Some of you might remember that I recommended the first season of this show in a True Crime blog post not too long ago. Season 2 was recently released, and I finally got a chance to watch it. For those not in the know, Mindhunter is a fictionalized telling of how the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) of the FBI got its start. Also how it moved into studying and creating most of the terminology and classifications for serial killers and other types of multiple killers. David Fincher is one of the Executive Producers, has directed several episodes, and his fingerprints are all over it.
The series overall has gotten a lot of good responses, myself included. I enjoy that it includes real killers, involves some of the ins and outs of the real BSU. However, it is not afraid to fictionalize for entertainment, while still trying to be respectful. It is a tightrope to be sure, but I think the series pulls it off overall. While season one was mostly about forming the BSU and starting the general idea, season two switches gears. In season two, the group finally has a boss that believes in the mission and wants them to do more than research but start focusing more on actively working on cases. This brings in one long-running case that covers several episodes, The Atlanta Child Murders.
I don’t want to rehash the entirety of that case; I am not even really qualified to do so for that matter. The overview is that between the years of 1979-1981, approximately 28 mostly young (a few adults) black boys were killed. Many of the cases were considered to be linked, and there is a laundry list of problems with the case. Starting with how long it took the police to respond. There is also the fact that while a suspect was arrested, he was only tried for two of the killings. Even who the suspect was has been brought into question. It is an upsetting case and one that all True Crime fans should look into.
I like the fact that there was a more central case brought in, even though it did not cover the full nine episodes. I tend to get turned off from shows like Criminal Minds, not because they are bad, but because I feel the one episode per killer (mostly) formula rushes things. Having an overarching case, while continuing with the mission of interviewing various killers worked well. There was more time to devote to the Atlanta case while still bringing in other drama and plot lines.
I think not rushing things is especially important when you are talking about real killers, real victims, and a real case with as many issues as this one had. If you are going to discuss this case, it cannot be overly rushed. You could easily devote several seasons to it alone, so I am glad it got a spotlight in this season. And I hope that the idea of a central case is included as they move forward.
My issue with this season really goes with my issue with the last season. I like the procedural aspect of the show. I like the interviews and them going over each of them to define and put terminology (although some of the terminology conversations feel unnatural) to what they are studying. I like watching the BSU slowly form and expand.
… I just don’t like the characters that much. Holden became just a bit of an insufferable d-bag at the end of season one, and despite setting it up that he might slow down in season two, he did not. Carr was featured more heavily in season two, but while she brings a lot to the table in some aspects, her personal accounts felt a little too trope heavy.
Tench and his family have a major storyline this season, but it did not feel nearly developed enough. Also, I did not care for his wife and her handling of it. So by proxy, I started caring less about his personal drama as well. He is also a little too “of the times” at moments, which, while understandable, is not my favorite aspect of his character.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I dislike the characters or that it’s hard to sit through their personal development. It is more that I am not nearly as into their own development as the rest of the show. At this point moving forward with future seasons (at least I hope there will be) I would prefer that their personal lives took more of a backseat, or were maybe just developed better.
Also, it is not that the characters are flawed; they sort of have to be for the tone and feel of the show to work. It is instead that they aren’t all that compelling to me personally. But as I highlight this criticism I want to make it clear, it is not something that is enough to kill my overall enjoyment of this show. It is just a noticeable weak spot in comparison to what I otherwise feel is a strong series.
Overall season two managed to replicate what made season one a success. The look of the show works perfectly; it has that grey look that Fincher often uses and makes perfect sense for what is happening. It also brings a lot of little visual markers and artistic choices that we are used to from Fincher’s works that add to the aesthetic of the experience.
The soundtrack is phenomenal, though I like music from the time. There are still little clips of BTK every once in a while. And now Tench has even been looking into his case (so here’s hoping we get enough seasons to get the characters to ’91).
The casting for the various serial killers they interview is still spot on. The show also manages to once again walk that tightrope of showing us why we are so fascinated by these people without really glorifying them. It also does a great job of not cutting away from talking about the extreme violence these people caused, it is a reality we have to confront, but shows very little. I appreciate this because this show could easily go into territory where it could revel in graphic violence that happened against real people at the hands of real killers.
Aside from the killers themselves, the rest of the casting is excellent, and the acting is exceptional.
So bottom line? Watch the show, honestly. It is well done and worth the watch. If you haven’t seen season one start there it won’t take too long to get through both, but also maybe give yourself a break if it gets to be too much. If you are iffy about True Crime, I think this is a good one because it is close enough to being real, but fictionalized enough that it might not be overwhelming. It is entertaining, terrifying in its content, engaging, and just a damn good show. I would like to see a bit of work on the characters moving forward, but even if things continue as they are it will still likely be one of my top shows.
Now here’s hoping Netflix doesn’t continue their cancel happy ways with this one.