Thought provocative and intellectually stimulating, Mindhunter is a fascinating journey into the criminal psyche that challenges viewers to really think. The original premise and stylistic execution make this crime thriller a great watch but it’s also a little niche in the audience this is likely to appeal to most. The characters are well fleshed out for the most part, the cohesive story rarely drags on and the long, drawn out scenes interviewing the serial killers are as intense as any big action set piece shown this year. As a character driven drama Mindhunter excels and boasting a well written script and excellent acting, this is one thriller that rarely fails to deliver.
The story predominantly revolves around two FBI agents, enthusiastic rookie hostage negotiator Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and seasoned veteran Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). Both become aggrieved with their current circumstances and come together to form a new branch of the FBI focusing on studying and profiling criminals. As the two begin getting closer to the serial killers, their personal and professional lives are stressed to breaking point as a result of reliving some of the horrific deeds these men have committed. Mindhunter is relentless and is certainly not for the faint heart. Vulgar language aside, the way the script allows these men to casually speak about the crimes they’ve committed, some of which uncomfortably intelligent and articulate, does make for some difficult scenes to sit through. This of course translates to the characters on-screen who throughout the show go on believable and oftentimes destructive character journeys, giving Mindhunter an extra layer of believability lacking from other shows in this category.
It really is amazing to see how far the characters grow and change and seeing these characters transform throughout the show’s 10 episodes make for some riveting television. Just like the mind of an organised killer, Mindhunter’s scenes are meticulously composed and everything is shown for a reason. There’s little to no filler here except for a few seemingly unnecessary scenes showing FBI adviser Wendy (Anna Torv) as a lesbian. Except for this questionable inclusion, even the most seemingly vague or pointless scene and character serves a purpose to the overall plot line. The way Mindhunter manages to shift its focus to different serial killers and subplots throughout the show is really well done too; oftentimes one case spills over to two or three episodes before moving onto another killer and this deliberate style of pacing really helps Mindhunter stand out. It never feels like a “serial killer of the week” although each case does follow a familiar format that would suggest as much. The jarring way a case is suddenly dropped after meticulous study is a little jarring but also understandable given this is probably echoing what it’s like to work in law enforcement after a case has finished.
Technically, the show does a great job of showcasing its originality too. With several location changes throughout the show, bold white writing consumes the entirety of the screen and a burst of music helps establish the mood and era each time. The intelligent way Mindhunter shuts the music off completely and hits each interview with an air of uncomfortable, silent pauses helps uniquely portray Mindhunter in a smartly written artistic manner.
It’s hard to find faults with Mindhunter and the ones that there are, are so tiny its easy to gloss over them. In terms of what you’d want from a crime thriller, this show ticks all the boxes. Smartly written, brilliantly acted and technically profound, Mindhunter is as rare a breed as the killers housed in the different prisons the agents visit. Its unique concept helps accentuate the brilliance of the show and the uncompromising dialogue and police-specific colloquialisms help sell the overall effect the show is going for. It’s not perfect, but the bar is set extremely high with this crime thriller. Ending with a cliffhanger climax teasing a second season, Mindhunter confidently deserves to be recognised for the brilliant show it is.