The series was based on the true crime book “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. (Courtesy of Netflix)
It has been noted numerous times that the television industry is in a golden age of programing when it comes to original content created by streaming services. “Mindhunter,” a Netflix original series, is more than qualified to be added to the ever-expanding list.
Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), a young member of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, teams up with veteran agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) in order to study how criminals think. To do so, they travel around the country, speaking to different incarcerated criminals to collect data for their study, which they hope to use to catch dangerous behavior in people before it goes too far.
The genre of police dramas has been played out so much and for so long on television, but “Mindhunter” finds a way to come at the genre from a new angle. There are no outlandish crimes nor a killer of the week, and when killings are brought into the show it is a question of why instead of who.
The show also manages to stay fresh by not doing the same thing over and over again. For example, in most police drama shows, the cops would find a victim, interview some suspects, collect evidence, pick out the bad guy in the lineup of suspects and finish everything up nicely before their next assignment the following week.
In “Mindhunter,” a lot of the show focuses on the interviews with the incarcerated killers, but it also takes what the characters know and has them apply it to different circumstances, whether those be cold cases in towns they are visiting or when Ford begins investigating an elementary school principal for improper conduct with the students.
The realism of the series is easily the most outstanding detail in every aspect of the show’s creation. The attention to detail was meticulous in order to make the setting look like the 1970s. Even the usage of product placement worked, as the look of the labels set the time period and the way they were worked in was done so to make the world feel lived in and real as opposed to just being in there because the companies gave the studio money.
All of the killers that Ford and Tench meet with are well developed and differentiated in speech, mannerisms and insanity. There is not a single repeat. There are no outlandish crimes or over the top dramatic occurrences that the characters have to deal with. All of the dramatic events in the show are grounded, and at certain points they can even seem mundane.
All of the characters are well written and developed, and the performances by the actors are superb. The only person this is not the case with is Hannah Gross, who plays Ford’s girlfriend. Gross is monotone and not very expressive in any of her scenes, and it is hard to tell if this is part of her character or just bad acting on Gross’ part. Either way, Gross and Groff have remarkable chemistry with one another, which helps to negate her lackluster performance.
Something that speaks volumes to the production and quality of the show are the directors that were used. Of the four directors, three of them are well acclaimed with the most prominent being “Fight Club” and “Zodiac” director David Fincher, while the fourth one still does an exceptional job on his episodes and stands his ground when compared with the others.
Just like the meticulous attention to details that were visible with the aesthetics of the show, the same attention to detail was shown through the directing and editing. Everything from the camera work to the sound editing is done superbly. The way the scenes are shot and the cameras are set up conveys a lot of information about the characters while the sound editing helps set the mood. For example, when Ford meets his first inmate, a 200 plus pound killer named Edmund Kepper (Cameron Britton), his footsteps sound like they shake the entire prison.
With a fantastic cast, intelligent and talented directors, and a wonderful script and premise, “Mindhunters” is easily one of the best television shows out there, and it might be the best original content that Netflix has created thus far.
Final Grade: A+