The first season of Mindhunter was really all about Holden Ford, his unusual personality and how it enabled him to establish a rapport with, and understanding of, twisted serial killers.
Season 2, however, has seen a welcome shift of focus, putting Bill at the heart of the story. The situation with his son Brian is only growing more grave, and while the toddler crucifixion remains the only death he was mixed up in (that we know of), episode 6 makes it clear: Brian is a creepy little dude.
With Mindhunter having so consistently drawn on real cases and depicted real multiple murderers, you can’t help but wonder whether we are in fact watching the early days of a notorious killer with Brian. The character Bill Tench is based on the real Behavioral Science Unit’s Robert Ressler, who had three kids (compared to Tench’s one), but they don’t appear to have had a history that correlates with that in the show. The internet has, however, already seized on a PBS story about San Francisco’s 1971 Crucifixion Murder, which is summed up as “Two boys in a basement. Kicking and stomping the toddler. Beating him with a brick. Tying him naked to a makeshift wooden cross and leaving him to die.”
In the show, Bill’s wife Nancy insists that the crucifixion must have been carried out in the hope it would lead to a Jesus-like resurrection, which is what one of the (unnamed) real-world boys claims to have hoped too.
“The only thing I could think of [was] I really didn’t mean to do this, I didn’t want this to happen,” he previously said in an interview. “I don’t remember being very religious, but I felt like [putting the baby on a cross] was the only thing to do…I wanted the baby back alive. I wasn’t absolutely sure it was dead, but it wasn’t moving and it was bruised.
“So I put it in a cross formation, and I hoped,” he continued, adding, “I don’t think I really gave up hope until the police officers found it.”
With season 2 now out there, I’m sure Mindhunter‘s writers will soon discuss their inspiration for Brian’s unexpectedly major storyline. Inspired by real events or not, it doesn’t really matter, as the story has been a great plot device for making Bill, and the viewer, really consider the idea of nature vs nurture. It’s very easy for Bill, Holden and Wendy to make causal links between the childhoods and violent acts of interviewees, but what about when the person in question is someone close to you? Someone whose development you’ve been involved with?
I don’t think we have a crazed serial killer on our hands however – the show is too smart for that – more likely I can see Brian settling down, but Bill being haunted by the possibility that his son has more grim misdemeanours still in him.
Elsewhere this episode, bartender Lauren struggled to get to know Wendy, the head of the FBI took an interest in the BSU, and there were hints that Gregg is gay and/or into BDSM but choosing to keep this a secret from his colleagues (that should be an interesting conversation to have with Wendy).
The main action was down in Atlanta though, where the apparent serial killer’s “graveyard” was discovered in a wooded area. We’ve become so used to seeing convicted criminals interviewed on the show that I’d forgotten what a thrill it can be to see the team actually working an open case. With a suspect that no-one is particularly confident about set to be questioned in the next episode, things are shaping up for an enthralling final run of episodes in what has been a very consistent and tightly written second season.