It can be difficult for a detective show to stick the landing in the season finale, but Mindhunter managed to pull it off – chiefly because it knows we’re not expecting fireworks, nor really wanting them. The season 2 finale was instead an intricate web of politics, law and good old-fashioned police work.
Mindhunter isn’t yet up there with the best TV shows ever made, it’s very focused on plot and rarely allows time for mood like a Sopranos or a Mad Men, but it’s admirable for how consistently well put together it is, at all levels of production.
This is especially true of season 2 – for me, even better than season 1, which has been lit and shot meticulously and acted superbly (Holt McCallany has really come into his own in the show). The writing has also been drum tight, particularly in this final episode which was like a game of cat and mouse if the cat had been declawed, Ford and Tench closing in on the killer but unable to pin him down. Holding off the discovery of the key suspect until the last episode was smart, and it was a rush seeing the net finally tighten after the team down in Atlanta spent so many weeks frustrated and with no leads.
Unexpectedly, this was also the funniest episode of the season, from the absurdity of the motorcade following Wayne Williams to Bill’s wry but fond look when Holden said of the suspect: “I think he’s a narcissist who considers himself smarter than every person in the room. You know the type.” A special mention for Albert Jones, who has been a great addition as Jim Barney this season – not a dramatic character, just a solid agent with some deceptively telling lines.
Episode 9 also did a great job of tying together the elements seeded throughout the season. Politics came into play once more, the mothers of the dead kids in Atlanta feeling that the FBI had simply scapegoated a black man. It’s amazing that a show about profiling doesn’t come in for more flack and internet hysteria, but it’s probably because it deals with it so deftly. Ultimately, Holden tried to explain to the mothers that his profile was based around a lot more than just skin colour, but grief is debilitating, and people don’t always want to hear a lesson in psychology when their children lay dead.
I suppose I should mention Brian Tench, though this (not always enthralling) storyline was kicked down the road in this episode, Bill returning home to find his wife and son had moved on. Bill was dismayed, for sure, but was there also a touch of relief in there? He has always seemed most happy and engaged at work rather than at home.
The ‘As of 2019, none of the remaining 27 cases have been prosecuted’ title felt unnecessary to me as the season closed – I like that Mindhunter is based on true events but normally doesn’t play the activist – but Holden watching aghast as the cases were closed without prosecutions was an effective ending nonetheless.
I’m sure this captivating little show will be renewed for a third season, and until it returns I’ll be expectantly wondering: why, of all the killers, has it chosen to make BTK its chief, multi-season antagonist? To be continued.