Ben Watches Television: Mindhunter, Season Two (2019)
Mindhunter is a television show where FBI agents talk to imprisoned serial killers for long periods of time. The first season features exactly one violent scene (the very first one) and otherwise creates tension using things we don’t want to watch: the real violence. The ugly, horrifying one that creates problems instead of solving them. Our basically nonviolent protagonists are trying to map patterns in violent behavior in order to apprehend the worst of the worst. It’s the most unspectacular you can watch online and it’s thoroughly great. It’s a show that turns your viewing habits against you.
I’m not surprised that Mindhunter is making a comeback in 2019. True crime entertainment is more popular than ever and despite featuring semi-fictional characters, the show always had one foot firmly set in reality. Showrunner Joe Penhall and producer David Fincher promised to have Holden (Jonathan Groff), Bill (Holt McCallany) and Wendy (Anna Torv) investigate the Atlanta child murders, but once again didn’t deliver what you exactly expected. Mindhunter, Season two is a deeper, darker exploration of what violence is and how it changes people.
Exit Holden, Enter Bill
The first season of Mindhunter ended with the Behavioral Sciences Unit in complete disarray, fighting for survival after Holden let his growing ego get the best of him, behaved unethically during an interview and was betrayed by a member of his own team. Season two opens with Holden missing (and seemingly being held in a psychiatric hospital), Bill leading the BSU and a brand new director that vaguely looks like Uncle Fester from the Addams Family movies (Michael Cerveris) who believes in them and gets them all the funding they could’ve dreamed of.
Everything you thought you wanted out of this new season happened within the first 15 minutes of episode one.
Season two deals with the backlash of success. The characters don’t have to look over their shoulder anymore, so they’re left alone with their own creepy pursuits. That sudden change affect the oldest member of the squad Bill Tench the most and he becomes the de facto protagonist of Mindhunter. It was a brilliant idea by Joe Penhall and his writing team, because Holden Ford had kind of run his course as an original character and had turned into somewhat of a cocky hot shot stereotype. Bill is the one with the humane, relatable story to tell.
Unlike Holden, Bill has a family that’s holding together with duct tape due to his professional commitments and it’s getting shaken by a terrible drama that will taken his attention away from work in Season two. Dr. Wendy Carr also takes a step up. Shout out to the show creators for working in feminist and LGBTQ themes into the show without calling too much attention it. Wendy is not a token LGBTQ feminist that shouts blanket statements., she is (first and foremost) a fascinating, complex character who’s most humane longings contract with her cold, clinical behavior in the office.
Top notch writing again from Mindhunter, but I wouldn’t have expected any different.
Building Bridges with Season One
One thing that worried me about Season two was the integration of the BTK Killer subplot. With all the promises of new investigations and interviews of notorious killers like David Berkowitz and Charles Manson, I was afraid the show would take a completely new direction and leave one of its most intriguing ideas in the dust. Spoiler alert if you’re a complete newbie to true crime stories, but the BTK Killer eluded law enforcement for over thirty years and in Season one, Holden and Bill are assigned to the case almost right away.
Fear not, the creeptastic BTK is in Season two and serves a pretty important purpose: exposing the flaws in Holden’s profiling system. One could say he’s exposing the flaws in scientific thinking as a whole, which makes him absolutely terrifying. While Holden is enumerating the factors he’s convinced are necessary to become a serial killer, BTK is periodically sowing horror and violence in his trail before disappearing back to his quaint Kansas family life. It’s like looking at a zombie apocalypse while a doctor says: “The dead can’t raise from their grave. This is fantasy land.”
So, not only BTK is an important part of Season to, but he’s a crucial part of the future of Mindhunter. He’s eventually confront the BSU to their failure and man, that’ll be a blast in its own way.
I’m generally against the idea of sequels and useless new seasons meant to provide for a fan demand. I don’t understand why people don’t simply rewatch things they love instead of demanding that its creators reopen it and turn it into something completely else (case in point: Die Hard). Mindhunter is kind of exempt from that rule, though. The show basically has forty years worth of horrible crimes to draw inspiration from and work into their characters’ storylines. That’s what is so brlliant about this show. It doesn’t have to come up with plot ideas and investigations. It’s already all there.
That’s why Mindhunter is so good. It takes care of the important stuff: making us love the characters who are working on these investigation and care not only whether or not they’ll survive, but also whether or not they’ll succeed. Perhaps the only really hiccup in this season’s is dropping Holden’s panic attacks storyline and having him return to his arrogant self by episode two or three, but like I said: Holden is not very important in this season. It’s the Bill Tench show. Mindhunter, Season two is in every way up to par with its predecessor and might even be slightly better. But only slightly.
This show is pure quality. Let’s cherish it while we have it.