The Netflix series “Mindhunter” takes its source material from the nonfiction book “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit,” written by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The book was published by Scribner on October 31, 1995. Douglas, a former United States Air Force veteran, joined the FBI in 1970. He started his career with the bureau as a SWAT team member before transitioning to become a hostage negotiator. In 1977, Douglas became a member of the now famous FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. When he initially joined the unit, he taught criminal psychology and hostage negotiation strategy at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. It was while teaching, that Douglas first formulated the opinion, that more interaction needed to be done as far as research was concerned. Douglas felt talking to people, who were able to commit horrific crimes, especially those who did it on multiple occasions, seemingly without remorse, would perhaps be useful in knowing what to look for, while tracking murderers. Douglas wanted to understand what made serial killers like Ted Bundy, Edmund Kemper and John Wayne Gacy, feel the overwhelming need to commit murder; and during his twenty-five year career, he interviewed the aforementioned, as well as numerous other infamous individuals. In the earlier years of Douglas’ study of serial killers, he took what he learned from his interviews, and co-wrote the book “Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives,“ with Ann W. Burgess, a professor of psychiatric nursing, who works at the William F. Connell School of Nursing, at Boston College. Furthermore, he teamed with former FBI agent, Robert K. Ressler, who is credited with coining the term ‘serial killer.’ Mark Olshaker, the person with whom Douglas’ co-authored “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit,” is both an Emmy winner and a best-selling author.
The second season of “Mindhunter” begins with a scene involving Dennis Rader (Sonny Valicenti), portraying the infamous killer, BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill). He is shown wearing women’s lingerie, while engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation. Rader is caught in the act by his wife, prompting him to put his fantasies on hold for a while. As the season progresses, Rader will appear time and again, in short scenes, which showcase to the viewer, that he can’t control his urges, and, that no matter what, he will find a way to continue living out his fantasy life. The BSU does begin to hunt BTK during the second season. In fact, an interview with his only surviving victim, Kevin Bright (Andrew Yackel), lends itself to one of the most compelling scenes of the second season, but for this season, at least, BTK, is not the primary focus of the BSU.
The three main characters that season one centered on, all return in season two: FBI Agent, Holden Ford, (Jonathan Groff); FBI Agent, Bill Tench (Holt McCallany); and psychologist, Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). Once Ford is released from the hospital, after having suffered a mental breakdown in the last episode of the first season, the trio of agents resume their work of interviewing and compiling information on serial killers. This season among the killers they interview are David Berkowitz (Oliver Cooper), and Charles Manson (Damon Herriman). The series, however, goes further than the interview process of the first season, and focuses more on the personal lives of Tench and Dr. Carr.
Tench is dealing with an issue involving his young son, Brian (Zachary Scott Ross), that has the potential to ruin his family. Brian’s actions force the Tench family to have to meet with a child psychiatrist on a weekly basis, and they’re assigned a caseworker from the Department of Family Services. Tench does what he needs to do for work; his time and energy, however, is definitely split between the bureau, and trying to save his marriage with his wife Nancy (Stacey Roca). The problem for Tench, is made more complicated, by the fact that on a regular basis, he’s away from home, working in other parts of the country.
Dr. Carr also receives a good amount of screen time devoted to her personal life. During the second season, she begins dating Kay (Lauren Glazier), a bartender she meets by chance one evening, after work, while getting a drink with Tench. The relationship she is in, allows her to break free from the restraints she feels imposed on her at work, where she has to keep hidden who she really is. Furthermore, she feels her professional life at the bureau has been hampered, thanks to Gunn (Michael Cerveris), the new Assistant Director who oversees BSU. He, more often than not, wants Dr. Carr to remain at headquarters, while Ford and Tench, go off to conduct interviews. Gunn wants Dr. Carr to be constantly providing analysis, as opposed to doing field work. Gunn is an ambitious individual, who unlike his predecessor, Shepard (Cotter Smith), believes in the work the BSU is doing. He not only is willing to let Ford do what he needs to do while conducting interviews, but wants the BSU to eventually become the standard bearer for the rest of the bureau.
Unlike the first season, the latter part of the second season deals with one investigation, that takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. During the years 1979 through 1981, someone abducted and murdered twenty-eight children, mostly young boys. The African American community, which the killer targeted, was understandably growing restless for answers and an arrest. Ford becomes personally involved in the case, thanks to Tanya (Sierra Aylina McClain). She is a hotel clerk, who asks Ford out to dinner, under false pretenses. Once they are out, she leads him to a group of mothers of abducted boys, who are extremely frustrated with the police investigation, and are attempting to find out answers on their own.
Ford constructs a profile of the killer. He believes that the crimes are being committed by an African American man, even though many in law enforcement think that the killer or killers are white and members of the KKK. Ford finds that theory laughable. He stated that a white man, picking up children in predominately African American neighborhoods, during the daytime, when many of the abductions occurred, would never be able to go unnoticed. He even tests the theory, and has a member of the BSU team, Gregg Smith (Joe Tuttle), approach children in one of the neighborhoods. None of the children are interested in going off with Smith, even though he offers them money to do some work for him. At one point, Smith is even yelled at by a mother, who isn’t happy with his presence around her child.
Ford believes that if he and Tench, along with the help of FBI agent, Jim Barney (Albert Jones), can identify and stop the killer, that it will validate the importance of the work of the BSU. Ford learns quickly, that finding the killer is only one of his problems, as he must, at every turn, seemingly appease both politicians and work through the red tape of law enforcement, in order to get anything accomplished.
The second season of “Mindhunter” premiered on Netflix on August 16, 2019. The series was created by BAFTA nominee Joe Penhall (The Long Firm). BAFTA, Emmy and Golden Globe winner David Fincher (The Social Network) directed three of the nine episodes. He also serves as one of the series executive producers. Additional episodes of the series were directed by Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly), and Emmy nominee Carl Franklin (House of Cards). As of the writing of this post, Netflix has not officially renewed “Mindhunter” for a third season, but in an interview, actor Holt McCallany stated that David Fincher has expressed that he would like to do at least five seasons of the show.