Rating: 3 out of 5
The first season of Mindhunter was a messy, sometimes inspired examination of a group of FBI agents interviewing serial killers as they attempt to form a profile and standard to predict criminal behavior. The second season is a more mature, measured and interesting probe into the three main characters psyche. The writers spend more time on the agents for both better and worse. The direction remains somewhat cold and clinical, mimicking the sterility of the Bureau’s aesthetic but like the characters themselves arrives with a newfound sense of confidence even in moments when it lends itself to the occasionally abrasive stylistic flourish. Though the season does not end on quite as resonant of a note as it begins, Mindhunter, is a worthy entry into the procedural-serial-killer-drama genre.
Holden Ford (Johnathan Groff) is an infuriating yet fascinating main character, his presence in season one was at once eye-roll inducing and rarely charming. He is both naive and self-aware, but his relationship with the serial-killer subjects he interviews became increasingly complex towards the end of the first season and the second season allows him a bit too much leniency for his decisions. His panic attacks and anxiety are some of the most gripping and rewarding material in the first few episodes of the second season but that plotline is suspiciously abandoned towards the latter half. His growing commitment to a group of missing boys in Atlanta, Georgia has interesting corners that are not explored in depth nearly as much as the topics merit. Holden has consistently struggled with affirming his own hypothesis, he is met with interesting challenges on this front both racially charged and from his coworkers but it is not explored to its fullest leaving Holden in an unfortunate limbo of character progression by the end of the season.
The second season’s most brilliant evolution is the focus on the home life of Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). The slow degradation of his marriage is heart-wrenching. His loyalty to the FBI becomes absolutely compromising to his role as a husband and father, he cannot provide the emotional or physical support required to hold his family together. Nancy Trench (Stacey Roca) is an unfortunately sane person surrounded by madness both from the work her husband brings home with and her adopted son Brian (Zachary Scott Ross). This is the most engaging storytelling Mindhunter has ever engaged in, equal parts domestic-drama and crime-thriller. Their story is always uncertain but constantly exciting.
The first season’s strongest character Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) gets unfortunately shorthanded this season. She receives the Holden-treatment from season one where her growth, struggle and development is regulated almost entirely to a budding romantic relationship and while her story is far more interesting than Holden’s in the previous season, hers feels almost entirely divorced from the events of the main story, even as Wendy struggles with her sexuality under the strict code of the FBI. There was opportunity to balance her personal and work drama but the writers felt less interested in her this season, opting instead to focus on Holden and Bill. She feels like a subplot by the end of season two, a side character like Gregg Smith (Joe Tuttle), but the careful expression that Torv imbues Wendy Carr with demands the full attention of the writers, however, this season she felt underutilized and forgotten.
Mindhunter remains a glass half-full or glass half-empty depending on your level of optimism. This show still has incredible promise, there are even moments where it follows through on its potential but the last three episodes fail to continue the momentum of the season’s opening run as the three main characters stories diverge to the point of complete separation and fractured, unsuccessful dissonance. The ride getting to this disappointing end is still worth taking as the acting, direction and style are improved greatly from the first season. Mindhunter still has much to learn from its own mistakes, this second season does not shed completely the flaws of the first season, but it also makes slight progress in reaching its ambitions and furthering its insights into both the serial killers and the protagonists who interview them.