‘Mindhunter’ investigates the minds of serial killers

Casey Setash

Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers about the show “Mindhunter.”

Poster shows the word "Mindhunter" and an ink blot portrait in blood.
Poster preview for the new Netflix Original Series, “Mindhunter.”

David Fincher is back with a mind-bending new drama.


The Netflix Original, “Mindhunter,” premiered Friday the 13th and is full of the creepy, intelligent plot lines for which Fincher is notorious. Best known for “Fight Club” and “Se7en,” Fincher thrives on cult classic thinkers with dark topics and darker characters.

“Mindhunter” follows two FBI agents and a Boston University professor on their quest to quantify and classify the minds of serial killers—although that term has yet to be defined when the show begins in 1977. Holden Ford, played by Jonathan Groff, is an up-and-coming hostage negotiator whose boss decides he is more fit for teaching after a hostage negotiation goes awry. He instead goes searching for answers as to why the situation may have ended badly through psychological clues in the minds of the world’s worst killers.

Upset that the organization that should be responsible for investigating these questions is stuck in the dark ages, Ford confides in another FBI teacher.

The sentiment hits close to home, and the show is a nice escape into minds that are perhaps more disturbed than those regularly profiled on today’s news.

With the help of Special Agent Bill Tench, played by Holt McCallany, who also played one of the boxers in the original “Fight Club” rendezvous, Ford begins crossing the country helping local law enforcement officers solve homicide cases and begin to think differently about their suspects’ behavior.

They simultaneously begin interviewing prisoners with a history of violent crime. Starting with Edmund Kemper, aka The Coed Killer, a six-foot-nine genius who murdered and mutilated female hitchhikers in the early `70s, the pair find some killers are all too willing to describe their crimes.

Ford and Tench follow up with Monte Ralph Rissell, Jerry Brudos, The Shoe Fetish Slayer, and Richard Speck, who killed seven of eight female medical students in Chicago, the last of whom identified him and led to his eventual conviction. The investigators use these interviews to classify behavioral categories and begin profiling potential murderers, a technique that will be familiar to viewers of shows like “Criminal Minds.”

Side plots abound in the series, ranging from Agent Ford’s relationship woes to a civil rights case filed against the agents by Richard Speck. Ironically, Speck claims the agents “fucked with his head.” Fast-paced dialogue and superb writing keep the plotlines flowing naturally and keep viewers desperate for more nightmare fodder by the end of each episode.

Fans of true crime procedurals and especially the podcast “My Favorite Murder” will appreciate the name dropping of some of the most infamous killers. Flashes at the beginning of each episode hint at an emerging serial killer in Park City, Kansas, presumably the Bind, Torture, Kill killer, Dennis Rader. The series is set to play out this plotline in season two, which Netflix already confirmed before the first season aired.

Should you watch this? Yes, just make sure the doors are locked and the lights are on.


Series Information:

Director: David Fincher
Stars: Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany
Genre: Drama
Scare Rating: three out of five stars
Overall Rating: five out of five stars

Collegian reporter Casey Setash can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter at @caseylovesbirds.