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Friday, October 27, 2017

Mindhunter: Best of its Kind

Imagine Criminal Minds - which my wife and I watched a lot of, but stopped, a year or two ago - as you might have wanted it to be: sharper intellectual focus, honest language, real serial killers, deeper character development, nudity when called for but actually no scenes of torture or murder - and you have Mindhunter, a 10-episode season (which I hope is the first) on Netflix.  In other words, a show about the BAU, but at its inception in the late 1970s, and unencumbered by the limitations and ticks of network TV.

Mindhunter is produced by House of Cards producer David Fincher, and unsurprisingly has such deft touches as subtitles when a couple are having a key conversation in a noisy bar, and the first mention I've ever heard (twice in Mindhunter) of Erving Goffman, a pathbreaking sociologist from the 1950s and 1960s who talked about the masks we all wear, and the difference between the front and back regions of our personas, or what we show to the world at large versus what we keep private to our families or closest relationships.

That high intellectual octane animates this whole series, and is brought to life by standout performances by Jonathan Groff as the young FBI agent Holden Ford trying to establish a science of understanding and even predicting psychos and sociopaths, and his older partner Bill Tench, played by Holt McCallany (Lights Out!), who pretty much supports what Holden is trying to do but is not entirely comfortable with his methods.   In this battle to establish a new, more effective, scientifically grounded method of identifying and stopping serial killers, Mindhunter also bears strong resemblances to the recently aired and excellent Manhunt: Unabomber series (and there's a lot of Jim Fitzgerald who in reality broke the Unabomber case in the fictional Holden Ford), and even a little of Masters of Sex, which I was sorry to see cancelled.

As a special treat, Mindhunter has Fringe's Anna Torv as a sociologist who joins the team.  She provides one of the Goffman references, and Holden's girlfriend, well-played by Hannah Gross, doing graduate work in sociology, offers the other.  The serial killers, ranging from Richard Speck to Edmund Kemper, are truly chilling, and we get all this with words, not scenes of their horrific actions.

An old friend, photographer Emon Hassan, strongly recommended this series.  I'm doing to same to all of you.


It all started in the hot summer of 1960, when Marilyn Monroe walked off the set of The Misfits and began to hear a haunting song in her head, "Goodbye Norma Jean" ...

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