A journey into the minds of nefarious criminals, Netflix’s new show ‘Mindhunter’ delivers

From May 1972 to April 1973, almost 7-footer Edmund Kemper killed and did unmentionable things to eight people that included six college students, his bickering mother and his mother’s friend.

In a shocking murder spree, another notorious person Richard Speck killed eight student nurses one-by-one in the summer of 1966.

Jerome Brudos who had a serious shoe-fetish and enjoyed dressing as a woman, ended up luring and mercilessly killing four young women.

These are some of the killers that are profiled in the chilling crime/science drama ‘Mindhunter’ that premiered on Netflix last month. The series gives us a glimpse into the FBI Behavioural Science Unit that was set up to comprehend the ‘process’ and ‘origin’ of the crimes committed by pathological killers. Show’s three protagonists- FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench, and Dr. Wendy Carr who is a psychology professor at Boston University- immerse us in a world where you feel you are sitting in the same room with them trying to unravel the rationale of the killers behind the most brutal societal killings. FBI agents Ford and Tench lock themselves in a room for hours where they enquire, probe and record the conversations of murderers for ‘study purpose’.

The show starts with a scene where Ford Holden unsuccessfully negotiates with a criminal- who’s taken a hostage- as he ends up shooting himself in the face. Holden seems dissatisfied with the result and wants to get insights into how a criminal is born. He says- “How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?” And this gives rise to forming his new research study to understand the nuances of a criminal mind.

Such kind of voyeuristic peek into the lives of experts who are on their way to come out with something ground-breaking and iconoclastic was also seen in the show ‘Masters of Sex’ where William Masters and Virginia Johnson conducted series of experiments to understand human (special women’s) sexuality better. I can’t imagine the kind of background research that must be going in creating something which is based on real-life science. However, in the case of Mindhunter, they had created the story based on the nonfiction book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by former FBI agent John Douglas. David Fincher, who is the executive producer on the show has given us an account of a serial killer in the past too with his movie Zodiac. However, Mindhunter isn’t the whodunit crime drama where the agents are just there to nab the criminals and make them confess to the crime.

The show is really verbose and full of delish conversations, so much so that it will put Aaron Sorkin scripts to shame. Specially, Doctor Carr is such a master of discerning conversations that you might have to pause and rewind sometimes to fully understand the context of what she is saying. I did that.

Coming back to Ford Holden, initially, he gives you the impression of a timid guy and is seen as an unlikely candidate to be an FBI agent but gradually he proves his mettle by navigating through tactful dialogue with serial killers. Ford’s fluid impression is balanced by his dispassionate partner Bill Tench who is a man of gravitas and is hardly dismayed by the confessions of the criminals. Bill Tench and Dr. Carr undoubtedly give the depth and the heft to the show. Without them, Ford Holden would have just looked like a kid talking to Pennywise.

I think fun happens when a show is so salubrious that you try to find a show inside the show- you want to lacerate its skin, take pleasure in peeling out details in every scene unhurriedly. No doubt, I can’t wait for Season 2 to come out as the last episode has left us with a hook.

Mindhunter Season 1 delivers. It is an intellectual and an incisive drama. A huge part of the show is theoretical and you may feel like it’s not giving you a conclusion. But I feel there’s a storm in the offing.