Season 2 of “Mindhunter” opens with a short vignette that confirms that a minor character from season 1 is a sexual deviant, the type of serial killer the popular Netflix series is particularly interested in exploring.
This is perhaps due to the online speculation that deduced that the minor character from season 1 was the BTK (Blind, Torture, Kill) Strangler (a notorious serial killer active from 1974 to 1991).
But the vignette also serves to set up an interesting change of direction for the popular series.
Audiences will no doubt find the eerie vignette interesting, as they’ve already spent the previous season “studying” serial killers such as Ed Kemper, Jerry Brudos and Richard Speck through Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench’s (Holt McCallany) interviews with them.
The vignette sets up another possible sexual sadist and lures the audience to psychoanalysis, but then it uses the rest of the season not to present more science or analyses but to explore the terror and tragedy these serial killers leave behind.
Atlanta child murders
The next sequence in the BTK plot shows Tench interviewing one of the survivors of the BTK killings. The scene occurs very early on at the start of the season and the survivor isn’t even given a face in the scene, but it’s one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the series thus far.
As the season progresses, the voices and faces of the victims and their loved ones grow even more prominent.
The BTK plot doesn’t take up that much of the story, as the season focuses more on the 28-plus Atlanta child murders from 1979 to 1981.
We follow Holden as he’s initially brought to Atlanta only to make their behavioral science unit of the FBI more prominent as an investigation method.
Much of Holden’s conflict comes from trying to convince local authorities of the science behind his methods of investigation, but as the body count grows higher, the conflict becomes less about the science and psychoanalyses that “Mindhunter” audiences are accustomed to, and more about the monstrous acts of these murderers and finally delivering justice to the families of the victims.
Holden can’t walk around the office without being stared at by pictures of the dead or missing children, or go around Atlanta without encountering the families of the victims. And for those who know how the Atlanta child murder cases are resolved, it’s also not surprising to see Holden’s arc reflecting his first season’s obsession with serial killers as science and facts on paper.
Change of pace
It’s an interesting change of pace to have the team tackle a highly covered ongoing investigation. It also ups the ante for the season.
However, while the second season does go bigger with its cases, it also manages to explore more intimately the lives of its main characters.
On paper, tackling the BTK, Son of Sam, the Manson family murders, and the Atlanta child murders in the same season sounds like a total catastrophe, but it found a way to raise the stakes and for the various plots to inform the characters’ journeys: the character of Bill Tench.
Tench was a fantastic character to play off Holden’s more prominent role in the first season. But Tench becomes the more prominent character in the new season, and the show is more thrilling because of it.
Tench trying to balance his work as serial-killer investigator and his personal life with a wife and adopted son (the two aspects of life being many plane rides apart) added a certain rhythm and a completely unexpected intensity to the scenes of interviews with serial killers.
While the first season may have found its primary strength in the fact that these sexually motivated serial killers are compelling case studies, the second season finds its strength in the world around these serial killers, particularly the worlds of the main trio.
The study of serial killers hits home in a truly unexpected way this season of “Mindhunter,” making the possible future explorations of the series much more terrifying. —CONTRIBUTED