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Mindhunter on Netflix

Mindhunter with Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff

It’s that time of the year when we look back and think about the best of…

The best crime series I’ve seen is Mindhunter on Netflix. I mentioned this unusual, clever drama back in an August post. But having now seen the whole thing, I thought it was more original and interesting than any other 2017 series.

It’s set in 1977 during the early days of criminal profiling at the FBI. Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany star as agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench. It’s different from mainstream fare in that it is about psychology – what makes psychopaths behave the way they do – rather than the usual fixations with procedure and whodunit.

Interviewing serial killers

Ford and Tench are dealing with serial killers who are already incarcerated. Ford is convinced the FBI should research the mindsets of these killers, because such insight could help to apprehend them. This flies in the face of received wisdom, which is, What’s to understand? They’re all sickos and monsters.

Their boss doesn’t want them talking to convicted killers at all. Meanwhile, Tench believes Ford is too gullible at times to deal with such manipulative figures.

Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit

It’s based on a 1997 book by John Douglas – on whom Thomas Harris modelled Jack Crawford, Hannibal Lecter’s adversary – and Mark Olshaker. Douglas is the man credited with bringing criminal profiling to the FBI. While he is not featured in the series, he is roughly fictionalised as Ford.

Counterbalancing the testosterone on display, Anna Torv plays Wendy Carr, a psychologist. She coolly takes a leading role in attempting to unpick the machinations of killers who hunt humans.

Edmund Kemper, Dennis Rader

The series depicts terrifying real killers such as Edmund Kemper (actor Cameron Britton), the so-called Co-ed killer who murdered his grandparents and several young women before surrendering himself. A recurring figure is seen stalking a family and is obviously the awful Bind Torture Kill murderer, Dennis Rader.

The drama comes not through horrific crimes, but in scenes where the FBI men stumble through tense interviews with these calculating, soulless men. Dialogue is king here.

The gradual understanding of the mindscapes of these killers is more intriguing than any Agatha Christie plot. The nascent profiling insights can also reveal something about modern society and alienation.

Later episodes graft on some irritating storylines about Ford’s friction with his girlfriend (Hannah Gross) and his professional waywardness. But overall, it’s an intriguing, intelligent show. And Netflix has already commissioned series two.

Producer David Fincher, whose directing credits include Seven and Zodiac, said season two will move onto 1979-81. Storylines will includes events surrounding the Atlanta child murders.

Mindhunter on Netflix

Netflix’s forthcoming series Mindhunter looks interesting. It is based on a 1997 book by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker about the early years of criminal profiling.

The period is the 1970s. It sees actors Jonathan Groff, Anna Torv and Holt McCallany as FBI agents who interview serial killers – to scepticism from colleagues – to gain insight into their natures.

It was during the Seventies, a time when mass killers such as America’s Ted Bundy emerged, that the FBI and various criminologists/psychologists began to study such predators in earnest.

Mindhunter has an intriguing premise

When the Nude Murders occurred in London during the 1960s the term serial killer was unknown. Criminal profiling was in its infancy. This was one of the questions about the huge investigation that intrigued me when researching The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper. To what extent did that lack of profiling expertise behind the failure to catch this devious killer?

Netflix series Mindhunter

Mindless? The series is about FBI men trying to get into the head of serial killers

FBI instructor Robert Ressler is credited as the first person to call the murderers of strangers ‘serial killers’. It was while he was lecturing British officers at the UK’s Bramshill police academy that he heard mention of crimes being in a ‘series’.

The definition is open to interpretation, but it is generally accepted that a serial killer murders, often with premeditation, at least three people over a period of more than 30 days. The FBI would eventually produce its Crime Classification Manual with broad categories for such killers – organised, disorganised and mixed.

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