Season two kicks off with a masterclass in filmmaking by one of my all-time favorite directors, David Fincher. The episode ventures into classic horror territory, with a loud, eerie song blasting as a woman returns home and begins slowly putting away groceries only to realize she hears a strange banging sound. She creeps through the house to find the source of the odd noise, putting you on the edge of your seat as the camera pans to a close-up of a doorknob that won’t stop shaking.
Are we about to see this woman get murdered? Which serial killer is this? Thoughts such as this race through your mind as the woman gathers her strength to slowly walk toward the shaking door. The moment is beautifully, agonizingly long to the point where you want to scream at the screen to end your torment and reveal what’s on the other side. So imagine the surprise when finally opening it reveals none other than BTK (Sonny Valicenti) himself, caught in the act as he tries to practice a bit of autoerotic asphyxiation – much to his wife’s dismay.
Clearly BTK is going to have a large role in this season, as MINDHUNTER has been teasing his appearance since season one. The indiscretion is not taken lightly, as later we see Dennis Radar relegated to the couch with a book on how to handle sexual deviancy.
Meanwhile, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) is tied to a bed in a hospital, leaving anyone who hadn’t recently binged the series wondering, “What the f**k?” Turns out he has a panic disorder, and he had not suffered a heart attack last season, but rather a panic attack, brought on unsurprisingly by the hug of a six-foot-nine menacing genius called Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton).
The panic disorder seems to be another overarching theme for this season, which is incredibly interesting, specifically as someone who suffers from anxiety disorder themselves. I like the idea of seeing the different ways Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), Dr. Carr (Anna Torv), and Ford himself react to the imperfection in the BSU’s golden boy. To be honest, it’s surprising it took this long for one of the agents to feel the effects of what they do every day.
But this twist was made all the more complicated by the fact that Unit Chief Shepard (Cotter Smith) is retiring, leaving the BSU in the charge of the suspiciously enthusiastic Ted Gunn (Michael Cerveris). He gives the BSU a new office space and promises extra hands and all the support they could need to continue their work. It seems too good to be true.
He’s immediately too comfortable in the role, cavalier in the way he presents information and doles out gifts. Gunn whips Ford off to the executive dining room for a tête-à-tête, during which he casually says, “I can get you Manson,” as if it were the easiest thing in the world. Either way, at least we’ll get to see Manson this season.
But those hoping to dive right into an interview with the nefarious mastermind himself will be disappointed because it takes an entire episode to even bring us back to interviews. Although David Berkowitz (Oliver Cooper) makes an appearance. And they show the pivotal moment I remember from Robert Ressler’s book, Whoever Fights Monsters, wherein he challenges the over-the-top demon theory and forces Berkowitz to admit it was all bullshit. It’s a fun ride.
The first few episodes also reveal that the Atlanta Child Murders will be covered this season – which is good, because it’s important to know about, but just so profoundly sad, it’s hard to watch. And unfortunately, those aren’t the only child murders being covered this season. The dead body of a toddler is found in one of the homes Tench’s wife had been trying to sell. That throws a wrench into the BSU’s schedule – sending Ford off on his own to do interviews – and forces the two separate aspects of Tench’s life to collide.
Carr’s personal life gets interesting, too, as she catches the eye of a cute, local bartender. For whatever reason, I desperately want her to be happy, so I’m excited to see where this goes.
All in all, I was in a theater on a weeknight for over three hours and it felt like nothing. There wasn’t even an interview in the first episode and I didn’t notice until it was over. That’s how interesting the rest of the stories are.
The character development reminds me of Mad Men, when even something as commonplace and unfortunate as an anxiety disorder can add so much depth to a series. Despite the fact that the axiom of the show is the serial killer research, there’s so much more to explore, and you really care about the characters.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some binging to do. MINDHUNTER is available to stream on Netflix.