Mindhunter—Season 1

mindhunter season 1 poster review episode guide list
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great character study and development of leads


mindhunter season 1 title card episode guide

Whose mind is cracking?

FBI Special Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) has questions about the FBI’s procedure in both classifying and identifying aberrant behavior.  Teamed with the FBI’s Head of Behavior Science Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), he begins a path to interview killers to see what insight they can provide on their crimes.  When the project begins to attract attention, behavioral specialist Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) finds herself part of the team…but as the questions toward the killers increase, the danger of fracturing the team grows greater.

Mindhunter—Season 1 was released on Netflix on October 13, 2017.  The series is based upon retired FBI agent John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker’s 1995 book Mindhunter:  Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit and was released to positive reviews.  The series received a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Cameron Britton) for Britton’s portrayal of serial killer Edmund Kemper.

mindhunter season 1 episode 2 coed killer edmund kemper cameron britton

He’s a nice guy…besides all that murdering and stuff…right?

When Mindhunter came out, I started to watch the first episode but realized I needed to focus on it more than I was.  I never returned to it.  With more time, I finally went back to the first season of Mindhunter and found the show an interesting blend of a police procedural series and a drama about wrecked people (who aren’t necessarily the serial killers being interviewed).

Unlike a lot of police shows, the series doesn’t show the graphic acts.  The detectives show up long after the crime and most of the gore and aspects of the crime are through graphic description and occasionally crime photos.  This eliminates a lot of the visual shock value of the show and allows the crimes to shock themselves.  It also allows the viewer to focus on how the crimes effect the people observing them…which makes the show almost a character study of the three core agents rather than a study of the criminals.

mindhunter season 1 episode 2 ford tench jonathan groff holt mccallany

The basement…we’re going down…

The main characters all seem broken.  Jonathan Groff’s Holden is the biggest mystery.  He demonstrates a lot of the traits of the people that he is investigating.  He is socially shielded (as he even states to his girlfriend about wearing suits), has a past kind of mired in mystery, loves the spotlight, and easily slips in and out of “character” while interviewing the killer he speaks to.  His lack of connection almost feels like he could register on the autism spectrum because he seems to have a hard time reading situations and “the room” while dealing with people (which in part feels mirrored with Tench’s child).  This has his character building to a fall.  He starts out likeable, but he ends up almost a villain by the season’s end.

Groff is backed up by Holt McCallany and Anna Torv.  Trench is portrayed as the traditional man’s man FBI image, but he has an open mind to trying to understand many of the deviations of the criminals they are talking to.  His home life is also a wreck and in a weird way Ford and the work manage to keep him sane.  With Torv, romantic intrigue is fortunately quashed early when it is revealed she is a semi-closeted lesbian (something that the FBI would have interest in at the time of the series), but she is also is caught in the academia vs. practically aspect of the work.

mindhunter ford edmund kemper cameron britton coed killer jonathan groff

Kindly reminder…serial killers aren’t your friend

The killers are also a feature of the series.  While the individual crimes worked on by the characters seem to be composite crimes, the killers they speak to are actors portraying true serial killers.  Montie Rissell (Sam Strike), Jerry Brudos (Happy Anderson), and Richard Speck (Jack Erdie) are all featured in the season, but it is far and away Cameron Britton portrayal of Edmund Kemper that steals the show by showing how a guy can be odd, kind of likeable, but extremely terrifying and imposing when he finally reveals his true self.  The “friendly” Kemper is a reminder that despite their work, the characters don’t necessarily have the same understanding of what is going on in the minds of the killers.

With a slick late ’70s look (and soundtrack), solid writing, and interesting characters, Mindhunter—Season 1 hits the marks.  It is really easy to binge and the shows are compelling to watch one right after the other.  It is interesting see how the study of the crimes is not only changing the way we talk about criminals (serial killer was a relatively new term though its true origin is debated), but how the study of the crimes also begins to change the characters and how they view the world.  With a very “down” ending, Mindhunter—Season 2 could be a tough road to walk for the characters.

Mindhunter—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:

mindhunter season 1 episode 1 ford tech jonathan groff holt mccallany

“Episode 1”

1.1       Episode 1 Release Date:  10/13/17

FBI Special Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) follows the rules.  When he follows procedure and fails to talk down a hostage situation, he begins to look for other methods for communicating and understanding the criminals that the FBI deals with.  Teaching and studying academics, Ford meets a sociology graduate student named Debbie Mitford (Hannah Gross) as he tries to determine a way to help the FBI.  Ford finds himself paired with the FBI’s Head of Behavior Science Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) in a tour trying to talk to officers about different techniques…but Ford questions if there is something new that they haven’t tried.

mindhunter season 1 episode 2 edmund kemper cameron britton

“Episode 2”

1.2       Episode 2 Release Date:  10/13/17

A trip to California gives Holden an opportunity that he cannot miss…talking to a real killer.  Against policy and Tench’s recommendation, Ford meets with Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton), the Coed Killer.  Ford finds that Kemper likes to talk and could provide insight on the mind of a killer.  When a Sacramento detective asks for help in the attack on an elderly woman and dog killing, Ford realizes that Kemper could be the key to finding the attacker…but he must convince Tench and even harder his boss Shepard (Cotter Smith) at the FBI.

mindhunter season 1 episode 3 killer ford tench jonathan groff holt mcallany

“Episode 3”

1.3       Episode 3 Release Date:  10/13/17

Ford and Tench have tentative permission to continue with their research into killers, and Ford learns from a professor in Boston named Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) that the work could be significant.  A second murder in Sacramento could prove the validity of their work and another visit to Kemper has Ford and Tench considering changing the FBI teaching process.

mindhunter season 1 episode 4 dump murder ford tench jonathan groff holt mccallany

“Episode 4”

1.4       Episode 4 Release Date:  10/13/17

An interview Montie Rissell (Sam Strike) gives Ford and Trench new perspective on the killer’s mind, and with Dr. Carr’s assistant, they try to work on a more formal approach.  A trip to Altoona, Pennsylvania has Trench and Ford helping with an investigation into a local woman mutilated, killed, and left in a dump.  Back at the FBI, Ford and Trench’s research is starting to raise eyebrows, and it could mean big things.

mindhunter season 1 episode 5 tench ford frank jesse c boyd jonathan groff holt mccallany

“Episode 5”

1.5       Episode 5 Release Date:  10/13/17

Trench and Ford are called back to Altoona for the murder investigation and question if Beverly Jean’s fiancé Benji Barnwright (Joseph Cross) could have involvement or if his brother-in-law Frank Janderman (Jesse C. Boyd) might have been involved.  Trying to deduce the killer’s motives, Trench and Ford might not find the answer they expected.

mindhunter season 1 episode 6 wendy carr anna torv

“Episode 6”

1.6       Episode 6 Release Date:  10/13/17

Carr has been offered a full time position with the FBI but joining the team would mean losing her potential tenure and her life in Boston which must remain private.  Debbie and Ford have dinner with Trench and his wife Nancy (Stacey Roca) and realize the problems they are having with their son Brian (Zachary Scott Ross).  The case in Altoona continues to get more complex as Ford, Carr, and Trench realize that Benji, Frank, and Frank’s wife Rose (Jackie Renee Robinson) were all involved in the murder…and getting the prosecutor to understand the psychology might not be possible.

mindhunter season 1 episode 7 jerry brudos happy anderson

“Episode 7”

1.7       Episode 7 Release Date:  10/13/17

An interview with Jerry Brudos (Happy Anderson) in Oregon goes poorly, and Carr tries to get Ford and Trench to realize that their study will only work with control questions.  Trench and his wife continue to debate about how to raise their son and run into a problem which Trench’s work life intersects with his home life.  Ford has a new approach to Brudos which leads to conflict between Carr and Trench.

mindhunter season 1 episode 8 principal marc kudisch

“Episode 8”

1.8       Episode 8 Release Date:  10/13/17

A talk by Ford at an elementary school leads to an investigation into the principal (Marc Kudisch) who seems too friendly with the students…and a reprimand for Ford.  Carr and Trench look to expand the department and Shepard has a strong recommendation with Gregg Smith (Joe Tuttle).  Ford and Debbie’s relationship hits a rough patch as Ford questions her fidelity.

mindhunter season 1 episode 9 richard speck jack erdie

“Episode 9”

1.9       Episode 9 Release Date:  10/13/17

Ford takes a dark turn while interviewing Richard Speck (Jack Erdie) and trying to get him to talk, but Ford’s actions might have consequences.  Ford meets with Debbie and tries to mend their relationship.  A murder in Georgia could provide an opportunity for Ford and Trench to put their research to the test to bring in a child killer.

mindhunter season 1 episode 10 jonathan groff holt mcallany

“Episode 10”

1.10     Episode 10 Release Date:  10/13/17

Ford and Trench bring in the killer of the girl in Georgia but their actions brings unwanted media attention to the project that Carr isn’t happy about.  The cover-up of the department regarding the Richard Speck interview has been exposed by Smith, and Ford faces the consequences.  With his life spiraling out of control, Ford goes to see Kemper for what could be an intense one-on-one.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response