Atlanta FBI agent Jim Barney couldn’t believe it. Holden’s certainty that the killer they’re chasing is black is based on just one or two experiments? Ones in which Gregg – Gregg, of all people – was the representative for all white men? And wait, these tests weren’t even carried out in Atlanta, but 600 miles away in Baltimore?
The penultimate episode of Mindhunter season 2 didn’t make a big deal out of this moment at the hotel bar, but it made you question how sound the Behavioural Science Unit’s work really is, and whether they were heading for a colossal miscalculation with the Atlanta murders. And yet, whether it was by brains or by luck, the suspect apprehended at the end of the episode did seem to fit Holden’s profile.
“I guess it must be about all those boys,” Wayne Bertram Williams said when asked why he was pulled over. This could be interpreted as an innocent, accurate assessment or an admission of guilt, but either way (I’m resisting Wikipedia-ing), with only one episode left to go this season it seems likely we finally have our guy.
Episode 8 was a particularly beautiful instalment of Mindhunter, largely taking place on the banks of the Chattahoochee River at dusk. The show favours a neutral, measured style, but here we got a very rare montage, as Holden, Bill and Jim camped out by bridges waiting to ambush the killer. It was full of little Pynchonian moments that come with living out of 3-star hotels on the road – ironing boards holding the drapes closed, mosquito bite lotion, individually wrapped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – and was very welcome. Excellent as the show is, with all the plot information it dishes out, perhaps we could do with a few more of these little scenes that don’t necessarily serve a narrative purpose but paint a picture of FBI life.
Wendy’s story has been small but perfectly balanced this season, and in this episode we saw her terminate her relationship with bartender Lauren in no uncertain terms. She had a point, Lauren had been a bit of a hypocrite, but boy, was Wendy ice cold, doing little to counter the stereotype that dating a psychologist is hard work.
I’ve been silently willing Bill to just tell Holden about Brian in recent episodes, and here he finally relented. Bill also gave Holden a dressing down in the process, though clearly felt a little bad about it after, throwing his partner a bone in the subsequent scene with the local police chief. Holden didn’t get a chance to respond to the news about Brian, but you can bet your life Ford’s brain is already buzzing with theories.
The ADT/BTK killer got his most brief flash-sideways yet, so brief as to not really be worth exploring, and Bill failed once more to get his son to speak about the toddler murder, while Nancy became obsessed with the idea of moving. Bill seems resistant to this, which I can only attribute to the time it would add to his commute, Tench seeming to be a man for whom career comes first.
Episode eight was nicely paced and gorgeously shot by director Carl Franklin (The Leftovers, Bloodline), even if the apprehension of Williams felt a little anticlimactic. Then again, Mindhunter is not the kind of show for car chases and shoot-outs. You work the case, you narrow down possibilities, you sleep the scant few hours that you can, and eventually, if you’re lucky, you cuff the perp. There might then be a few days to survey the wreckage of your personal and social life that’s left in the case’s wake, but then it’s on to the next one.