Cameron Lee ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Spoiler Alert: This review contains spoilers for Season 1 of Mindhunter.
After launching the bingeing era with House of Cards, acclaimed director David Fincher is back on Netflix with the dark and disturbing crime drama Mindhunter. And it was definitely worth the four-year wait as Mindhunter is one of the best shows the streaming service has to offer.
The basic premise is this: It’s 1977 and the FBI is in the early stages of understanding criminal psychology and profiling. Agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff ) and Bill Tench (Holt MaCallany) conduct research by interviewing imprisoned serial killers to understand how their minds work and then try to apply what they have learned with ongoing crimes that they are currently investigating. If this sounds like a perfect formula for a network TV crime drama that’s because it is. But this show separates itself from every procedural crime show out there for a few specific reasons. The first of which is the involvement and direction of the highly praised director David Fincher who directed 4 episodes of the season. Fincher is one of the best directors working today and this show’s subject matter is a match made in heaven for his directorial style. The show visually feels like classic Fincher all the way through and that’s true even when he’s not behind the camera. The lighting is obviously very saturated as this is a Fincher project which helps the show have an appropriate period feel to it. His shots are super precise and the camera rarely moves around. And since most of the show is based on interviews, conversations, and long stretches of dialogue, Fincher plays around with the shot design to get a ton of coverage while also maintaining framing and sequencing.
The other directors do a great job of maintaining and replicating Fincher’s style and look. But the look and feel is only one part of a successful show; if the writing was bad this show would tank in its first episode. But thankfully the writing is excellent throughout the season. At points, the banter between the two agents leans into darkly comedic territory which helps break the tension now and again. Which is not a bad thing as this show is extremely intense and is hard to binge watch due to its unpleasantness. The dialogue is riveting to hear, as the agents learn more about the mind of a psychopath we, as the viewer, also learn and gain insight. We feel like we’re along the ride with these agents and that’s especially true when it comes to the interview segments of each episode.
There are many highlights to choose from but if one subject stands out it would have to be the real-life Ed Kember who is played brilliantly by Cameron Britton. He will send chills down your spine and manages to be sympathetic while also being a cold-hearted psychopath. He is the scariest figure to emerge out of the crime genre since Mads Mikkelsen’s performance as Hannibal Lecter on Hannibal. The entire show is cast perfectly and everyone has amazing chemistry with each other. Jonathan Groff is perfect as the bright-eyed, always interested Holden and Holt McCallany is the perfect straight man to Holden’s more outgoing slightly creepy personality. Anna Torv who portrays the third wheel of the team, Dr. Wendy Carr, brings great insight into the team’s investigation. Some of the best scenes in the show are just the three of them talking and discussing their findings and theories. What should be boring small talk is riveting and exciting. And that’s what’s so great about Mindhunter; it’s a show that on the surface seems like every other crime show but watch just 5 episodes and you will be enthralled with the most disturbing conversations and also a further understanding of a disturbed mind. Once that signature eerie theme slowly begins to play during key revelations in the interviews you will smile as there’s nothing more satisfying and skin crawling currently on TV.
Season Grade: A