Before Mind Hunter (The new Netflix original), I had already found myself geared toward the strange minds of those who could look over the edge into the abyss and trigger themselves to fulfill thoughts many of the human population – if not all- have had.
My first test run was a popular name in Serial Killer Circles (do those exist?), Charles Manson. He was best known for ending the golden age of love. What that really means is he was the top name for Serial Killers in the last century, maybe the most popular of all. He was crazed, but was he built? Was his mind molded? Could we look past the external acts of atrocious violence and feel sympathy for the internal struggle of a boy who never got the chance at a good life?
It is the question we ask ourselves about all people who are deranged or commit heinous acts against others – why? Why did Charlie Manson organize a string of killings? Why did he build a cult with the express idea of ending lives? What had possessed him to do such a thing?
Turns out there are many answers to that question. It also turns out that life has a funny way of molding people. Small triggers, mostly those that may not be stopped, and then it cumulates into an explosion.
We are still interested. We still grasp at the straws that these men, and a few women, drop on the floor for us to examine.
That is what Mind Hunter aims to do for us. It says to the audience can we find the tune to which the killer's guitar plays? If we can, how do we use it to our advantage?
While the show, I believe, can have an oversimplifying way, it still brings forth some of the more profound ideas of psychology. I think it does this best in the form of one character, Special Agent, Holden Ford.
Holden is best known throughout the show for his curious and oftentimes naïve ways of human interaction. He understands situations. He is great at reading others. However, he doesn’t have a lick of societal charm. He lacks the understanding of how to engage in normal- whatever normal is- conversations with others. He makes up for that in his knowledge of understanding and wonder.
Throughout the breadth of the shows 10 episode first season, we see Holden Ford entrench himself in the world of Sequence Killers. He aims to understand and use them to stop others from doing the same deeds. He is willing to go through all barriers and stop at nothing, damn the cost.
In my opinion, through these acts, he becomes the most likable character in the show – although Ed Kemper was a really close second. Holden was the character I felt most kin to during his foray into the interviews with the riddled minds of dark men. He was willing to drop to their level, he was willing to turn himself off, he was innovative and clearly ahead of the curve.
All the other characters found their flaws in the work. Holt starts out as a man who is quite interested in teaching others. In this, I found that I could get behind him and like his attitude. As the show progressed he became cynical and shut himself down. Talking with those men who were capable of such carnage made him fearful and had him step back. He no longer was sure that it was the work that was important, but just good detective work could do the same. He started to question aspects that were interesting for the show, but also interesting for a real-life study.
Again, this is my opinion, and I tend to drive it home. The show made me pit Holden versus Holt and in the end, Holt became just another grumpy old man, who was unwilling to change for the future and became rooted in the past.
Wendy Carr was my least favorite on the team. At first, I thought I would like her. At first, I thought she was going to be great for the project. She seemed smart and willing to help with the progress. She was even the one who pushed Holden further into the concept and had him feeling more confident about what he was doing. However, that soon folded as she thought of it more as her own project and not the work of everyone. She made a boring and too overtly academic survey type interview and took the spontaneity and wonder from the interactions. Even Kemper shows his disinterest by feigning a nap. She wanted to control the situations, but she didn’t know how to control them. No one knew how to control them.
Holden at least understood that. He was able to grasp that no one could control these men. They were off kilter and unknown. There was no blueprint for finding the information that they could provide and Holden was willing to throw the blueprint concept out and follow the road to wherever it leads.
Maybe Holden reminded me of myself a little; more interested than fearful. He wanted to grasp the ideas and not just hear the words. He put them to good use several times throughout the show and still everyone was unable to give him breathing room for them. Sure he made mistakes and had been at a few points questioning him, but he was the most consistent and the most interesting.
The others arcs seemed to fall flat half-way through the show. Holt and his wife were the typical marriage, falling apart at the seams and unable to understand their child. Wendy literally spent several scenes feeding a cat tuna, a cat we never even seen. I am sure the showrunner, David Fincher (most famous for fight club and Seven), meant for that to mean something, but to me, it meant wasted airtime.
In the end, I was interested in only one aspect of that show and wish it would have stuck with that aspect. I was interested in the interviews and their outcomes.
The others were too far stuck in their own heads to see the rest of the picture unfolding around them. Aside from Ed Kemper, who just needed a damn hug; which just goes to show you that even the darkest, meanest of men just really need love and affection.
Except me, don’t touch me.