Mothers form a major component of the dark, twisted psychology in the third episode of Mindhunter, as FBI Agents Ford (Jonathan Groff) & Tench (Holt McCallany) continue their exploration of the darkness in men’s mind, to ‘understand crazy’ in order to get ahead of it.
The previous episode explored psycho-sexual connectives to some of these horrendous crimes, but Joe Penhall & Ruby Rae Spielgel build on this here to square the mother angle to the equation, helping sell the point that motherly lack of affection and misplaced neglect can lead to the kind of anger, frustration and desire which tips these killers to breaking point. Quite how they get to the extremity of murder is a question Holden hasn’t quite yet solved, and no doubt will serve as key to the central arc of the season.
The previous episode saw Tench bat for Holden, getting them an FBI basement office where they can work on their behavioural psychology ideas as a side-project, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of their day job teaching local police departments FBI techniques on the road. The inclusion of Dr. Wendy Carr (played by Anna Torv, late of the underrated Fringe), a psychologist fascinated by the central ideas Holden has after reading transcripts of his interview with verbose murderer Ed Kemper, continues pushing the core theme of a genuine law enforcement breakthrough not being taken seriously; Wendy realises the potential instantly, suggesting a major focus and even a book, but Tench remains unconvinced.
Mindhunter is steadily building the dynamic between these two leads in satisfying fashion; Tench is now open to the idea of criminal profiling in this way but he’s not 100% sold, still retaining a level of the old-fashioned investigator of the like he spends most of his time educating; this contrasts nicely with Ford’s earnest naivety, summed up after they help a local PD crack a homicide and the cops just want to have a beer and celebrate, and Holden wants to monologue about the darkness of men’s souls. Tench is there to cut him off, sparing him without the guy realising, and this blend of streetwise, elder agent willing to slowly accept new possibilities with a young, fresh faced idealist filled with philosophical concepts but lacking awareness, is fun to watch.
You continue getting the sense Penhall wants us to remember how green Holden is perhaps for a major dramatic effect; Tench points out that Kemper is starting to see Ford as a friend (and reminds him the man is a psychotic killer who is ‘dead behind the eyes’), and of course there is a continued suggestion that his girlfriend Debbie (Hannah Gross) has a strangeness about her; a moment here where she jokily suggests she could kill Holden made me wonder about my theory. The show is drawing the parallel between these two characters with skill and plenty of dark humour once again, the delivery of both actors helping to pick out these moments alongside more satisfyingly dramatic ones, such as how they work in tandem to build Duane to a point of confession here.
The first episode of Mindhunter not directed by David Fincher, it nonetheless retains the clinical, investigative look and feel he has established textually for the series, nicely carried through by Asif Kapadia (quite a skilled documentarian who made Senna & Amy). It feels a touch transitory, a typical mid-season piece which continues the style and builds character rather than being much of its own standout piece – plus it’s shorter than the first two and ends on rather a calm note.
Even so, Mindhunter remains poised, accomplished and interesting new television playing off existing movies, genres and styles.
Mindhunter is now streaming on Netflix. Let us know what you think of the season.