‘Mindhunter’ season 2 episode 1 review: David Fincher back behind the wheel as the BTK Killer looms

The stage is set for a new season, two years after the Netflix show's debut

It’s been almost two years since Mindhunter debuted on Netflix, so thank God for that ‘season 1 recap’ at the top of season 2 – which dropped all in one go today – as I’m sure everyone’s memory of previous events is a little hazy. Fortunately, you don’t really need to rememberer all the ins and outs of last season’s cases, as season 2 has a ‘new semester’ feel, the Behavioral Science Unit re-opening under new management after it was disrupted by a government investigation.

The show was a surprisingly big hit in 2017, meaning director David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network, Zodiac) could be tempted back to helm the first three episodes of season 2. Fincher was the architect of the show’s neutral style, which views events with not so much a gaze as a blank stare. We settle back into this in episode 1, along with that familiar yellowish colour grade, evoking mustard stained shirts, acrid fumes and nausea.

Ford and Tench in ‘Mindhunter’ season 2 episode 1.

There were hints that Dennis Rader aka the BTK killer will feature heavily this season, his case files being dropped on Bill Tench’s desk, but mostly this episode was about establishing the BSU’s new boss. Mindhunter characters are only allowed to have stern, vaguely onomatopoeic surnames – Tench, Ford, Carr – and to that trio we add Gunn, Ted Gunn. The unit’s saurian new chief is incredibly supportive of the somewhat renegade-ish unit, and no-one can quite believe this. We know that in real life a more academic approach to serial crime would indeed become central to the FBI, so this vote of confidence makes sense, but still you can’t help but feel there’s something ominous about Gunn’s apparent gusto.

Tench and Carr are pretty much where we left them last season, but Ford returns after a stint in the hospital following his strangely collegiate encounter with Ed Kemper. Holden has started suffering panic attacks, and another is triggered as departing unit chief Shepard informs him he isn’t retiring but was forced out due to Ford’s stunts in season 1. There’s a danger of Holden’s panic attacks ending up an annoying trope here, so I hope he doesn’t just start clutching his chest and gasping every time there’s a tense situation this season.

Episode 1 was really just about setting the stage, restating the players and establishing a new one, before we head into the meat (all too literally) of the season. There’s still nothing groundbreaking about Mindhunter, but it’s so assured and unhurried that it’s impossible not to get sucked back into its brooding world.

Key points this episode:

  • Excellent use of Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ in that opening scene.
  • A workplace zinger from Tench: “Embracing the inevitable is how you get your photo on the wall around here”.
  • An interesting rejection of cinema darling Charles Manson. Ford, like most of Hollywood, seemed delighted at the prospect of a Manson cameo, but Carr and Tench shrugged this off. There are more interesting psychopaths.