That would be the Mindhunter, Season One, on Netflix.
I put off watching this for as long as I could. No, there was no good reason. I love crime, as I’ve reiterated so many times on a lot of blogs and other writings. I enjoy the ingenuity of policing methods employed by detectives hot on the trail of a killer who very often out-manoeuvres them and makes it seem like a game of wits rather than a prosaic chase between police-criminal. I could never have enough of them. And once I sank my teeth into Netflix, I could finally relive all those long forgotten teenage days of watching Discovery ID on a television set with bad reception, fuzzy signals and unclear pictures, many many years ago.
Now, to be fair, after almost two decades of watching shows and reading about crime, one gets a good idea of what to expect, what not to expect, what to like and what not to like; basically one feels like quite the expert in rating, reviewing, discussing crime and criminal methodology. I know it sounds really serious and maybe boring for a lot of people who love the lighter side of life, but what do you do when you’re obsessed?
Me? I need my fix.
And like an addict, I sank into the dopamine-induced pleasures of The Sinner (S1), Shetland, Hinterland, Requiem, Safe, Luther, The Fall, The Forest, etc, etc., and then finally when I was just about satiated — the second season of The Sinner, saunters in. I’d say it’s a must watch since I enjoyed the first season a lot, but be forwarned; it’s nothing like Jessica Biel’s act. Yes, it’s gripping too with an unusual storyline where a child is accused of murdering his parents. The second season has Bill Pullman again stealing the show along with brilliant child actor Elisha Henig as the protagonist Julian. But, ah, overall, much watered down, really.
And when I’d run out of almost everything to watch, I turned, finally to The Mindhunter, the show that I’d been trying to avoid, for months. Reason being, it didn’t look very exciting. Our choices can be so simple because they are very often based on the sneak peek. Which is why they say making a trailer is a bigger job than making the actual movie or show or writing the book. If you can’t grab eyeballs in the first shot or the first page, you lose.
I tend to agree.
But hang on! Here’s what I found…
MINDHUNTER. It’s slow paced yet unlike any other crime show, I have seen so far. There’s no nail-biting, edge of the seat tension in this one, at least at first. And in between episodes, I found myself wondering how desperate I must be, to pick up any random crime show.
Yet truth be told. I’m in the middle of six episodes so far and like a sweet, savoury delicacy that you are unsure about at first, but keep relishing with every bite..it keeps getting better…and better. Reasons, reasons, well…this whole show is about a different branch of the FBI, the most interesting if I may say so, the Behavioural Science Unit that studies crime and predicts outcomes, sometimes resulting in convictions and sometimes simply for case studies.
This show requires one to look inward and to diligently study the mind of criminals to figure what gets them off. In layman’s language…what these godforsaken killers think about the crimes they commit, their stressors, why they do them and how the FBI can prevent future crimes from happening and catch killers with similar patterns…all behavioural analysis crime studies. Heavy duty stuff told in an entertaining manner by ace director Asif Kapadia who is famous for his documentary on Amy Winehouse. And the show is produced by Hollywood heavyweights like Oscar-nominated director David Fincher and Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron.
Some interesting one-liners I loved in the show go like this:
‘How can we catch a criminal if we don’t know what he thinks like?’
‘Basically, what’s a criminal? Just somebody who can’t function in society!’
Intelligent, sharp insights abound in this show set in the America of the late Seventies with the unlikely pair of FBI agents from the Elite Serial Crime Unit, that comprise the beefy looking, cynical Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) in his forties and the young and handsome Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), who eggs him onto to pursue unconventional methods of studying the mind of a killer. Add to that shifting landscapes of different cities that the agents visit and hotel rooms and bars that they frequent in between studying crime, and the life of an FBI agent looks hectic with very less personal time. Helping them in their work is the enigmatic lesbian psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), who is the quintessential hard nosed career woman.
The first episode can rouse either interest or disgust, as your inclination goes, where young Holden is fascinated by real-life murderer Ed Kemper who is in custody for killing several women, severing their heads and performing fellatio on their dead bodies. Other similar killers are interviewed and used by our boys as objects of study and research that leads to tussles within the FBI with this breakthrough study. The focus is of course on sexual crimes, offenders from largely broken homes, fathers who abandoned them, mothers who were too busy earning a living or abusive ones who contributed to their becoming serial killers.
The personal lives of the two FBI agents too are also slowly unravelled to us and that gives it a more human touch, away from the blood, gore and deviant lives of killers. This is heavy duty, scorching stuff. But you’ll be blown away very very slowly…just like the charismatic Bill Tench and his puffing away at cigarettes that are unending and never seem to finish no matter how long the scene lasts.
And my most favourite one-liner from this show goes:
‘It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.’
Brilliant, I thought.
Watch Mindhunter only if you’re a serious crime buff. No games here.