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The Clues You Didn't Realize Mindhunter Was Giving You The Whole Time
Mindhunter is a show that rewards repeat watchings. Things you may not have noticed the first time around take on an eerie prescience when you watch it again, and details suddenly feel a bit sharper.
Let's take the show's opening sequence. Interspersed with close-ups of the tape recorder being operated are subliminal images of a body. The images flash on the screen too quickly for you to make them out, but we were able to track down a montage of all the creepy images. What clues does it potentially offer us? Well, it does tell us that the gruesome murders themselves aren't the focus of the story. They're the background noise in Ford's quest to understand what makes the murderers tick.
The show's soundtrack is another huge clue. Or rather, it's a series of clues that make themselves known once you listen to each song within the context of each episode. The songs that play at the end credits don't just give us something to rock out to when the episode ends (or a few precious seconds to grab another slice of pizza before the next episode starts), they also give us a glimpse into the psyche of the character that we see as the credits roll.
For example, "Psycho Killer" by the Talking Heads, plays as Detectives Bill Trench (Holt McCallany) and Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) descend into their new basement office for the first time in episode 2. Before they become entrenched in the stories of the serial killers, they see themselves as do-gooders, as fighters for justice and understanding. It's a song that has almost an optimistic, almost victorious feel, which echoes their belief that their research is important. Only later will Tench and Ford succumb to the pressures of their job.
Here, we've rounded up all the jams that close out each episode of Mindhunter. Before you hit the "next episode" button, listen to each song as the show fades out. Put on the subtitles so you can read the lyrics. You'll find that the clues have been right in front of you the whole time.
As Tench and Ford quibble in the car over FBI regulations, Don McLean's voice plays over the radio. Tench angrily asks Ford if he has a girlfriend, and Ford replies that he does. Huge foreshadowing moment here: "Crying" is a sad, sorrowful breakup song, and mirrors what will happen with Ford and Debbie later in the season. It's no accident that this song was playing while Ford is talking about her.
Episode 2: Talking Heads, "Psycho Killer"
This song rules, OK? And that's exactly the vibe that the show was going for here: Tench and Ford feeling like the big men on campus with their own office. Except instead of varsity football players, they're FBI agents who've just been given free reign to talk to serial killers for research. We can't think of a better way for this episode to end than to play "Psycho Killer."
Episode 3: David Bowie, "Right"
Here's another badass moment: Carr, Ford, and Tench are feeling on top of the world as she joins their research project. "Right" is about knowing your path, and walking that path. The three literally walk that righteous path as they exit Quantico as a newly-formed cohesive unit.
Episode 4: Klaatu, "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft"
One of the stranger songs in the soundtrack plays at the end of episode 4. Ford, Carr, and Tench are informed by Shepard that, much to their surprise, they've been awarded a lot of grant money to continue their research.
The episode fades out with this celebratory jam, mirroring their excitement at receiving funds. "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" is a song about humans who are begging for aliens to visit Earth, so they can learn from the new form of intelligent life. Clearly, Ford and Tench view the serial killers as instructive lessons.
Episode 6: The Boomtown Rats, " I Don't Like Mondays"
Carr moves to Quantico to continue the research project. She's being shown an apartment while the piano part of "I Don't Like Mondays" kicks in. It's a song about beginning the grind of a work week. As thrilled as Carr is begin the project in earnest, she's also wary about giving up her professorship and leaving her partner.
Episode 7: Exile, "I Want To Kiss You All Over"
Debbie and Ford are trying to get it on, when he begins by having a moment of sexual impotence. He feels unable to connect with Debbie sexually, because his mind is clouded with the gruesome murders that he deals with at work. This song, a rambunctious sex jam, is about how Ford wishes he could interact with Debbie. Instead, he rejects her advances and leaves her humiliated.
Episode 9: The Alan Parsons Project, "I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You"
Smith rats on his team by mailing the recording of Ford's, uh, questionable interview with Speck to the oversight board. This song is about someone who looks down on someone else and views them as unfit. It's easy to see how this mirrors Smith's psyche. He is determined to not fall into the mind of criminal, unlike how he perceives his peers.
Episode 10: Led Zeppelin, "In The Light"
As the BTK Killer burns his drawing of mutilated bodies into a fire, "In The Light" by Led Zeppelin plays. It's an odd choice, but it makes sense: it's very much a closing song, it signals an end. We'll miss Mindhunter, but knowing that a new season is on the horizon makes this ending feel less bittersweet. Something tells us we'll see the BTK Killer again.
Mindhunter Music Symbolism Episodes Closing Songs Clues