Psychology and crime make for one hell of a duo in Netflix’s Mindhunter.
Mindhunter dove into the world of crime and psychology like we have never seen before. David Fincher’s new drama took us into the minds of serial killers, rapists, pedophiles, and the likes to better understand the method behind their madness. This chilling story revolved around an intense psychological study led by two FBI agents, Agent Holden (Jonathan Groff) and Agent Tench (Holt McCallany), and psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). Based on true events in the 1970’s, the first episode immediately placed the audience in the middle of a hostage situation gone bad. Really bad. Puzzled by the outcome of the situation, Agent Holden finds himself wondering what steps could have been taken to prevent such a disastrous outcome. These questions begin to ail his mind and lead him down a slippery path he didn’t see coming.
As the episode progressed, Agent Holden finds an interest in the “why” behind motiveless crimes. What provokes these individuals to commit such heinous crimes? He crosses paths with Agent Tench who travels the country educating local police on FBI investigative practices. In him, Agent Holden finds a partner that may understand the work he is trying to do. Together, the pair makes for an interesting pair of partners. Tench, outspoken and relatable, while Holden, awkward and unaware. The two go on to tackle their first cast together, which doesn’t go as planned but sets up the rest of the season as these two tackle the psychological ventures of crime in the 70s.
Mindhunter was off to a crazy start and things are just getting started. Now let’s meet our roundtable and see what they had to say about this episode!
Wahiba (@wbhuvad) – Pop culture enthusiast and event planner
Kaela (@MindhunterNews)– Joined in a collaborative effort with 7 other fans from the Anna Torv Jonathan Groff circles with @AnnaTorverse and @dailyjgroff
Jonathan (@JonathanBarkan)– Managing editor for Dread Central and part of the horror industry for over 8 years
Alberto (@AlbertoFinglas)– Freelance writer, film, and TV lover
Anastacia (@Nas6)– Fancies reading, active in the music world, adores good stories told on the screen
1. Mindhunter really dives into the psyche of serial killers and understanding the reasoning behind their grotesque actions. What are your initial thoughts on the premise of this show?
Wahiba (@wbhuvad): I LOVE the fact that there’s a show that is dwelling into the reality of criminal psychology back in the 1970s. It’s so important to think about why people do what they do. What causes people to snap? What’s their motive? There are so many questions that need to be answered when someone commits a crime. This concept was super difficult to figure out in that time period where the thinking was completely different. Which is why I’m really looking forward to seeing how they’ll approach the cases and use psychology to solve them!
Kaela (@MindhunterNews): The premise is fascinating- everyone is curious and wants to understand their actions to some degree. While other shows have gone into this on the surface, Mindhunter has put a spin on criminal psychology from its birth and taken a deeper dive.
Alberto (@AlbertoFinglas): Unique, and fascinating. Psychology has always been intriguing to me but most of the explorations we see on screen have a modern flair to it. They dive into subjects like anxieties or lack of focus, problems we can relate to in our current society. This material promised to be in a different context. One where most of us can’t or won’t go, in a period when we didn’t have the understanding of psychology that we have today. But the most important piece wasn’t the highly complex premise of the show, it was the executioner. Not a lot of directors can pull off this much amount of dialogue like David Fincher while making it cinematic, hearing his involvement was the definitive factor for me.
Jonathan (@JonathanBarkan): I’m incredibly intrigued by what’s being presented. It takes the concept of behavior and mental status and shows that there have always been stigmas when it comes to mental health, even when some in the FBI are trying to learn so that they can better understand their role.
Anastacia (@Nas6): From the very first scene of the show (and from chatter) I anticipated that it would be different from criminal minds etc that people may (for the sake of needing to compartmentalize) try to categorize MindHunter into. The reality is that in the first 10 minutes you begin to understand this show is not only raw in its content. But it will become a staple in providing not only action but an in-depth pathway, blueprint to the why of murders psych. The events that destined pin of their mental stability to be pulled resulting in their breakdown…Their misconnect.
2. Agent Holden tried very hard to make his colleagues understand the concept of criminal psychology. At some point, he even tried to get them to empathize with Charles Manson (uhhh say what). Thoughts? Opinions?
Wahiba: The topic of criminal psychology is super complex. Having gotten my degree in psychology, I have always been fascinated with how the mind works. I felt like I was analyzing right along with Agent Holden himself. You can tell how afraid people were to sway from the foundations of how serial killers were made, it wasn’t the norm. Agent Holden wanted to think deeper and understand why someone like Charles Manson did what he did. Like Agent Holden questions in the episode, what causes serial killers to flip the “switch?”
Kaela: Empathy is when you try to understand another person from their perspective so to understand them (serial killers) make sense from the point that Agent Ford is looking from even though unpleasant if this means being able to catch someone faster or before they kill someone.
Alberto: Empathy is a tricky bitch. And it feels we have developed more of it as decades have gone by, the same feeling that now drives our understanding of why we should improve the way we treat women in every aspect. Or people of different races or cultural backgrounds. That empathy allows Holden to be able to “think like crazy”. It’s disgusting but human, it’s fascinating yet able to completely turn your stomach inside out – and we get to see how different levels of empathy affect different characters. “Let me tell you something about abhorrent behavior Holden, it’s fucking abhorrent. If we understood it, we’d be abhorrent too.” – Bill Tench.
Jonathan: Empathy is an incredibly powerful tool, one that can truly help build bridges between people and de-escalate situations. Asking police officers to empathize with Manson was certainly in poor taste but it had a very important and necessary purpose. Having law enforcement learn how to empathize, even with those they detest, is a daring yet admirable endeavor. I’m all for Holden’s approach, even though I recognize that he’s going about it all wrong.
Anastacia: Holden comes off as a calm and collected individual. Rather too calm, in my taste. Too calculated. I’m definitely not suggesting he act out violently. But it seems like in general, he would be a peaceful Flagmatic, which I think is a common trait with calculated serial killers. They’re really calm when talking after capture. Comfortable with their crimes. Almost aloof and disconnected.
3. The premiere episode began with a bang, LITERALLY. It’s the 1970’s and it seems crime, as a whole, is changing and getting weird. As the episode progresses, this point begins to gain traction in the form of motive and sets the tone for the premise of the show. The posed question is, “Where do we go when motive becomes elusive?” What are your thoughts on this? What did you think of the class’ reaction to this?
Wahiba: When the motive of a crime becomes elusive, one shouldn’t panic. Like Agent Holden mentions in his lecture, the motive is a riddle but it can be solved. It’s complex but it’s human. Back in the 1970s, when criminality started to take a shift from the norm, people freaked out. They just assumed people were born evil but things started to slowly change when individuals like Agent Holden wanted to change all that.
Kaela: This is leading to the psychology of the perpetrators of this new type of crime. This type of crime is actually new but that it has become more common. The scene references the motive of previous criminals and that they had cleared motives. They wanted things that served their interests like money but that in the case of these newer crimes this was not the case. The class seemed interested but puzzled perhaps they even felt like there may not be anything they could do to figure out a motive.
Alberto: I loved the way this scene was constructed. It shows how incompetent and boring Holden is when lecturing, while showing the current state of crime via the presentation made by his colleague. We realize Holden is just as lost as the students, Manson is on everyone’s mind but only as a crazy person, he was born that way right? Holden doesn’t think so, but the truth is… he just doesn’t know.
Jonathan: The idea that an entire society is adjusting to living with seemingly motiveless crimes is quite shocking but it lays the groundwork for just how much of an uphill battle Holden and Tench have to wage. Regardless of the class’ reaction, it’s a haunting question that demands an answer, no matter how terrifying the prospect.
Anastacia: I think I might have missed parts of this scene because I don’t recall. And can’t think of an off the cuff explanation or opinion that would suffice, really.
4. Amidst the crazy of Mindhunter, Agent Holden seems to be developing a love life. What are your thoughts on this? Yay or nay? Does it add or take away from the point of the show?
Wahiba: I would say nay. The relationship starts off awkward and seems to continue like that throughout the episode. It definitely takes away from the point of the show and I don’t see much of a development in their relationship in the upcoming episodes.
Kaela: Exploring his love life is a way to contrast his attitudes about sex and women with those of his subjects and perhaps on how he would change through his involvement in his research. While most found Debbie particularly annoying, perhaps her character can develop into a positive for Holden.
Alberto: It was interwoven in a way that felt natural, so yay. Debbie’s introduction is played in about 8 minutes of dialogue in 4 different places which is impressive, to say the least. I think an outside perspective will be helpful to maintain a sense of neutrality, also the fact that Debbie is way closer to the hippie culture – presents a nice juxtaposition to Holden’s more strict nature and job.
Jonathan: It seems that Debbie is challenging Holden and pushing him to think in new and different ways. Considering his intentions and aspirations, her role of keeping him on his toes is vital. That it’s a “love life” doesn’t mean anything nor does it detract from the show.
Anastacia: In my opinion, and it’s just that..the way they portrayed Holden’s romantic life was mainly sexual for a lot of the scenes. It left me feeling as though the relationship was being rammed down the viewer’s throat, as a relationship. Which it was evident from the first intimate moment they had. To reel back on the constant sex would be less likely to make some audiences feel as though his girlfriend is nothing more than a mere object to pass time with. We never see if she has a family, a job, other friends..if she’s a significant part of his life. Then, we ought to be learning a bit more about her. Of course, I went ahead to ep. 2 and some of 3.
5. This episode was nothing without its one-liners. One of many was, “Circumstances affect behavior”. This seems to be the underlying foundation of the show, understanding what drives psychopaths and murderers to commit crimes. Thoughts?
Wahiba: When I learned that the show would be tackling the minds of criminals, I was instantly intrigued. Like most crime dramas today that try to find out who committed the crime, Mindhunter tries to figure out WHY they did it. Finally, something different to look forward too!
Kaela: Understanding or attempting to understand why these killers do what they do is important. Whether it is their circumstances or something that is part of their nature. Nurture vs nature?
Alberto: As Holden attempts to point, there are circumstances that could have driven Chuckie Manson to become what he is but he presents it as gut instinct. Instead of relying on any actual psychological evidence and much less scientific evidence. This is what separates Holden from his fellow law enforcement agents, and as we see today it has completely changed the way we prosecute people – many lawyers will debate Nature vs Nurture when making arguments. And now we actually do have studies and resources to rely upon. Imagine what it was like back then to say “Manson wasn’t born that way, he just had a bad mom”.
Jonathan: Just as Will Graham “Hannibal” used his powerful empathy to understand the killers he sought, I feel like Holden wants to push that same kind of mentality on all that he addresses. He’s not advocating for sympathy but rather empathy so that investigators, detectives, and officers can be more efficient and effective.
Anastacia: I would absolutely agree with this motif of “Circumstances affect behavior”. We are emotionally reactive creatures. Even when we rule with our head. We understand the process of the emotion was felt as well. And we consciously choose to bypass emotional attachment to them. But anything that causes to react firstly fires in the emotional realm of ourselves.
6. Agent Holden is VERY motivated to understand the shift in criminal behavior, despite the lack of support. He approaches his boss who completely rejects the idea and implies, “Psychology is for backroom boys”. Do you feel that’s the direction Holden is headed in? How do you feel that he can’t seem to gain traction in his ideas and thoughts?
Wahiba: The fact that he can’t seem to gain traction at the beginning makes the storyline more interesting. I believe that we’ll see him continue to override his superiors and push past the obstacles that will come his way. I can see Agent Holden in the next episodes being able to fight cases by studying the complex mind.
Kaela: Yes, that’s exactly where he is headed. Part of the idea of the show is that this takes place only a few years after Hoover dies so his ideas are still very much part of the FBI. Holden is taking on this giant machine that has functioned and functioned well for decades.
Alberto: To be honest, even knowing that Holden’s ideas were fundamental to our current understanding of criminal psychology, I stood by his boss’ side. Holden is terrible at actually communicating the ideas he has to other people. And his boss shooting him down is a reflection of that. I didn’t feel bad or frustrated when he got rejected, nor do I think that was the intent, it felt more like… please put someone in the picture that can translate for this guy.
Jonathan: Those who are steadfast in their ways will always fight against change. That being said, I feel like the reason so many try to push away Holden’s approach is because they are afraid of what it could mean. Most people don’t want to try and put themselves in the minds of a killer, especially when coming out of a period that was seen by so many as pure, happy, and safe (the Cold War notwithstanding).
Anastacia: Being the one that treads new ground you will undoubtedly always be met with some level of ignorance, lack of faith—believing in a different way, and of course, fear of the unknown, making most unwilling to forge ahead.
Holden is also in that age bracket where he hadn’t yet been worn down by the hamster’s wheel. He’s fresh. Enthusiastic. Immature (in the terms of being failed by life, in a way that means EVERYTHING to him, just yet) So he’s pretty much a cheerleader for this brand new way of understanding, like teenagers who jump to for social media progress. Holden sees optimism rather than pessimistic views of someone beat down by the job like his boss would have been.
7. The dynamic between Agent Tench and Agent Holden is quite interesting. As of now, Tench doesn’t seem 100% on board with Holden’s criminal psychobabble. What do you think of them as partners? Yay or nay? How do you think their relationship will progress as we dive further into the story?
Wahiba: I would say yay! They both have a somewhat similar understanding of psychology and crimes, but I believe that Holden will eventually bring Tench to his level of thinking. I see a pretty good partner duo where they’ll fight to find out more about the why and not the who.
Kaela: Enjoyed them as partners. There is a wonderful comedic touch to their relationship. It will be interesting to watch how they view and interact with these killers and how Agent Tench’s experience in life will come into play vs Holden’s idealism and openness, and of course, the third member of their team who has yet to be introduced.
Alberto: Finally! Someone that understands Holden and can actually talk with other humans. I think this partnership has started where a lot of other iconic duos begun – especially in buddy cop movies. With a common goal but from very different perspectives. Think Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour. There’s a good chance they will rub on each other and that will allow them to work together. Even with different backgrounds and personalities. This episode also sets some intrigue regarding how each of them will react to different experiences. And this partnership could be the best part about the entire show depending on how it’s handled.
Jonathan: I feel like Tench is somewhat like the very steadfast people he criticizes in that he is trying to do something different but he wants to do it on his own terms. He’s bringing Holden along to teach him, not the other way around. Once he allows himself to learn from Holden, their dynamic will become far more interesting because Tench’s experience mixed with Holden’s hypotheses could very well result in some landmark approaches.
Anastacia: I like that Tench had given Holden an opportunity to work alongside him. Introduced him to the right people. Showing some faith in what Holden would bring to the team. I also appreciate that Tench is a little more rough around the edges. It’s a good balance to reel in and pace Holden a bit more. As anything in life. For one to be taken seriously some level of credibility must be built up.
Final Verdict: Mindhunter promises to deliver a side of psychology, unlike anything the world has seen before.
Many crime dramas have graced the television screen before Mindhunter. However, none have dared to present such a deep insight into the minds of criminals quite like this. The notion that serial killers and the like could be formed or born that way is the underlying foundation of Mindhunter. The premiere episode started to pave a path that helps viewers to understand this idea. What drives these criminals? What sets them off? What happened to them as children? All these questions have set up for what promises to be a brilliant and clever season of Mindhunter.
David Fincher has created a unique drama that incorporates the elements of its facts, the political environment of the 70’s, and the shift in crimes during that time. It’s a brilliantly crafted start to the rollercoaster that lies ahead, and we are ready.