Saturday, August 17, 2019

REVIEW: 'Mindhunter' - The BSU Gets a New Boss Who Sees the Brilliance and Dysfunction of Holden's Ideas in 'Episode 1'

Netflix's Mindhunter - Episode 2.01 "Episode 1"

Amid sweeping changes at the BSU, Holden deals with severe repercussions from his close encounter with Ed Kemper.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Netflix's Mindhunter.

"Episode 1" was directed by David Fincher with story by Doug Jung, Joshua Donen & Courtenay Miles and teleplay by Courtenay Miles

The first season of Mindhunter concluded with the future of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit in limbo. The work that Holden, Bill and Wendy did together was now under an OPR investigation. Holden's belief in the importance of this work allowed him to cobble together these resources to have a small team interview convicted serial killers. And yet, his actions also jeopardized the entire unit. Him asking for an official record to be tampered with was him crossing a moral line. This unit would not have a future if the FBI saw its leaders as acting unprofessionally. But the second season opens with all of these concerns mostly going away. It does so by bringing in a new guy to be in charge of the BSU. Ted Gunn is much more supportive and responsive to the work that this unit has been doing. It means that Shepard is forced out as the scapegoat needed to complete the OPR investigation. That may come across as some necessary narrative trimming because Shepard wasn't always the most engaging character. He was just the authority figure who didn't always understand the work the team in the basement was doing. He lacked the vision to see this as the start of a crucial division within the FBI. Ted has that vision though. In fact, he sees it as being something wholly unique to Holden. Right now, he questions if it's a skill that can be controlled and even taught to other agents. He sees the value in this work but also knows that it needs to show more results in order for the leaders of the FBI to approve even more money and resources. Of course, Ted is offering a huge upgrade for the unit by relocating their offices out of the basement and giving them a full staff that can make this operation run much more effectively. But that's the bureaucratic pressure that has long loomed over this new idea of profiling killers. Shepard blames Holden's recklessness for pushing him out of a job he had for 25 years. He doesn't want to hear platitudes from him. All of this just also happens at a time in which Holden is suffering from a panic disorder. It's not just a singular panic attack following his solo interaction with Ed Kemper. It's something that keeps happening while he is in the hospital. It happens again when he has that confrontation with Shepard outside his retirement party. Bill and Wendy know that they have to keep a close eye on Holden. Ted knows that as well. He sees Holden as the man who can make or break this research. Holden has to be completely committed to it while still playing within the rules. The rest of the team is willing and able to cross moral lines if they are all at least honest with each other. They also have to sort out the drama of who sent the tapes anonymously to OPR in the first place. It didn't take much effort to deduce that it was Gregg. That may alienate him a little bit. But Bill and Holden still have work to do to mend their relationships with Wendy. She is the one analyzing which killers to interview in jail and which can provide the most crucial insight for their data. Meanwhile, Holden is interested in finally getting to talk to Charles Manson. That's his white whale. That's what he wants to accomplish even though the cult leader may stand out from the rest of the profile this team is trying to build together. This is overall a solid premiere that wipes the slate clean for the second season. It brings the BSU back together and lays out the priorities very clearly. Ted needs to see more results and gives the resources to the team to do just that. Now, they have to go out and actually prove how their science of profiling can be applied to open cases. That should create a much more intense season of television even though there is still plenty of tension to be gleaned from a fraught conversation between two people. This show understands that better than so many in this current media landscape.