REVIEW: Netflix’s “Mindhunter”


Photo Credit to Netflix

Dylan Wright, Arts and Entertainment Editor

“Mindhunter” is the latest television series to take advantage of America’s ongoing obsession with serial killers. Based on the book of the same name written by actual criminal profiler John E. Douglas, the series takes place before the idea of “serial killers” was commonplace. It follows FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as they develop methods for understanding and catching serial killers.

The series is an origin story of sorts for criminal profiling of serial killers, and has FBI agents of the 70s dumbfounded about information and quirks that are commonplace to us in the modern day. The two agents attempt to piece together the psychology of serial killers through interviews with incarcerated murderers.

The story is somewhat paint-by-numbers, with the agents taking the stress of their work home with them to their loved ones. Both Groff and McCallany give solid performances, and the duo work well off each other in the scenes where they decompress from the disturbing conversations they are subjected to.

However, the dialogue in this series is often stilted, with characters spewing exposition and spouting their philosophies at each other in a rapid fire manner. The character that suffers the most from this is Hannah Gross as Ford’s girlfriend Debbie Mitford. Her character only serves to be a foil to Ford, and is used to properly juxtapose his treatment of women with how the killers he interviews sees them. Her dialogue sounds like it comes from an android attempting to pass for a human, and while Gross does her best with the script, the character ends up falling short on their purpose.

The show is actually at its strongest during the interviews with the various killers. Many real life murderers, like Edmund Kemper and the BTK Killer, are featured and the actors that portray them give a subtle yet unsettling performances. It’s almost impossible to portray a serial killer in pop culture without being compared to Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs,” and thankfully the actors here don’t ape that portrayal. Cameron Britton as Kemper especially shines, with his casual demeanor and friendly face clashing beautifully with his sinister past and troubled mind.

Executive Producer David Fincher’s fingerprints are all over this series, and the directing style of each episode mimics his work on “Zodiac” and his other films. However, they lack the personal touch that Fincher brings to the table when he himself is in the director’s chair. There is some gorgeous cinematography, but it lacks a certain sense of foreboding that Fincher can pull off.

Overall, “Mindhunter” doesn’t quite bring any new conversation pieces to the topic of serial killers. It fails to be original and borrows heavily from the many shows and movies before it.

While an entertaining watch, it’s difficult to relate to the characters when the little characterization given doesn’t amount to much. There are some genuinely disturbing moments when the series does shine, but they are few and far between. The acting is engaging, but suffers slightly from a clunky script. “Mindhunter” is a quality show, but not a particularly memorable one.

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