Mindhunter Roundtable: Screenqueens discuss Netflix’s best new show

Your Queens are in a constant state of consuming films & TV shows, and Mindhunter was not an exception.  In fact, it has happened to grab all of our attention. We’ve been talking about it quite a lot among ourselves, and we thought we should let you inside our brains a bit, too! So, here is our discussion of the first season of Netflix’s Mindhunter


 Who was your favourite character and why?

Eszti: My favourite character was Holden, because I could really connect to his character. His relentless, ambitious side spoke to me. Of course, he became obsessive, and he wasn’t perfect, but he was smart, daring, and innovative.

Alexandra: Bill Tench. He’s seemingly the most conservative male of the bunch, holds to old standards of FBI and police conduct, is uncomfortable with those outside his heteronormative box, and wants to hold tight to those morals he’s been raised with. And the show never stops testing that. His relationship with his adopted son is fascinating and sad. I can’t say that I love Tench as a person, but as a character, he’s constantly provoked and tested, which is a really interesting aspect of him.

Ashleigh: Dear, Dr. Wendy. She looks like Claire Danes and Cate Blanchette’s lesbian love child and I’m obsessed with how she serves to direct these well-intentioned, but initially clueless men toward a focused goal.

Alannah: Holden, I found his optimism and dedication to his method endearing. Although, he lost my sympathy in the final episode, his unwavering belief in what he was doing was refreshing. I also really enjoyed Jonathan Groff’s performance, his unassuming interpretation of John Douglas, particularly when in conversation Holt McCallany’s Bill, offered a new and entertaining take on the traditional good cop/ bad cop dynamic.


Who do you think grew the most out of the characters throughout the season?

Ashleigh: I believe that Holden Ford changed the most, but not necessarily for the better. He became more arrogant as the season wore on an his intuitions proved true, but I think the panic attack in the final episode might signal a turning point for him in the next season.

Eszti: Bill Tench. At first, he wasn’t open to anything new, he was willingly stuck in his comfortable bubble. But throughout the show, he starts to come alive, getting more involved. We can also see his soft side, by the introduction of his son and his wife. We see how much he has to sacrifice every day, and that he tries to protect his family.

Alannah: I found Holden’s journey throughout the series, the most interesting. Holden starts the series, somewhat lost and unsure of his place within the FBI. It’s only through his determination to understand evil and get ahead of it, he finds his purpose. Holden thrives in his new-found abilities, consequently, his inflated ego and reckless behaviour begin to echo the arrogance and self-assurance of the killers he interviews. Thus, what started as Holden’s ability and willingness to relate to these individuals, snowballs into him risking his career, relationship and eventually his own safety.

Alexandra: I actually wouldn’t say any of Mindhunter’s characters grow, but there are these brilliant moments of realization for a few. Holden Ford has the best one, and clearly it’s the crux of the series’ arch. Watching this uptight young FBI officer go from cautious to daring, naive to over-confident is not an unexpected journey, but it’s complicated by his encounter in the final episode with Ed Kemper. Instead of ending in a moment of growth, Holden crumbles in a regressive, fearful collapse.


 What was the initial draw of the series for you?

Ashleigh: I’m a muderino (true crime nerd and serial killer afficiando) and a Fincher fan, so I knew about the show the second it was announced. Also, the camera manufacturer RED developed a new camera called the Xenomorph specifically for David Fincher and this show, so that’s a nifty bit of behind the scenes trivia.

Alannah: I was initially drawn to the series because of David Fincher’s ties to show, but it was the psychology behind these real life serial killers which is what had me hooked. What surprised me however, was how much I enjoyed, the overarching focus on the history of the FBI.

Alexandra: Serial killers, murder mystery, and Fincher. David Fincher can be very hit or very miss for me, but when he’s exploring masculinty I think he often gets at the toxic themes and ideas that other male directors don’t. I wasn’t disappointed.

Eszti: The main draw was definitely the premise of the show. I love everything that deals with psychology, and dark tales always intrigued me. Plus the fact that it was based on a true story, it made it that much more interesting. And I adore Glee, so Jonathan Groff was a big plus for me as well.


What did the show excel at?

Alexandra: I found the rythm and progression for a procedural style series to be an interesting and unique spin on the genre. Although there are elements of a “monster-of-the-week” format, it allows each of those “monsters” to build on each other from episode to episode. Most of all, I think what Mindhunter achieves at its disturbing best is identifying similarities between law enforcement and the deviants they mean to crack and contain.

Alannah: I feel the show excelled in suggesting parallels between the ’sequence killers’ stories, and Holden’s private life, but ultimately leaving it up to the viewers interpretation. In depicting the early stages of FBI profiling, the show gives room for the viewer to play detective, through attempting to identify the killer the of week, and those ’deviant’ tendencies in Holden.

Eszti: In the casting of the serial killers. Typically, whenever I watch a movie or a TV show, I always tend to wonder how the actors do it, what does it take for them to become that character. But watching Mindhunter, none of these thoughts occured to me. I was taken with these characters, I genuienly believed that they were real.

Ashleigh: I am a big fan of Fincher’s use of sound, particularly in bars and clubs (or other scenes that have a lot of human activity and noise). When Holden meets Debbie in the bar in the first episode, the background walla is really loud, louder than is typical for these types of scenes. It makes it so you really have to pay attention to the characters in order to understand their dialogue. This choice forces the viewer to actively participate in the scene. There’s precident for this technique in Fincher’s work.


What was the show lacking?

Eszti: Getting deeper into Debbie’s character. We see him semi cheating on Holden but it’s never really explained to us. Maybe it’s just the girl in me, but I really liked Hanna Gross’ kickass character. She was hardworking, cool and interesting. I hope we’ll get to see more of her in the next season.

Ashleigh: The show introduced side female characters, like Annalise Stilman (Lena Olin) and Nancy Tench (Stacey Roca) that were never developed, they seemed to only be markers that Holden, Wendy, and Bill had ties to the civilian world. Debbie is the obvious exception here, but even in that case her psychology is an enigma.

Alannah: I feel there was a lot of loose ends in the show, and scenes which seemed to lack obvious meaning. For instance, the inclusion of BTK killer in the opening scenes, though re-enforcing the timeline of the show, remained frustratingly unexplained. Additionally, the characters other than Holden, felt underdeveloped, particularly Holden’s girlfriend, who despite her interesting backstory seemed to play only as a ‘feminist stereotype’.

Alexandra: Definitely lacking a larger minority presence and perspective – where are the men and women of color? Their absence certainly calls attention to just how white, male, and patriarchal the system is, but what could be done with their presence is missed.


 What was your favourite scene from the series?

Ashleigh: The car crash scene sticks out in my mind because Fincher lures us into a false sense of secruity. There are at least two other tense, but ultimately uneventful, car scenes with the same shot-reverse shot set up. When the first couple times pass without incident the impact of the crash is elevated and the jump scare all the more effective.

Eszti: There were so many amazing ones but my favourite scene has to be Tench’s breaking down scene. We finally get to see behind the wall he so carefully built over the years. His deep hurting because of his son, his desire to keep his family safe, and the burden of his work come out at the very same time. It’s such a delicately built up scene, yet it has so much meaning behind it.

Alexandra: The Park City inserts are my favorite. Brief, disconnected, and possibly a bit absurd if they don’t lead to the inevitable season two – which, honestly, would make them even more powerful in my mind. Men are making plans and going about their business all over the country, with or without the notice of the FBI.

Alannah: The final scene from the series, with Holden and Kemper, in the hospital was the highlight of the series for me. It seemed to be a departure from the rest of the show, and the episode, but for that reason, it elicited the biggest response. The whole scene ridden with anxiety, as for once, the viewer was one step ahead of Holden. Holden in his self-assurance, was blind to the shift in power between himself and Kemper, unaware of the potential consequences of his actions. Through Kemper’s chilling response, the viewer and Holden are reminded that despite their psychoanalysis, he and the other ’sequence killers’ remain unpredictable and dangerous.


What was your favourite episode?

Alannah: My favourite episode of the series was the second one, after an underwhelming pilot, the show really got its momentum in this episode. It set their work, and the rest of the series up as potentially ground-breaking. The soundtrack and the travel montages, helped to build excitement around the show and Holden’s quest for answers.

Ashleigh: Because I am a morbid person, I got such a kick out of Episode 2. If it were a Friend’s episode it would be called „The One Where Ed Kills His Mom.” By identifying with Holden, I got to indulge my own creepy fascination with serial killers as he lived the dream of interviewing Ed Kemper.

Eszti: The fifth episode was the best one for me. The whole Beverly Jean case was the most intriguing one. All the twists and turns were unexpected, and Rose ’s monolouge was one of the best scenes in the season for me.

Alexandra: The tickling principal episode is odd, uncomfortable, and the point at which it’s clear that we can never be exactly sure what’s right or wrong, truth or a lie, dangerous or just potentially dangerous. Historians talk about the Manson murders being the end of an era of relative innocence. Holden’s decision to “advise” the principal marks something very similar. He may very well be correct, and if he hadn’t done something, maybe someone else would have – but no matter what, its very acknowledgement is a turning point.


Your thoughts on the contrast between the male & female characters?

Alexandra: Like a lot of Fincher (most Fincher), I think there’s a heavy masculine bent on all characters, no matter their gender. I enjoyed Anna Torv’s Wendy Carr tremendously, and wished for more of her midnight trips to the laundry room to feed the mystery cat (which felt typically feminine, nurturing – and ends in a tuna can infested with ants). I loved Bill Tench’s gruff, 50’s stereotype of a father (who can’t make any kind of viable connection with his son). But perhaps best of all is Hannah Gross as Holden’s girlfriend Debbie, who essentially femsplains much of the real world to her beau. I can’t say I have definitive thoughts about gender roles in the series yet, but I’d say it’s one of the most (if not the most) important elements.

Eszti: Obviously, the male characters were more developed because it was their story. As I mentioned before with Debbie, I felt that we got glimpses into the female character’s life. Wendy is a workaholic, lonely lesbian with a secret relationship. Mrs Tench is loving, protective and loyal. But I have to say, I’m not overtly worried about this. This is the first season. It makes sense to develop the main characters first, and they did an awesome job.

Alannah: Mindhunter was a male focused show, centered largely on the male psyche and the makeup of the male led FBI. Female characters on show existed mostly offscreen, as victims or the catalysts to male violence. The depiction of these women was that of the male gaze, whether through the detectives analysing the victims and their history, or the ‘sequence killers’ remembering how their Mothers treated them. The female characters we did have, in Wendy (the female psychologist) and Debbie, (Holden’s girlfriend) although presented as smart, strong willed and in Debbie’s case feminist, still managed to feel flat and one sided. The female characters did have some agency in Wendy, and although her character was lacking in season one I am still hopeful for season two.

Ashleigh: Given the pervasive popularity of the torture porn and gruesome crime genre, I thought it was a really groovy choice for the show not to focus on the graphic images or details of the crimes themselves, but rather delve into the drama of what it takes to codify violent criminal behavior; what does it take to develop a taxonomy of murder?


Will you be tuning in for season 2? (It will focus on the Atlanta child murders.)

Eszti: I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Ashleigh: Hell yeah! Also I want them to continue the BTK storyline. I’m hooked!

Alannah: Yes, and I cannot wait.

Alex: Yes. I’m there.

The question is: are You?

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