Up to this point, Mindhunter has been laser-focused on serial killers’ psyches and what leads them to violence. But the scope of the show broadened in season 2 episode 3, which showed how not everyone is as keen to see murderers brought to justice as detectives Holden Ford and Bill Tench.
There was a hell of a lot going on in this episode – in multiple states and involving multiple murderers. Bill continued to try and council his wife and his community through the crucifixion of a local toddler, a murder that bears a chilling resemblance to what he investigates day to day at the office. There’s not a lot to go on so far with this case, but the randomness of the scene in which his kid pees himself in the night has me worried this is all heading to even darker places closer to home.
With Bill indisposed, Holden headed down to Atlanta alone to question two incarcerated murderers, the point of which was to show that not every interview leads to stunning, game-changing insights. Pierce wasn’t exactly an intellectual – or an interectual, as he might say (“I got all the good words”), nor was Hance, whose elaborate but ultimately nonsensical explanations for his crimes tested Holden’s patience. Instead, it was the disappearance of a string of young black children that piqued Ford’s interest. They weren’t supposed to, of course, but Holden never lets protocol get in the way of a sufficiently sinister and intriguing spate of murders.
The key scene here was with a veteran of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who put the dampers on Holden’s budding hobby investigation, saying that “if you’re looking for a monster, it’s poverty.” It was interesting to see politics intersect with serial killing in the show, and felt reminiscent of certain storylines in The Wire. It seems the local mayor isn’t desperate to arrest a prolific serial killer if there’s a good chance he’s black, fearing that it will increase white flight from Atlanta. As the local agent put it: “That shit scares dollars away.”
These are the real-life Atlanta murders of 1979–1981 that the show is moving onto now, in which race is going to be in play in a way that it hasn’t been in previous cases. This sub-plot was juxtaposed nicely in episode 3 with what was going on back at Quantico. With the child murders, race seemed to be everything, with Hance, the team decided, race was certainly not everything. It was Gregg (of all people, and quoting Aristotle) who had the intuition, asserting that Hance’s murders had more to do with uniform than skin colour.
So, Bill’s embroiled in a dark crime at home, Holden’s got a side project in Atlanta, the BTK Killer’s still on the loose further north, and Carr appears to be finally allowing herself out of the closet. There’s a lot going on in Mindhunter right now, and it’s testament to the writing team that the show still feels stately paced and not cluttered.
Three episodes in and the show feels as strong, if not stronger than it was in season 1. The only major difference is the distinct lack of gore so far. Maybe this is because the showrunners don’t want to rely on it, or maybe they’re holding off so it comes as more of a shock later in the season…
That was the third and final episode from David Fincher this season, with Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) joining the show to direct the next two.