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TV Review: Mindhunter

SYNOPSIS: MINDHUNTER​ follows ambitious FBI agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) as he struggles to comprehend incarcerated killers, so that he might use this knowledge to catch others. He’s teamed with experienced agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) in the Behavioral Science Unit and will work with his sometimes reluctant partner to find new methods of investigation. Together they will meet some of America’s gravest killers – and face the cynicism and scorn of the tradition-bound hierarchy of the 1970s’ Federal Bureau of Investigation. Ford will risk empathizing with ‘evil’ in order to save lives. But, as Tench says, when arguing the case for their work: “How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?” 

MIndhunter, Netflix, TV Review, David Fincher, Serial Killer, Thriller, Drama, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Jonathan Groff, Charlize Theron

REVIEW: It has been three years since David Fincher released GONE GIRL and that void has been felt by his fervent fans. But, rest assured that the four episodes of Netflix's new series Mindhunter that Fincher directed will show that the filmmaker is still as talented and capable as ever. Within ten minutes of the first episode, you will be hooked on the period serial killer drama created by Joe Penhall (THE ROAD) and produced by Charlize Theron. The ten episode first season debuted today, Friday the 13th, and is going to become the latest obsession for binge-watchers and cinephiles alike. Mindhunter is really creepy and really well made. Harkening back to Fincher's films SEVEN and ZODIAC, Mindhunter is a very different type of serial killer story.

Set in 1977, Mindhunter follows FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as they work to revolutionize the Bureau's approach to investigating serial killers. There have been many reviews that compare Mindhunter to AMC's Mad Men and there are certainly parallels between the period dramas. Both drop the audience into an era vastly different than today. Mindhunter puts an extra focus on just how young the FBI's behavioral science approach to crime actually is. Before this series, I didn't truly realize that everything we see on crime procedural series is the product of only the last forty years. Joe Penhall has scripted a truly captivating look at how real life FBI agents John E. Douglas and Robert K. Ressler brought criminal investigation of murderers and serial killers into the modern world. Over the course of the first episode of the series, we meet Ford and Tench but it takes the entire first season to truly see the characters evolve into the titular Mindhunters. The show is a slow burn but it is one that builds momentum and pressure with each chapter and will leave you anticipating more after the ten episode freshman run.

To set the table, Mindhunter opens with a predominant focus on Groff's character. In an agency focused on crime as being the product of born criminals or insane people, Ford wants to bring a more informed and academic perspective using modern theories and thought which is met with resistance from those in charge at the FBI. Ford is presented as idealistic but also somewhat naive. He starts out as a teacher of hostage negotiation techniques who wants to change things after a disasterous situation with an actual hostage taker. Most of the first hour is dedicated to getting to know Ford as he enters into a relationship with Debbie, a young sociology student, who introduces new theories and ideas that push Ford towards a partnership with McCallany's Trench. Once the pair team up, the focus of the show becomes how the pair use interviews with real serial killers to develop the processes and techniques to solve these heinous crimes. Along the way, they investigate killings and meet opposition from conservative law enforcement who would rather shoot to kill rather than talk to the criminals they are trying to stop. It is a very unique approach for the material but one that puts this show on par with THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS as a truly informed look inside the mind of a murderer.

While Trench and Ford are fictionalized creations, along with Anna Torv's psychologist character Wendy, the serial killers that they interview are actual documented criminals whom viewers may recognize by name. Some of these killers include the BTK Killer, Dennis Rader, Edmund Emil Kemper III, Jerry Brudos and Richard Speck. The actors who play these serial killers do a great job of bringing the pathos of these heinous men to life while not making them sympathetic in any way. It may be unsettling for many viewers to see these characters on screen but the writers and cast of Mindhunter treat them as three-dimensional creations rather than cliche monsters. Like ZODIAC, Mindhunter is faithful to history but manages to combine that with a fictionalized story that allows for a level of dramatic freedom that makes this show a fresh combination of truth and fiction much like Mad Men managed to do with their slice of American history.

MIndhunter, Netflix, TV Review, David Fincher, Serial Killer, Thriller, Drama, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Jonathan Groff, Charlize Theron

Beyond the story itself, David Fincher's directing chops set the tone and style of the series which is very reminiscent of ZODIAC with an opening credit sequence that feels like a 70s version of the iconic credits from SEVEN. The musical score by Jason Hill is perfectly suited to the material while the additional filmmakers helming this season (including SENNA director Asif Kapadia and THE HUNT's Tobias Lindholm) all keep to what Fincher sets up in the first hours both visually and aesthetically. It is hard to not look at this show as David Fincher's project even though equal credit needs to be given to creator/writer Joe Penhall. Like one character points out after watching DOG DAY AFTERNOON in the first episode, the dialogue feels very real and you feel for these characters.

In an era where true crime documentary films and series have become incredibly popular, Mindhunter is a blend of horrific real crimes with a chilling original story. Anchored in a true story, this show truly pays off for those who are willing to stick with it. Unlike typical serial killer and police procedural shows, Mindhunter is not comprised of standalone stories and demands to be viewed as one long story. I would caution that binging this series is quite a commitment as the pacing and structure of the show requires a good deal of attention and unpacking to really appreciate everything that is going on. But, if you are willing to commit to this show you will likely find yourself watching one of the best series on television. Netflix will definitely have some awards coming their way for this show, especially for the great Holt McCallany who has long been deserving of a showcase like this. Mindhunter is absolutely one of the best shows of 2017.

The entire first season of MINDHUNTER is available today on Netflix.

Source: JoBlo.com

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