The following contains spoilers for Mindhunter season 2.
One of the biggest draws of Mindhunter, David Fincher’s true crime-inspired Netflix series, is the way that it details the origins of criminal profiling on the homicidal and insane. Countless times, in a myriad of TV series and movies, we’ve seen hotshot detectives and brainy FBI agents track down murderers and bring them to justice, but seldomly have audiences been asked to think about the way these sleuths developed the tools to crack these cases and make sense of the twisted minds that perpetrated them.
On the series, it’s genuinely exciting to see Agent Holden Ford coin the term “serial killer” or, alongside Agent Bill Tench and Dr. Wendy Carr, deduce that many of these psychopathic crimes contain sexual elements. Like Fincher’s masterpiece Zodiac, Mindhunter wants us to get lost in the granular details alongside the team and watch these innovators do the work. The red tape that these pioneers had to cut through to set these now common-place tactics isn’t nearly as interesting.
Visionaries in every field undoubtedly are met with resistance when trying to establish a new normal, and it’s important to document the struggles that great thinkers are forced to endure from the reactionaries and small-minded alike. That said, constantly seeing the protagonists of Mindhunter hit roadblocks during Season 1 took away from all of the time that could have been spent on what the series does so well. Viewers want to watch Ford and Tench struggle with finding the best way to relate with and coax information out of a killer like William Pierce Jr., not struggle with how to appease a squeamish or conservative minded boss.
It’s understood that changing the FBI’s modus operandi for catching repeat violent offenders wasn’t an easy or overnight task, but watching Ford, Tench, and Carr constantly butt heads with authority figures that don’t want, or care, to understand the work that they’re doing gets tiresome and repetitive. It would be better to see our trio dig their heels in and work on the nitty gritty of behavioral science, not having to worry about constantly being stymied.
That’s why new Quantico boss Ted Gunn (Michael Cerveris) is such a breath of fresh air. Gone is old fuddy-duddy Shepard, and in his place is someone who turned down more promising offers to put the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit on the map. Gunn is excited and seems to be passionate about the work that Ford, Tench, and Carr are doing. In his eyes, Ford and his team’s practices should become commonplace, and Gunn seems like the savvy D.C. player capable of making it happen. Instead of trying to rein Ford in, Gunn sets him up with his dream interview, Charles Manson, and only asks that Tench and Carr keep an eye on their sometimes over-zealous and eccentric colleague.
Shepard’s removal isn’t the only way that Mindhunter Season 2 makes things easier for our protagonists. In the Season 2 premiere, last season’s late conflict involving the Office of Professional Responsibility and the tape of Ford’s interview with Richard Speck is waved away with little to no repercussions for the team. That essentially means that Ford is off the hook and maybe even able to push his interrogation techniques further, into more unorthodox waters.
Throughout season 2, Ford still rubs powerful people the wrong way, but he isn’t constantly defending the groundbreaking work that he’s trailblazing. In fact, the world seems just ast fascinated by the Holden’s work as they continue to be today. By stripping away the external conflicts at Quantico, the show is able to focus more on the internal conflicts facing our characters, like Tench’s feeling of inadequacy at the way he’s been unable to reach his son, Ford’s new struggles with panic attacks, and Carr’s closeted sexuality, among others. Mainly, it allows Mindhunter to spend time doing what fans of the show love it for, getting knee deep in the ugly little details that surround unimaginable crimes.
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Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.