Netflix may allow us to re-watch some of the greatest TV series’ from days gone by, but let’s face it: it’s because of the streaming services’ original content that we continue to pay the subscription every month. From Stranger Things to House of Cards, Netflix has produced some unmissable and well-written entertainment over the past couple of years, which is why there was a lot of attention on the streaming service’s latest original production, MINDHUNTER. The ten-part drama series stars Glee’s Jonathan Groff as Holden Ford, an FBI agent who is convinced that the bureau needs to learn more about what makes a serial killer tick, and with the help of his colleague Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), Holden begins interviewing serial killers around the US.
While written and created by Joe Penhall, it was really David Fincher, who serves as both executive producer and director, that attracted most of the attention to MINDHUNTER. After viewing the show myself, I must say it’s a bit of a shame that Penhall’s work was overlooked in the initial promotion of the series. Don’t get me wrong, Fincher’s direction is great, but it’s Penhall’s writing that sucks you in, and I blame him for keeping me up at night, continually attacking the ‘next episode’ button, not Fincher. Yes, MINDHUNTER is that good.
As viewers we’re so conditioned as to what to expect but MINDHUNTER looks at crime from a different angle — it’s not about the who, it’s about the why. Yes, the show is highly entertaining but, mostly, it’s disturbing. Why? Because it’s based on fact. MINDHUNTER is not some watered down cop drama, it’s an account of one man’s struggles to get to the truth about why these heinous crimes happen. It’s not about catching a killer; it’s about why they commit the crime in the first place. Penhall’s writing gets under your skin and it’s hard to shake the series off when the credits roll. The serial killer interviews are intense to say the least; we’re often treated to graphic photographs of the crime scenes and the killers go into detail about their mutilation methods. What I love about Penhall’s writing is that the killers are more than a caricature. Despite our previous knowledge of these men and their crimes, Penhall’s characterisation of the killers is multidimensional and somehow he can make us feel sympathy for these psychopaths. He humanises them. On a side note, I was pleasantly surprised to see the talented Sam Strike (who had previously played Johnny Carter in EastEnders before Ted Reilly took over the role) playing one of the killers.
A large reason why the series works so well is due to the Netflix format. While DVD and Blu-ray boxsets certainly began the era of binge-watching, it was the growing popularity of Netflix that solidified binge-watching as the, for lack of a better word, proper way to watch TV in 2017. As a result, Netflix’s shows are now written with the intention of being binge-watched. MINDHUNTER is essentially a ten-hour film about the psychology behind serial killings, not an episodic drama about a group of excellent detectives. Moreover, unlike broadcast television in the United States, Netflix is allowed to push the boundaries with their programming, which means more adult content and cursing. I’m a strong believer in only using such content in television or film when necessary and, trust me, it’s necessary in MINDHUNTER.
I’ve seen Jonathan Groff in quite a few television series’ over the years, but I always remember him for his great performance as the cocky and arrogant Jesse St. James on musical comedy series Glee. However, the actor plays a completely different kind of role here. Groff’s performance as Holden is great, and he really manages to relay the character’s insecurities to us in extremely subtle ways. The Holden character is well-written and, much like he does with the serial killers, Penhall makes Holden more than your average fictional character; he humanises him. Unlike a lot of dramatised police officers and federal agents, the character is highly flawed.
MINDHUNTER won’t be for everyone; its heavy storylines and slow pace will certainly put many people off but, for me, it’s one of Netflix’s strongest original series’ yet. The strong writing, human characters and wonderful direction make the show unlike anything else on television. MINDHUNTER is more than just entertainment; in fact, it’s almost reality. While I may not re-watch it as many times as Stranger Things or The OA, MINDHUNTER’s authenticity makes it unlike any crime drama I’ve ever seen before, and if you’re remotely fascinated by criminality, check this show out at once.
Contributed by Stephen Patterson
MINDHUNTER is available to binge now.