Sunday, August 18, 2019

REVIEW: 'Mindhunter' - Bill and Holden Get to Interview Charles Manson but Leave with Unexpected Conclusions in 'Episode 5'

Netflix's Mindhunter - Episode 2.05 "Episode 5"

Bill's devastating family situation spills over during his interview with Holden's holy-grail subject: Charles Manson. Wendy's new romance heats up.

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 next episode of Netflix's Mindhunter.

"Episode 5" was directed by Andrew Dominik with story by Pamela Cederquist and teleplay by Pamela Cederquist & Liz Hannah

People so often want to be entertained by a great story. They need some explanation that they can rationalize in order to understand why things turned out the way they did. The BSU agents are trying to understand the psychology of serial killers in order to catch more of them while they are still active. The end goal is to save lives. And yet, people just want to know what it was like to sit in a room with Charles Manson. So much of the pre-season coverage was devoted to Damon Herriman's forthcoming appearance as Manson after he also played the infamous cult leader in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The two separate narratives depict Manson at different times in his life though - which is probably what allowed Herriman to still be attracted to the role enough to play him twice. But it's also just as important to focus on the overall story being told. Yes, the Manson interview that Bill and Holden conduct is significant. It's just one piece of the overall story though. Over time, the team realizes that Manson aspires to project strength and control no matter what. He thrives off the perception of being the leader whose every move needs to be noted and acknowledged. He sees that as his version of reality. He didn't tell people to go off and commit murders. He just eliminated the fear of what would possibly happen to them afterwards. He wanted to present as a messiah who could offer a new way of life. He preyed on the vulnerable. He made people from loving families feel as if they were all alone and he could offer them the salvation they were looking for. Now, the members of his family could all have had the ability to kill at some time. He just allowed that impulse to fester and be set free onto the world. That's absolutely terrifying and proves that he is just as guilty as the people who actually created those brutal crimes. But again, it's all about the story being told and humanity's need to be in control of it at all times. When Holden walks out of that interview, he wonders if the District Attorney inflated the story in order to present Manson as a monster who needed to be locked up for encouraging these thoughts from his followers. It's not until he interviews Tex Watson - who actually committed the murders - that he understands exactly how Manson operates. All of that context is key. It's so crucial to conduct these interviews and glean all of the insights possible. But Wendy is right to note that these narrations of events are unreliable. It's people with nothing left to loose telling their stories. They may do so honestly. They may do so in order to protect their own selfish interests. Or they may do it in order to get the satisfaction that they used to get in the outside world once more. Ed Kemper posits that it's a compulsion that must be serviced from time to time. Otherwise, it simply grows worse and worse until the individual can no longer take it. He too understands that Manson gets all the attention at this prison. All of the inmates know when Manson is doing something because everyone is so fascinated by his particular story. Holden even seems like a fan at some points. Bill is the one who gets riled up though. His life remains in turmoil. There are no legal consequences for Brian but the family has to go through a family services investigation to determine whether or not this remains a healthy home environment. In that instance, Bill and Nancy do their best to present the most loving and wholesome picture of what their family is. It doesn't matter that Bill is late to their first meeting with the therapist. Bill can still charm him with details about spending the morning with Charles Manson in California. That's a tool that he can use to his advantage. He knows when he can just charm someone in order to win them over. It's the same thing he has to do at the party Ted Gunn invites the BSU agents to. It's all just a show. It's a fantasy that isn't real. It's not the work this team hopes to do. Nor are the people listening to their stories actually walking away with the understanding that this is important work. Bill, Holden and Wendy aren't seen as agents on the precipice of a new era for criminal profiling. They are just the people with enticing stories. They have each other. That support is meaningful. Bill does confide to Wendy what's been going on at home. He wants her discretion but he also just needs to let someone in. That's meaningful. That's more important than a good story. The same also applies to Holden returning home and getting the message that there is yet another victim in Atlanta. That has to mean something. It should force everyone into action because it's such a widespread case. A predator is on the loose. And yet, the system is failing these victims because this is a world in which it's hard to care about a story about black children. That's absolutely crushing because it is such a profound story that people should be invested in as much as everything else being discussed at that party.