Midas touch for enthralling audiences with twisted entertainment, has once again struck creative gold. If season two of Mindhunter was condensed with the same impact into a movie, it would land in Oscar territory. All the intelligent chemistry that made the original season so enthralling is back, and built upon. This is strictly down to the care directors David Fincher (Seven, Zodiac), Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly), and Carl Franklin (Devil in a Blue Dress) have passionately injected into the series. Everything clicks dramatically into place, from cinematography, scripts, and of course performances, all of which are faultless.
Sometimes when the direction is split three ways, a fragmented or inconsistent run of episodes can be expected. It’s the opposite here, with the split working instead to add a wider scope to the overall appeal. Fincher shot the first three episodes, Dominik two, and Franklin the remaining four. It is the latter which are the meat on the bones. Although touted as a Fincher project, his opening episodes for Mindhunter season two only build to the finer work to come this season. Again, this series sees him in more Zodiac mode than Seven, beginning deliberately but gradually picking up pace until viewers are as invested in the story as its central characters are in studying murderers.
Season two of Mindhunter follows the trio of young Special Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), seasoned G-man Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), and behavioral psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). It picks up exactly where the last season left off, with Ford reeling from his meeting with the glaringly creepy convicted killer Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton). Although there is little action in the opening episodes, it is the tension that slowly builds which keeps viewers riveted just as it did with the last season. What sets Mindhunter apart is the fact there is very little violence or even blood for that matter. Instead through conversations the deeds of serial killers are fed into our imagination. This is alongside the feelings of all those involved, especially are lead trio – hopeless in understanding the intricacies of human nature and the twisted minds of serial killers.
Hinted in season one was the BTK killer who appeared briefly in pre-credit vignettes. His murderous rampage continues to the frustration of Tench and Ford. Even with a strong profiling base, they have not learned enough to capture, or at the very least understand this elusive murderer. In order to do the latter, the two continue to sit down with other killers now incarcerated. One of these is David Berkowitz aka Son of Sam. Played by Oliver Cooper, the resemblance to the real-life killer is eerie to say the least, enthralling and unnerving in equal measure.
On top of this, side stories dig further into the main characters lives, making them feel more human in between claustrophobic sit downs with killers. One subplot involves the quiet, withdrawn and adopted son of Tench, Brian (Zachary Scott Ross) and in some ways mirrors the work his father does in trying to understand the human mind. There’s a suggestion this time around his child might develop into the type of monster Ford and Tench chase, despite the FBI veteran’s great parenting. If so though, it repeats a question Mindhunter is fascinated with:
Are psychopaths born naturally with an inability to understand people’s emotions, making it easier to kill?
Other cases the trio become involved in include the Atlanta Child Murders – the real-life killings of 29 black children, mainly boys, over a two-year period between 1979-81. All the more harrowing since it’s based in true events, the series’ exploration on how race played a role in the authorities’ investigation is fascinating and timely.
Another major event in season two is the FBI agents’ interview with Charles Manson, something which was suggested would happen in season one since Ford obsesses over the man behind the Tate murders. Despite the anticipation, the meeting of the two was by no means a let-down. Damon Herriman (Quarry) plays the part of Manson, just as he did briefly in Tarantino’s recent Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. This time the Aussie gets to flex his acting muscles, delivering a perfect portrayal of the controlling, confident cult leader. The difference between Manson and the rest of the killers they interviewed is that Manson never directly committed the murders, instead manipulating his followers to do so instead.
In a year when we’ve already had our interest in the macabre fed with Netflix’s Ted Bundy Tapes documentary and the subsequent Zac Efron movie Extremely Wicked…, Mindhunter stands above. This is because it attempts and at times succeeds in explaining the why’s and how’s of a killer’s motivations – examining with intricate detail the workings of a twisted mind. In fact, the only downside to season two is the void left after binging it. Well, that and the wait for season three.