If Holden Ford, Bill Tench, and Wendy Carr were to form their own superhero team, they’d probably just call themselves “The Mindhunters.” It’s a catchy moniker, and then more you think about it, this trio really is a group of superheroes tracking down bad guys and trying to stop them from doing more horrible things.
Way back when there wasn’t such a thing as psychological profiling which makes Netflix’s Mindhunter (now in season two) — a series that examines the early days of the Behavioural Science Unit in the FBI — wildly impressive. Watching this group be able to get their operation off the ground, and secure funding for it, is nothing less than a major feat. And sure, the show is fictionalised but it’s very much based on true events and dotted with real-life people, both criminal and non-criminal. Season one of Mindhunter, which premiered in the autumn of 2017, became a sleeper hit and most certainly was at the forefront in this (somewhat concerning) boom when it comes to our fascination with serial killers. The show itself is kind of like the people it’s depicting.
Season one revolved around Ford (Jonathan Groff), Tench (Holt McCallany), and Carr (Anna Torv) starting this unit and working together, through good and bad, to make sure their research and findings are heard and accepted. It also doesn’t hurt that Ford and Tench assist in capturing a few criminals as they travel around the country teaching FBI techniques to local law enforcement while also interviewing already incarcerated mass murderers.
The first season of Mindhunter ends on a sour note for everyone as it’s revealed that Ford has omitted some details of a recording and an OPA (Office of Public Affairs) inquiry into the group is launched. Instead of sitting through the questioning, Ford storms out of the room and gets on a plane to go meet with convicted killer Ed Kemper (a.k.a. the co-ed killer). After a hug from Ed, Ford has an intense panic attack and that’s where the season ends.
While it was rumoured that the series was jumping a few years into the future, that’s not the case. Season two picks up a few days after Ford’s panic attack as things really fall apart before they come back together for our Mindhunters.
Bill Tench is working 65 hours this week, but his wife Nancy is still insisting he put on a good face for a cookout she’s throwing. She’s trying to get in good with another couple in the area, and also has real estate aspirations and is using this cookout as a network time. Tench just wants to use it for some peace and quiet. After some pushing from Nancy, Tench eventually starts talking to some of the other parents there and it isn’t long before he’s being asked questions about his job. Even back in the 1970s, people were fascinated with the idea of serial killers.
At Quantico the next day, Tench is called before Chief Shepard (Cotter Smith) and upon entering his office finds moving boxes. Tench point-blank asks if he should be packing too, but Shepard is quick to reassure him that no, he’s just retiring. Shepard takes him over to meet with their new Chief, Ted Gunn (Michael Cerveris). The guy is soft spoken and excited about what the Behavioural Sciences Unit can do, and is eager to talk to Tench about everything (he’s already been listening to some of their audio recordings).
But, Gunn’s also got to address Holden Ford’s misstep at the end of season 1. Ford instructed for some information to be omitted from a transcript that new agent Gregg Smith did. Eventually, the real transcript was revealed and an inquiry into the BSU was called and the team ended up in hot water with the Office of Public Affairs (OPA). Gunn is able to look past all of that and make it go away — as long as Tench looks after Ford. He asks the same thing of Dr. Wendy Carr, too. They can keep doing what they’re doing, but these two have to essentially babysit Ford.
Speaking of Ford, he’s in the hospital. Season two picks up a mere days after Ford’s panic attack after Kemper hugged him, and he’s still there for observation. He’s also still experiencing panic episodes and is tied down to the bed for his own safety. With no one else to turn to (remember, he and Debbie broke up at the end of season 1), he calls Tench to come and retrieve him. Yeah, Ford definitely needs a babysitter. His doctors advise him to try and stay out of stressful situations, and okay, sure. He’s only talking to serial killers for a living.
When he finally returns to work, Ford’s first stop is to meet Gunn, who is incredibly welcoming to the agent who has just repeatedly, and majorly, messed up. Ford also takes full responsibility for the missing dialogue in the audiotape, and once again, Gunn says it’s water under the bridge. He’s looking to move forward and asks Ford what he wants. That’s an easy answer: Charles Manson.
Ford is thrilled to share the good news with Tench and Carr (and also Smith), but Carr has her reservations about Manson. They’re studying serial killers and Manson never technically killed anyone himself. It’s still a big get for the team, but before they can celebrate Ford wants to clear the air: Who actually revealed the unaltered audio? Eventually, Smith confesses to being the one who sent it to OPA which makes everyone on the team trust him a little bit less. Before they really have time to pile on him Gunn arrives in their basement office and informs them he’s moving the team to a brand new office space where they can spread out and expand their team.
At a black-tie event to celebrate Shepard's retirement, Tench gives a very short and sweet speech about how much he’ll miss the former Chief and presents him with a new fishing spinning reel (yes, I looked that term up). As soon as he’s done, Ford gets up to give a speech and gets maybe 10 words into it before Shepard leaves the room. Ford, foolishly, goes chasing after him, promising that he meant everything he said in there.
And that’s where Shepard lays into Ford. No, he’s not willingly going into retirement. He’s being forced out for taking the fall for Ford’s OPA investigation and he’s furious about it, calling Ford some horrible (and funny) names. Remember when Ford’s doctors told him to stay out of “stressful situations”? This is definitely one of them, and Ford almost immediately has a panic attack.
Meanwhile in Kansas…
Oh, did you think the creepy ADT man (possibly BTK Killer) was going away for this season? Nope. He’s still here, and his vignette actually opens up the episode.
A woman returns home to a weird thumping noise in her house. After setting down her groceries, she goes to investigate and finds our unnamed ADT man essentially choking himself in the bathroom in order to masturbate. He’s also wearing a terrifying clown-like mask. This woman is so freaked out she goes running out of the house leaving everything behind. It’s hard to figure out what their relationship is, but just so you don’t have to google it yourself: Yes, this is the ADT man’s wife, because the BTK killer really had a wife during his murders.
Heading off on a solo mission to Kansas, Tench meets with agents there about the BTK killer. Yeah, we’ve been watching short snippets of this man for the past season, and his first confirmed kill was in 1974, so it was only a matter of time before the unnamed ADT man and the Behavioural Sciences Unit collided.
Tench asks to see the house where the Otero family was killed, which was the BTK killer’s first confirmed murder. Even though we’re now in the year 1977, the house still hasn’t found new owners because people are so scared to move in there. Four people were killed inside, after all. There aren’t any new clues or leads in the investigation into the killer, but Tench asks to talk to Kevin Bright. His sister was also murdered in 1974 by the BTK killer and he’s the only witness to all of these killings.
To meet, Kevin has a few conditions, like no one can look him in the face (because he was shot in the face by the BTK killer), and they have to meet somewhere secret, which in this case is a deserted parking garage. Tench’s conversation with Kevin is difficult to watch and beautifully shot with Kevin merely a shadow behind the looming FBI agent. Also now’s a great time to just talk about McCallany's voice and how it’s so soothing and I wish he would read children’s books to me? Even though he’s asking Kevin some difficult questions (you know, like what was it like to know your sister was being murdered in the next room), Tench is so calm and respectful and manages to get a few new tidbits out of the brother.
It’s time for Ford and Tench’s first killer interview (pun intended) and it’s with the Son of Sam, a.k.a. David Berkowitz. Berkowitz killed six people and wounded seven between 1976 and 1977 before he was finally captured. He claimed that he was possessed by demons and his neighbour’s dog needed blood. Yes, really. He tells this same story to Ford and Tench, with Tench taking the lead on the interrogation. However, Ford soon quickly jumps in with his own questions which gets Berkowitz to open up and finally drop his act.
No, he wasn’t really possessed. No, no one was telling him to kill others for a blood sacrifice. No, he wasn’t hearing voices in his head. According to the story, he tells Ford, he simply saw The Exorcist in cinemas and started reading up on demons. Even though he’s now suffering from panic attacks, Ford’s still got it.
The episode ends on a sour note as a local detective shows up at the Tench house. A dead body was just discovered in the house that Nancy is currently showing (and her first house listing) and she’s pretty distraught about it. Tench reminds her that this kind of thing could happen anywhere.
Meanwhile in Kansas…
The ADT man is in the dog house, figuratively. He’s sitting on the couch watching TV as his wife (confirmed: It’s his wife), brings him pillows and blankets because he’s got to sleep on the couch for a while after what she witnessed. She also drops two books into his lap, but we only see one of them. It’s about sexual behaviour and deviances.
Nancy is absolutely distraught about the dead body in the house she’s selling, and asks Tench go to over and take her name and phone number off the for sale sign. He reluctantly agrees (and calls to tell Holden that he won’t be joining him on their trip to Atlanta).
At the house, Tench is invited inside to take a look at the crime scene because the detective there is completely stumped. As he tells Tench, a child was reported missing and one of the police officers happened to notice that the back door of this abandoned house was open. This led them to investigate and inside, down in the basement, and they found the missing child.
The child was, apparently, tied to a cross and killed, and the detective asks if it might have been some sort of sacrifice. Tench doesn’t think so, because there would have been more candles. The police have no leads, and nothing to go on, and later the community demands answers at the local church. And not that I quickly did a quick search for missing children in the area around this time, but it appears as if this is a new crime, not one based on actual events. But, who knows, this is Mindhunter after all.
Down in Atlanta, Ford meets up with Agent Jim Barney (Albert Jones), who we learn Tench wanted to hire for Smith’s position. Ford’s down here to interview real-life criminals William “Junior” Pierce and William Henry Hance, but it’s easier said than done. Ford’s intellectual approach to criminals does not work on these two simpletons, and Barney steps in to assist with the interrogation (and coax Junior into talking with sweet treats). Barney’s like a second version of Ford, and the way he can talk to and connect to these prisoners and yes, it slowly becomes clear that Ford is upset they hired Smith instead.
That night when Ford checks into the hotel, the girl at the front desk, Tanya (Sierra McClain), takes an instant liking to him. She follows him up to the room, saying she’s just a call away if he needs anything, and moments after she’s left, Tanya’s back knocking on the door. Ford had mentioned he’s hungry, and she’s off in an hour. What about if they grab dinner?
Ford thinks he’s going to get lucky and what is possibly the funniest montage of Mindhunter plays out as he quickly showers and freshens up to meet Tanya for their date. She promises to take him to the best place in Atlanta, and instead, they show up at a closed diner. Ford is immediately suspicious, but he’s going along with it.
Inside, Tanya takes him over to meet three mothers who each have a photo album with them. While they tell Ford to eat his food before it’s cold, it’s not long until they launch into the real reason he’s there: Their children are missing and no one seems to care about it, because they are Black.
For those not up to date with mass killings of the 1970s, this is the beginning of the Atlanta Child Murders, where dozens of young black children went missing and were later discovered dead. Two of these mothers know that their children are gone, while one’s still missing. They’ve called the police again and again, but no one’s actually looking into what’s happening and how to stop it. When Tanya realised that Ford was someone who dealt with multiple murders, she realised he might be able to help.
Ford is obviously incredibly sympathetic as he listens to the mothers tell their story, and promises to look into it for them. He’s given an album of information the mothers have collected on their own since it’s clear the police aren’t doing it. Ford brings this up to Barney and, yeah, he’s heard of the murders and tells him that the police department is nervous every time the phone rings in case it’s one of the mothers demanding answers.
Barney takes Ford to meet with a semi-retired detective in Atlanta to shed some light on the child murders, and while he’s insightful he’s not really that helpful. He tells Ford that roughly 10 children are killed in Atlanta every year, so this isn’t exactly abnormal. He, unfortunately, tells Ford that if they were to look for a pattern here more children would need to be killed before they find any sort of connection. He relays this information to Tanya, who’s a hot second away from calling bullshit on him. Though he’s helping, Ford’s just another cog in this machine and he won’t be able to do anything about these murders either. He promises to keep looking into it once he’s back at Quantico, but Tanya isn’t hearing it. She storms away as Ford leaves for the airport.
You’re probably wondering what Carr is up to since she doesn’t have a ton of screen time so far. That’s a shame because if you have Anna Torv in your show you should use her in every scene.
Well, Carr, if you remember, is a closeted lesbian and her girlfriend back in Boston during season 1 advised her against letting her sexuality be known. It’s clear that Carr has broken up with her girlfriend because a bartender has caught her eye. After enjoying a wonderful candle-lit bubble bath, Carr decides to head to the bar where she talks to this woman, Kay (Lauren Glazier). Carr asks if there’s any place nearby the two of them could go, to which Kay asks if she’s looking for a tour guide or a date. Carr replies, “date,” and now we’re all excited to see where this goes.
Meanwhile in Kansas…
Mr. ADT man is sitting in the library drawing sketches of women in bondage. One of the librarians comes over to tell him that the library is closing soon, so he packs up his drawings and goes.
More episodes to come.
Mindhunter is available on Netflix now