Mindhunter: Season 1 Review
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These days, the TV landscape seems to be awash in serial killers and federal profilers, so itís surprising to learn that the terms have only existed for the last few decades. Much of the language used to talk about the subject came from the F.B.I.ís Behavioral Sciences Unit. Netflixís series Mindhunter, based on a book by one of the agents who developed the first profiling techniques, dramatizes the formation of that unit. Much like the process itself, itís meticulous, intense, and completely mesmerizing.

The series begins when young agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) takes part in a messy hostage negotiation, resulting in his transfer to the bureauís Road School, where he travels the country with Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), instructing local precincts on the latest investigative techniques. Sensing an opportunity, Ford uses the travel time to interview the more disturbing incarcerated multiple murderers in hopes of better understanding how they think.

With David Fincher producing and directing about a quarter of the episodes, you know to expect a series that takes its time to get everything just right. That attention to detail comes through strongest visually, with cinematic framing and a washed-out color palette helping establish an unsettling tone that carries through the season. The directors who follow Fincher do an equally capable job continuing that approach, giving the series a consistent visual identity that sets it apart from the mainstream.

Itís also a show that knows when to just let characters talk. Groff centers the show as the highly intelligent but socially awkward Ford, but McCallany shines as the older, crankier, but no less sharp older agent. And Anna Torv joins in as a psychology professor who gradually becomes part of the team. Watching the trio trade ideas on the unique personalities of their subjects while gradually revealing their own is more compelling than any network procedural technobabble. The supporting actors who play the killers also bring their best game, with Cameron Britton deserving special mention as the creepily self-aware Ed Kemper, a real-life serial killer who serves as their first interview subject.

Of course, just as no crime is perfect, neither is any particular show. With its methodical pace, Mindhunter wonít be for everyone, and arguably at least one major subplot detailing Fordís relationship with a free-spirited post-grad (Hannah Gross) could have been downsized considerably. Itís a fine performance, but the show doesnít seem to really know what to do with her, outside of being a sounding board for Ford to work out his own issuesóand, to its credit, the series does seem to be aware of that tendency as well.

It hasnít nabbed the fanfare of Netflixís higher profile series, but this isnít that kind of show. Instead, itís a quieter approach, but one that brings greater rewards. For those interested in the history of criminal profiling or those tired of the fast-edited case-of-the-week network procedurals, adding Mindhunter to your watch list is a no brainer.

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