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Mindhunter Review: Netflix Series – Deepest and Darkest Shadows of Crime


“How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?”

The line from FBI agent Bill Tench to his chief in the opening episode sums up the arc of the series.

Netflix’s latest show this month introduces a television series that pries on the deepest and darkest shadows of the most violent criminal offenders in the United States. Two FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) decide to teach local cops  across the country the different techniques of hostage negotiation. During one such class, Agent Ford is tipped off by an officer about an infamous murderer named Edmund Kemper who ironically is a very soft spoken guy and is willing to help any person who comes forward. The interaction makes Agent Ford curious about such murderers. He along with his partner teams up with Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), a Boston based psychologist to understand the thought patterns and behavioural symptoms of various such offenders. In a better way- Why do they do what they do?

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David Fincher’s return to television after the critically acclaimed ‘House of Cards’ unravels a completely different storyline in the series. Originally created by Joe Penhall, David Fincher takes the mettle and directs four out of the total ten episodes. Fincher along with his astute work of cinematography brings on his signature style of mystery coupled with gritty narrative. One can almost feel that it is a trip down the memory lane to films like ‘Seven’ and ‘Zodiac’.

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The intriguing part of the entire series is when the viewer understands that the show is based on the popular book- Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit. The offenders shown in the series are not a mere figment of imagination but exist in reality. Edmund Kemper (popularly known as Co-Ed Killer), the notorious sequence killer ran riot in the ‘70s America. One of the rare psychopaths who also have a high IQ (a reported 145). He provides Agent Ford and Agent Tench with insights on the effect most sequence offenders experienced during their childhood which resulted into their subsequent violence.

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The most brutal crimes imagined some of which are murder, rape, necrophilia, mutilation of genitals were committed by the most notorious psycho-killers in a state of understanding where they considered themselves superior in authority or wanted to impose otherwise. The entire series explores on such occurrences and gives the viewers a space for thought where criminals could be seen with a sense of empathy. Lack of proper care, abusive childhood was most frequently connected to the development of such characterisation of the inhabitants.

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Initially these kinds of interviews were deemed inappropriate by the FBI, the chief of the behavioural Sciences unit puts his faith in these two agents and lets the work confidentially. Apart from the prime storyline, the personal lives of the protagonists were highlighted parallely. Holden Ford meets a girl named Deborah Mitford (Hannah Gross) who is also a masters in Sociology. The talkative arguments between Ford and Debbie give insight into human interpretation to environmental effects and its results. In another segment, Agent Tench is shown to have had a difficult relation with his son, Brian which is also co-related  in the underlying theme of the series.

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Persons who have repeated their offences in the same manner and are understood to have not repented were given the title “Serial Killers”. Thus the inception of the famous term and why and how it was coined by the FBI. The most famous of them- Edmund Kemper, Richard Speck and Dennis Rader were highlighted in the series providing a deeper insight into their heinous crimes and their past background.  Jonathan Groff’s calm and serene expression combined with Holt McCallany’s portrayal of a veteran FBI agent makes for the perfect depiction of the FBI operations.

Mindhunter is definitely one of the top shows aired on Netflix and if this season is anything to go by, the better is yet to come!

P.S- David Fincher gives a cue for Tarantino’s next film by mentioning Charles Manson on different occasions. Tarantino is reportedly working on the Manson murders for his next venture.

About the author

Arijit Paul

A self-professed Satyajit Ray fan, Arijit is one of those rare cinephiles who has an unconventional notion of Films. An admirer of auteurs like Kurosawa, Bergman and Scorsese alike, Arijit hopes that one day he will be able to bring a new wave in Indian cinema. Apart from films, he finds life in literature, music and traveling. His blogs are likely to be the most unprejudiced view on whatever topic he decides to write on.

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