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MINDHUNTER (s2 episodes 1-2)

"I am also a big fan of this show,because of Fincher and the detective work,even if the show skirts very close sometimes to murderer fetish..."-Jono

"I love this show.I binged 7 of the 9 episodes and could have finished but I wanted to savor it a little longer.It's such an engrossing show and beautifully filmed"-Raul

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Aug 19 2019

Mindhunter (S2) Pt 1: Panic Attacks and the Son of Sam

by Nathaniel R

So,two years ago --  TWO YEARS!-- we were all in the midst of bingeing the first season of David Fincher'sMindhunter.Sadly we never finished writing about itat TFE. This was not intentional so much as that the series was happening in October when the fall film prestige season was colliding with our blogging calendar.So much time has passed between the first and second season that the only thing we could remember about the finale was that it left Agent Holden Ford (Emmy worthy and snubbed Jonathan Groff) writhing about on a hospital floor suffering the most frighteningly believable panic attack we'd seen onscreen.We were worried about what our terrible memory might mean for the launch of season 2 but thankfully the series picks up just where it left off.We were quickly back into its gruesome groove.That's surely do its claustophrophic focus.Much of each episode is composed of just two to four characters talking in a basement and/or two to four characters in various indoor spaces like offices,prisons,kitchens,hotel rooms,restaurants,bars,and crime scenes.

When we left off,the small team of "Behaviorial Science"was under internal investigation with an uncertain future.So let's jump back in with the first two episodes...

What you're gleaning from these interviews is groundbreaking.It's the future of the bureau.

2.1Bill and Wendy find out about Ford's panic attacks but stay hush-hush.They all attend their boss's retirement party and realizes they have a fresh new beginning with a new Director.

The episode begins in prologue with the BTK killer just as season 1 episodes did.Unlike those episodes we get a much different picture of him.The first season glimpses were methodically OCD and preparatory but we're meant to see him differently now.This time his wife walks in on him masturbating while masked and tied up elaborately in his own bathroom.

The rest of the episode is largely one on one scenes as each of the characters feels out their new director (Michael Cerveris) who is possibly way too excited about their work and reform their strained unit after last season's accusations.

If we walk the straight and narrow,we might be okay.

A tip: If you start to see guys loosening their ties,get out while you can.

MVP: Holt McCallany is gifted with the bulk of the episode and delivers as he always has.Loved his line reading choices during the overt shaming of Ford's "episode"(the purposeful disdain on that single word!) as if it weren't just unprofessional but feminine.But there's his flip-side softness with his apology to Wendy Carr for his previous (season 1) accusations.In some ways he's obnoxiously old-school masculine but he's never less than a three-dimensional character.

BEST SCENE: The final scene,when Ford learns why his former boss has actually "retired".It hits him all too hard given his own part in the office politics he rarely considers and well the emotionally charged verbal assault of it all.

BUT WE WORRY ABOUT SOME OF THE SHOW'S CHOICES: What was with the episode proper (post credit sequence) beginning with a closeup of Bill's (probably autistic) kid and a cut to a crucific he's staring at.Given some imagery to follow in episodes 2 and 3,involving a crime near Bill's own home.It could be misread as a subliminally demonizing foreshadowing even though the little kid is obviously not a practicing serial killer or responsible for murders.There's making us uncomfortable (which the show is expert at) and there's making us uncomfortable just for the sake of making us uncomfortable...which could potentially be quite clumsy if there's not a reason behind it to come.We felt the same thing in regards to the Director Gunn (Michael Cerveris).We loooove Cerveris on Broadway but why is he playing this so sinister when the guy is just a suit!?

2.2Bill learns of the BTK killer's crimes and interviews the only survivor of one of his attacks.Later Holden and he interview the "Son of Sam"killer who confessed that he made up all the demon dog possession story.

In episode 2's prologue we're reminded that TV shows now totally script with the idea that you won't be taking a break between episodes.This one begins with a punchline to the prologue of episode 1.The BTK killers wife does the only sensible thing a woman in 1980 who had never heard of serial killers would do after finding her husband masturbating while elaboratedly masked and tied up with ropes and  drops some light reading in his lap along with bedding.This"Sexual Deviant"is sleeping on the couch!.Mindhunteris relentlessly f***ed up but it least it has a sense of humour about itself.

Another fine example of this is Ford halting midsentence while discussing theSon of Sam's shooting patterns when he's just placed himself in the 'feminine' position in the crimes ..."always on the...woman's side of the vehicle"while Bill drives.The bulk of the episode is detailing the BTK case but the interview with the Son of Sam is the showcase...

On the surface the crimes appear random but I'm not sure he's the madman he makes himself out to be.

After the interview,in which Ford coaxes Son of Sam into revealing that he made up all the demon possession stuff,Bill describes Ford's interviewing skills post panic attack as "a little stiff...but then back to his cocksure self".This actually reminded us precisely of why we admire Groff's performance so much.I've heard Groff described as "wooden"on this show but the beauty of his characterization is that Ford IS a stiff.Not every character should be dynamic in personality.And any variances from Ford's unsettling placidity,like panic attacks,verbal hesitations,sudden flushes of emotion,or shifts in temperament read superbly because they're emerging from such a repetitive base line of nothing.

MVP: But for episode two I want to give a shout out to two guest actors.The leads in the show get lots of heady stuff to talk about but the guests are often tasked with dealing with the grisly subject matter on the more relatable human level and their inability to truly cope with what they're seeing / talking about anchors the show in a way that's neccessary given the often emotionless analytical temperament of the leads.The actor playing a Kansas cop Drowatzky (Jeb Kraeger) and one of BTK's only surviving victim (Andrew Yackel) both do really good work in this episode.

I could barely stand.The radio was so loud.There was blood everywhere.

BEST SCENE: Holden interviewing the BTK's surviving victim.The formal control and patience and acting of this scene is a beauty.But...

WE HAVE ONE CONCERN: What is with the ambient noise sometimes being as loud as the dialogue?It's surely meant for atmosphere but sometimes its outright distracting and not helpful to the storytelling.This is even more true and obnoxious in the bar sequences.

In episode 3 Ford takes a detour-filled trip to Atlanta but more on that one in a couple of days.Please refrain from spoilers (beyond episode 2) in the comments...

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Reader Comments (10)

Funny enough your final concern there about ambient noise -- during that interview scene in the car you're highlighting I turned to the bf and went off about how much I was LOVING the use of sound.The drum of the rain,the screeching of the train overhead -- we hardly see any actual violence on-screen in this show,so it's up to these show-stopping retellings of the violence to get inside of our heads,and I think the way Fincher & Co use sound to create a space that envelopes and yes,even annoys,is integral to why these moments work so well.If you asked me after I finished this season I'd probably remember the killing scenes actually having been filmed and shown to us,when really all that ever happens is we're allowed to soak in the storytelling of them.The soundscape is a big part of that,I think.

August 19,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJason

I love this show.I binged 7 of the 9 episodes and could have finished but I wanted to savor it a little longer.It's such an engrossing show and beautifully filmed.The funny thing is that in a show full of serial killers,the creepiest character is Bill's son,Brian.He was creeping me out in season 1 and is even scarier this season.Poor Nance just doesn't know what to do.

August 19,2019 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

I haven't gotten into Season 2 yet,but I will not be looking forward to the "autism-as-a-plot-device"aspect of it,if it does come to fruition.

August 19,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBen

How awesome is the soundtrack,though?!I love how the series closed out with Marianne Faithfull's "Guilty".

August 19,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJess K.

They better not make us wait another two years for Season 3.

August 19,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

I don't understand the appeal of David Fincher.I can honestly say I've seen all of his movies and found all them pretty meh.What am I missing?

August 19,2019 | Unregistered CommenterOwen

Fincher makes movies for straight frat boys.

August 19,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

John -- as i am the furthest thing from a straight frat boy and looooove his movies...how to explain this?

Jason -- again I get what it's going for and sometimes its very effective.but in the bar scenes we've literally had to turn on closed-captioning to understand what they're saying which for me says they're taking the "atmosphere"to far and forgetitng to be audience friendly also.

August 19,2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I am also a big fan of this show,because of Fincher and the detective work,even if the show skirts very close sometimes to murderer fetish,or murder porn.I am still waiting for someone to ask Holden why he went to see Kemper alone.That would speak a lot to his character,which people seem kind of disinterested in (apart from,oh that's Holden).I love Anna Torv and Holt McCallany,and all the actors are good.Jonathon Groff has a delicious big butt.

August 19,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJono

Im trying to watch this,but I find the protagonist insufferable

August 20,2019 | Unregistered Commenterkris01

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