Streaming giant Netflix premiered last weekend the new series produced and directed by David Fincher (he directed four of the 10 episodes) called “Mindhunter.” Aside from classic films like “Gone Girl” and “The Social Network,” Fincher also produced and directed the first few episodes of Netflix’s massively popular “House of Cards,” which ushered in streaming television’s system of releasing all the episodes of the season in one premiere.
Returning to the crime genre, Fincher sets “Mindhunter” in 1970s America when the FBI Behavioral Science Unit begins interviewing criminals of violent crimes in order to understand the psychology of these murderers. The series is the story of two detectives and a Boston professor as they go deep into the minds of killers and start the science of criminal profiling.
“Mindhunter” is a riveting show, heavy with mood, and dread. Every episode is a slow burn, as Detectives Holden and Tench (played by Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany) look monsters straight in the eye and find out what makes them tick. The show’s strengths is in its restraint and how it plays off the innocence of the ’70s against the dark and twisted minds of the criminals Holden and Tench interview.
The show posits early the question: are the increasingly brutal nature of crimes a reaction to a broken society or is society breaking apart because of the increasing number of very violent and disturb crimes?
While Holden and Tench dig into the lives of these killers, the world around them is changing. The Vietnam war ended badly for the Americans and the United States is in the era of hippies and “free love.” The show taps into the innocence of the times to contrast the darkness of the men they interview and their horrific acts against women.
Of all of Fincher’s work, “Mindhunter” is his brightest in terms of cinematography. Again, the brightness creates a sense of normality while the stories being told are of the most disturbing nature.
The show has this ability to fool you that everything is okay, visually, but there is dread here. Holden is curious and enthusiastic, oftentimes unable to control himself, while Tench is an intelligent veteran in the field, so he plays off as a bit jaded and weary. Early in the show, they seek the help of Professor Wendy Carr, a professor at Boston University, and she’s portrayed as the cold, cerebral scientist by Anna Torv.
What makes the show excellent is the multiple layers that it pierces through in its first ten episodes. It shows how the FBI began the science of criminal profiling, giving us a look into the psychology of a killer, straight from the horse’s mouth. At the same time, it presents the challenges that it took for an institution like the FBI to progress into criminal psychology because it threatened to upset the status quo.
For me, the strongest aspect of the series is how delving into the minds of these murderers changes Holden and Tench and how it affects them and their personal lives.
“Mindhunter” may not be as explosive as “House of Cards“ but it is just as riveting and engaging. The acting is superb, the story is slow but steady and fulfilling, and the first season promises an even greater second season, which I have no doubt it will have.