Home / Action Plan / ‘Mindhunter’ Review: David Fincher’s Netflix Return Debates the Origins of Evil — And It’s Pretty Funny, Too

‘Mindhunter’ Review: David Fincher’s Netflix Return Debates the Origins of Evil — And It’s Pretty Funny, Too


It’s no spoiler to say the second episode of “Mindhunter” ends with “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads. And considering the focus of hour No. 2 was a serial killer who had sex with his victims’ heads, well, that’s a pretty funny way to wrap two scene-setting hours of television.

David Fincher’s return to Netflix, after putting its originals program on the map with “House of Cards,” isn’t as consistently uproarious as its second hour kicker implies, but the fictionalized story of criminal profiling’s birth does have a dark sense of humor to match its grim, academic nature. Fincher and creator Joe Penhall have crafted a markedly talky original series that shouldn’t work at all — not really. Through two of the first 10 episodes, it’s unclear what kind of long-term potential “Mindhunter” has beyond the morbidly fascinating conversations between analysts and murderers. But its mission is pure, aesthetic outstanding, and hook undeniable.

Imagine the scene in “Zodiac” where Arthur Leigh Allen (played by John Carrol Lynch) sits down with detectives to answer questions about the killings. Then pretend Leigh, as he prefers to be called, is the Zodiac killer. There’s no question that he did it. He’s been convicted, and he’s already in prison. All the apprehension over whether or not he’s the guy, let alone if he’ll get away and kill again, is gone. He’s just a tall, middle-aged man with a few unnerving quirks who’s doing time and talking to the cops.

Wouldn’t that be kind of funny?

OK, OK. It would still be disconcerting, but remember when Sgt. Jack Mulanax (Elias Koteas) gave Leigh a look after the big blue collar worker effeminately crossed his legs? Certainly, this moment is intended as a humorous beat, if not the inducement of a tension-breaking giggle-fit, and that nerve-tingling spark is what “Mindhunter” chases.

MINDHUNTER Episode 3 Netflix Cameron Britton, Jonathan Groff

Fincher’s series does so in large part because it’s absent the primary hook of most serial killer stories: the chase. “Mindhunter” follows FBI Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), a hostage negotiator and teacher who wants to find new methods of communication with suspects. The first scene of the show sets a simple mission statement, and the clunky, overextended pilot reemphasizes the point again and again: Holden wants to help, even if he doesn’t know how.

His quest leads him into a psychological realm most of his fellow agents aren’t comfortable with; they don’t want to empathize with “monsters,” let alone consider that any “normal” person could be capable of that kind of evil. But an array of atypical events — the Manson murders, JFK’s assassination, Vietnam — has them questioning how the FBI assigns logic to society. “The world barely makes sense, so it follows that crime doesn’t either.”

Soon, Holden meets Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), who’s part of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. Tench travels around the United States, talking to local agencies who are dealing with extreme cases. They’re officially trying to teach America’s police force the advanced methods utilized by the FBI, but they’re always on the lookout for something off-book. They want to learn as much as they want to teach, and that’s what gets Holden involved.

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‘No Stone Unturned’ Trailer: Oscar Winner Alex Gibney Seeks the Truth Behind an Unsolved Mass Murder


Known for making explosive investigative documentaries, Oscar winner Alex Gibney attempts to uncover the dark truth behind a 20-year-old pub massacre during a World Cup viewing in Northern Ireland. Though investigators described the crime scene as a ‘forensic goldmine,’ no one was ever arrested for the murders. In “No Stone Unturned,” Gibney continues his legacy of hard-hitting conspiracy documentaries that includes “Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief,” “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” and his Oscar-winning film, “Taxi to the Dark Side.” The new trailer hints at a massive government cover-up, evidence tampering, and secret political maneuvers.

“I’ll never forget their words: We will leave no stone unturned,” says one tearful woman, speaking of the investigation. “Those words ring in my ear to this day, because I don’t think they ever left a stone, never mind turned it.” Others interviewed seem just as emotional, angry, and confused about what really happened 20 years ago.

Per the official synopsis: “Employing the methodology of a forensics expert, the instincts of a bloodhound and a constant sense of forward momentum…Gibney creates a tour de force of investigative journalism and cinematic realism out of a real-life mystery, and tragedy — about neighbors murdering neighbors, a government betraying its people, and the survivors living with the ever-present fear that the person next to them on the grocery line might the killer of their father, husband or brother.”

Watch the trailer below:

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