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MINDHUNTER on Netflix has a terrible title, but is fit to binge…

Posted on October 16th, 2017
Posted on October 16th, 2017

by Coop Cooper

Based on the nonfiction book about the life of FBI agent John E. Douglas, “Mindhunter” follows Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), an FBI agent in the the ‘Behavioral Science Unit’ in the late 1970’s. Having difficulty predicting and stopping violent serial killers, Ford teams up with Special Agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) who is stuck traveling to local law enforcement precincts to train police and sheriff deputies how to recognize and handle criminals with abnormal psychology profiles. With the help of psychology professor Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), Ford and Tench begin to unlock the secrets behind the minds of violent murderers by interviewing infamous killers such as Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton), Jerry Brudos (Happy Anderson) and Richard Speck (Jack Erdie). However, the ethical implications and psychological stress the job inflicts upon the unit may be too much for some of them to handle.

This slow-burn of a series spends a lot of time focusing on the lives of the lead characters and some of the more tedious aspects of them attempting to solve murders in small towns. The most rewarding and interesting parts of show happen when they interview real-life serial killers.

The real revelation in the series is Cameron Britton who plays the vile and dangerous serial killer Edmund Kemper. With his intimidating size, soft voice and deliberate demeanor, he embodies the most frightening of murderers with ease. I hope they bring him back for next season because he truly was the best thing about the series. The actors playing Brudos and Speck likewise chilled the atmosphere when present. I expect more real-life killers will make appearances in future seasons… if the show is renewed.

Holden Ford may not always be the most sympathetic character in the series, but Jonathan Groff makes him even less so. His stiff composure and predilection for over-enunciating every single word that comes out of his mouth doesn’t feel like good acting. He is ‘interesting’, but I can’t help a different actor would have been far more captivating in this role. Conversely, I’ve been a fan of Holt McCallany for years. He has always been typecast as hard boiled soldier and cop characters but giving him a starring role in this series is a good fit as he plays the ‘Just the facts’-type of cop with ease and pathos. I can’t say the same for Anna Torv, who is a good actress, but who has to portray a character like Ford who is too stiff and sanctimonious to be likable. I liked the FBI agent she played in the long-canceled TV show “Fringe” who had a lot more personality.

What works is when the characters talk shop with each other. Their discussions about abnormal behavior, psychology, the morality of what they do and how they argue about stretching ethics – this is how “Mindhunter” avoids lapsing into boredom between the interviews with killers. Less interesting are these characters’ relationships with their families and significant others. There is also an unnecessarily lengthy plot involving an elementary school principal with a fetish for tickling the feet of his students and whether Ford goes too far in taking this man down. If the show is going to keep its momentum going full speed ahead, it needs to focus on the more serious cases and eject the minutiae. Finally, why title it “Mindhunter”? Couldn’t the producers come up with a better title than that? Especially since it practically shares the same title with another TV show and also one of the worst Renny Harlan movies ever made?

“Mindhunter” is easily a binge-worth series and I do hope it is picked up for another season. Groff’s acting does get better, even though his character becomes more insufferable as the episodes go along. McCallany’s performance is something to savor and Torv has room for improvement as long as her character isn’t constantly throwing ethics in everyones’ faces. For true-crime fans, the series is a can’t-miss.

All ten episodes of the first season of “Mindhunter” are now available to watch on Netflix.

Rating: 3 and ½ out of 5

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