R29 Binge Club: Mindhunter Recaps

After months of mystery, Netflix’s big new psychodrama Mindhunter is finally here. As we saw in the buzzy trailer, the David Fincher-directed thriller takes us directly into the minds of serial killers at the exact moment the term was first being explored. Gone are the simple-to-understand crimes of gangsters like John Dillinger and and Machine Gun Kelly — no, not that Machine Gun Kelly — while in their place, are people killing others for much more obscure reasons than fame and fortune; now, people’s dogs are telling them to do it. Think real-life infamous criminals like Charles Manson and the Son Of Sam killer, David Berkowitz.
So, enter special agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), an up-and-coming FBI agent who truly, desperately wants to understand the psychology of these seemingly unknowable killers, and older agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). The pair travel the country teaching local police officers what they know about the new brand of murderers popping up nationwide, while also trying to understand the threat themselves. Eventually, the men will come in contact with more serial killers than they expected, leading to the kind of drama one would expect from a made-for-Netflix-binges series like Mindhunter.
Keep reading for a live recap of Mindhunter’s wild first season, and keep coming back as we update this story throughout the day. As Holden says in the trailer, “You want truffles? You got to get in the dirt with the pigs.” Well, it’s time to dig.
“Episode 1”
It’s 1977 in Braddock, Pennsylvania, and agent Holden Ford has a hostage situation to manage. He arrives on the scene and finds out a seemingly unwell man named Cody Miller (David H. Holmes) has taken five people hostage and is threatening them with a massive shotgun. Cody’s only true demand is he wants to see his wife, whom it's later revealed he had an argument with. Ford doubts whether that would be for the best, since the man is unquestionably in the middle of an episode. We know this because he keeps talking about being “invisible” and proves this by publicly stripping off all of his clothing and going totally full-frontal in front of the police, since he doesn’t think anyone can see him. “I can see you,” Ford tells Miller, whose pants and underwear are around his ankles. “I can see that you’re naked. I can see that you’re cold.” Although Cody fixes his clothing, his crisis only gets worse when he realizes he won't be talking to his wife. As Ford looks on, Miller shoots himself in the head, leaving a gorey mess behind.
And so ends the Mindhunter cold open. After the death in Braddock, Ford returns to his FBI homebase in Fredericksburg, Virginia and is informed by his superior he’ll be teaching young minds full-time about hostage negotiations. Although Ford’s boss claims this is important work, none of the 29-year-old’s students seem that excited. Even Ford himself is more interested in a class taught by a Peter Rathman (Jordan Gelber), who’s talking about the impossible-to-understand murder motives for men like Son Of Sam killer David Berkowitz. “It’s a void,” he says. “It’s a black hole.” That certainly sounds like a possible Mindhunter mission statement if I ever heard one.
After drinks with Peter, Ford becomes a little obsessed with figuring out the psychology of the world’s new crop of killers. He audits a few classes at the University of Virginia about criminal psychology, even though his superior says the study of the human mind is “frowned upon.” Bizarrely, the way he says the subject is for “backroom boys” somehow sounds homophobic, but maybe that’s just the latent prejudice of HBO's The Deuce, which also takes also place in the 1970s, influencing my outlook. When Ford doesn’t exactly get a warm welcome from the academic “hippies” of UVA, he ends up getting a different, more real-world-focused education from fellow FBI employee Bill Tench of the behavioral science department, who runs into the younger man in the Bureau cafeteria. Tench explains he goes on the road and gives classes to local police departments on what the Bureau is teaching these days. Would Ford happen to be more interested in traveling the country from New York to California over, say, getting suspicious looks from long-haired professors on university campuses? Of course he would.
This is how our heroes find themselves in Fairfield, Iowa, among the cornfields. A young single mother and her son have been savagely murdered, because what is a serial killer show without a savagely murdered woman and child? Tench explains to Fairfield officers that means, motive, and opportunity are no longer enough anymore when it comes to figuring out who a criminal suspect could be. Instead, you need to think about “what, why, who.” Then, you’ll catch your bad guy red-handed (the red is probably someone else’s blood, because this is Mindhunter). Ford immediately manages to make some enemies by making a vaguely emotional nature-versus-nature case for Charles Manson, as opposed to totally demonizing the California cult leader. A hardened old detective named Frank McGraw (Thomas Francis Murphy) questions Ford’s presentation, explaining he’s a 22-year LAPD veteran who knew every single person who worked the Manson case. “How many homicides have you worked?” the man snipes. Is there anyone who isn’t immediately suspicious of Ford?
Despite McGraw’s snarky attitude towards Ford, he approaches the young man and Tench about his case, which is about the aforementioned slain sweet single mom, who was named Ada. The details of the murder are horrifying, as it involves Ada being cuffed to her bed, lashed, and rectally violated with a broomstick, possibly all while her son watched. The murderer then killed the boy in the same way. There was blood everywhere and semen on throw cushion in the home. McGraw has absolutely no details about the murder other than the photos, so, Ford concludes without more information, he and Tench can’t help. McGraw, who moved to Iowa just to get away from these kinds of unfathomably dark crimes, is rightly infuriated again. No one likes Ford.
The episode ends with Tench chewing Ford out for making everything so deeply complicated without helping anyone. The final shot of “Episode 1” shows the two men driving through the dark back roads of middle America, with Don McLean crooning “Crying” in the background.
Oh, by the way, there’s a B-plot in here about Ford getting a girlfriend named Debbie (Hannah Gross), who makes him watch movies about gay love stories and transgender women, smoke pot, and listen to women curse in the middle of sex. He is stunningly awkward throughout every single beat and a total fed. At least we now know a trained FBI agent like Ford is unable to tell if a woman is lying about having an orgasm.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“Episode 2”
Holden Ford is the kind of person who says things like, “A killer who can’t stop talking? It’s a gift!” Holden Ford is so ridiculously into his new passion for criminal psychology it’s darkly funny. In fact, three separate moments in “Episode 2” made me laugh out loud, although that may be due to the fact I woke up at 3 a.m. to start watching Mindhunter. The show is apparently so top secret, Netflix couldn’t afford to release a single screener. You’re probably wondering what could happen in a show about truly haunting, woman-hating serial killers that could make someone like me of all people giggle. Of course, each of the moments had to do with the absurdity of agent Ford, and the tone feels very similar to the black comedy splashes of the Fincher-helmed Fight Club, which was my favorite movie throughout my teen years.
Now that we’re thoroughly descending into the truly creepy world of serial killers, it’s time for Ford to talk to one in reality. His first “conversation” partner is Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton, whose resemblance to real-life serial killer Kemper is staggering), also known as the “Coed Killer.” Ed is 6-foot-9 and about 300 pounds, or, as local California police put it, “super king-sized.” Ford decides he’s going to try to bring his FBI-issued handgun into his first interview with the giant of a man, which is a terrible idea. Actually, seeing a highly intelligent, manipulative, and dangerous man like Ed in the first place is an awful idea. But, good old Ford will not listen to reason. So, his facial reaction when a corrections officers lays out the possible real-life consequences for meeting with Ed — which are possible murder, assault, general abuse, or being dragged into a hostage situation — is actually priceless. The next humorous moment arrives when Ed, an imprisoned man who speaks to almost no one all day, drags Ford’s intelligence, asking him, “You can spell oeuvre, can't you?" The shade is mitigated however, by the appalling, true fact the “oeuvre” Ed was originally referring to was his history of brutally murdering women and raping their corpses, his own mother included.
Finally, rounding out the pitch-black humor of “Episode 2,” is the scene where Ford and Tench’s boss Shepard reams the pair out for secretly meeting with an infamous “sequence killer,” as Ford says in this installment, like Ed and angering the Sacramento, California, district attorney. Why is Ford so good at making people all across America angry? “What’s next, Charles Manson? When’s he booked for?!” Shepard (Cotter Smith) rhetorically screams at Tench, who’s defending Ford. The younger agent, however, can’t keep his mouth shut and peeks into the door, saying without a hint of irony, “We were thinking June…” Read the room, Holden, read the room! Ford’s reveal is so absurd, all Shepard can do is throw his own arms up in the air.
“I like you,” the FBI head honcho tells Tench after gaining his composure. “I don’t particularly like him, but I like you,” I’m fairly certain no one likes Ford, so Shepard is not alone. Ford’s own girlfriend Debbie isn’t even all that pleased with his oral sex skills. Again, Debbie barely gets any real attention this episode. All we learn about the graduate student, other than her pointed critiques of Ford’s head-giving techniques, is she has a mother who still lives in Detroit, Michigan, and is very judgmental of how men speak about their own mothers. Considering how serial killer Ed talks about his own mother, Debbie’s Mom is correct to use such a shrewd test. At least Ford claims he likes his mom and really enjoys talking to her. Yet, I expect something more darkly complicated is going on behind Ford’s “momma’s boy” smile, because nothing can be so benignly simple in a thriller like Mindhunter. Is she dead?
The Debbie storyline gets the general shaft because “Episode 2” is squarely dedicated to sending heroes Ford and Tench towards solidifying the FBI’s behavioral science unit. Ford’s first meeting with Ed Kemper reveals there’s a pathology with serial killers, a yet-to-be-used title, that’s not in line with the category of “lust killings.” Rather, Ed sees his crimes as a “vocation,” and is disturbingly self-aware about his string of murders. The apparent “conditioning” he shows hints it’s possible to see a pattern with murderers like Ed, which we now know, four decades later, is true. Ed believes there could be at least 35 people like him in America right now, and Ford theorizes whomever nearly beat an elderly Sacramento woman within an inch of her life, and killed her dog, might be one of those people. So, after laying all of this out for their boss Shepard, Ford and Tench are forced to move their new secret operation of researching criminal psychology into the basement. At least they can officially dedicate a fifth of their workweek to their new goal of outsmarting criminals by talking to criminals.
As the Talking Heads sing in the close of “Episode 2,” are Ford and Tench now Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better? Let’s hope so, because the cold open gives us our first glimpse at a Kansas man (Sonny Valicenti) who’s really, really obsessed with rules and seems like he’s going to end up murdering people in a way that will give me nightmares. All signs point to the mystery guy being Mindhunter’s version of the BTK Killer, Dennis Rader, who hails from The Wheat State, wore the exact glasses this creepy man wears, and was an ADT employee. The credits currently only refer to the man as “ADT Serviceman.” For the record, “BTK” stand for “Bind torture kill,” which was Rader's M.O.
P.S. As a 13-year Supernatural fan, the Brothers Winchester have conditioned me to absolutely love watching two polar-opposite men travel the United States in a vintage car while staying in different no-name motels. So, to me, that travel montage was perfect. And it hinted Tench probably has a wife! And she’s fed up with the fact he’s never home.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix
“Episode 3”
By the end of “Episode 3,” an impressed police officer tells Ford he’s a modern day Sherlock Holmes, and Tench is his Mr. Watson. This is definitely true, provided at some point in A Study In Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes lit up with pure joy after learning an old woman was murdered, only to yell, "It's elementary, my dear Watson, WE ARE VINDICATED." I assume I missed that part of the novel, but I’m sure it happened. As usual, Ford is way too excited about the kind of macabre themes that should give him far greater pause. Again, what is his relationship with his mother really like?
While we don’t get any more of an explanation on that huge looming question, we do meet another woman, Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). So that brings the count of Mindhunter’s speaking roles for women up to three: Debbie, Wendy, and FBI boss Shepard’s secretary, who is surely allowed to mumble things to the important men walking past her desk. New addition Wendy is a social sciences professor in Boston, Massachusetts who has known Tench for years. Currently, she’s working on a book detailing the supposed psychopathy of captains of industries. Yet, she believes the serial killed Ford and Tench — Forch? — are studying aren’t so different from these wealthy white-collar criminals. The only difference between the two groups is their “different leanings.” Speaking of books, Wendy believes Forch could be on to a true “Eureka!”-worthy idea by studying serial killers and should consider writing a book about their findings. The doctor thinks their insights could have “far-reaching value” for not only law enforcement, as Forch believes, but also everything from disciplines like behavioral science to criminology.
Ford is, as expected, extremely excited by this news, going to so far as to write out “B-O-O-K” out in his notes. Tench, ever the apprehensive one, immediately shoots down the prospect, reminding Dr. Carr the Forch operation is so secretive it was banished to the basement by their boss. It’s not like they can do around publicizing their investigation to the entire world. He also claims they don’t have the time for such a heavy project because of “Road School.” Wendy makes this face and points out someone else could pick up that work. Tench doesn’t agree, even as Ford starts prattling on about his book dreams.
After stopping by Wendy’s office, they try to see a convict named Benjamin Miller, but he declines the visit. Soon enough, it’s clear Tench is warming up to the idea of making their study a little more intense as he marks a gigantic map with the locations of the other murderers he and Ford would like to visit sometime soon. Tench gets further pulled into Ford’s obsession when the pair received a phone call from Sacramento, learning another old woman was attacked in the exact same way the elderly lady from “Episode 2” was. Yet, this time, the brutal beating was deadly, and her dog was “eviscerated.” Another hint the killer is getting more intense with his “sequence” slayings: this time, the dog was even bigger.
When Ford gets to Sacramento, Detective Roy Carver (Peter Murnik) drops a few details that suggest this murder is similar to the Kemper killings. The person clearly wanted to humiliate and dominate his victims, is possibly choosing women who remind him of his mother, is physically mature, socially-slash-emotionally immature, and probably still lives with his mom. Like Kemper, one man, Dwight Taylor (Tobias Segal), also likes talking to cops and asked what “happened” to the latest victim once police arrived at the crime scene. Ford and Tench give each other knowing looks, recognizing they probably found their suspect.
The hunch turns out to be correct, and Dwight eventually confesses to the crime after Ford, Tench, and Carver all question the 30-year-old during a smoke break outside of home. It seems his rampage was set off when his mother, who already humiliates her son on the regular, like Kemper’s mom allegedly did, met a new boyfriend and immediately allowed the man to move into the Taylor's already-cramped home. This is why Carver toasts Ford, calling him a regular Sherlock in a truly earnest way. After saving the day in Sacramento, Ford visits Kemper again, and there is absolutely nothing the slightest bit humorous about this meeting, unlike the drags of “Episode 2.” It’s all so disturbing toward women, I’ll just skip the details. With these experiences in mind, Tench agrees to at least consider expanding their research and inviting Doctor Carr to Virginia to strategize.
When it comes to Debbie Watch, the student gets two scenes. One where she essentially stares at a slightly manic Ford, who is ironing clothing in the middle of the night, and one scene where she talks to Ford while he’s in the shower. He tries to go down on her once again and swears he’s “very kinky.” The amount of menace in his voice reminds me something is probably very wrong with him. And, everyone please remember we haven’t seen Debbie — who just so happens to be from the exact city where Ford spent his formative FBI years — speak to a single living person other than the agent. Is she real? I’m not sure. Like I said, David Fincher did direct Fight Club.
Either way, Ford have bigger problems to worry about than whether Debbie is a figment or not, as the BTK killer is creepily haunting around another Kansas city in the “Episode 3” cold open.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“Episode 4”
It’s official, Debbie is real. It’s insinuated she’s able to pick Ford and Tench up after a car accident, but, we never actually see her do it. That very purposeful choice lingers in contrast with the first appearance of Tench’s own wife, Nancy (Stacey Roca), only two scenes later. So, that’s one mark in the Figment Debbie column. Yet, by installment’s end, Debbie and Dr. Carr, who is now officially part of the team, shake hands over drinks like two mutually corporeal women. As is par for the course when it comes to Ford’s graduate student girlfriend, this is the only scene she’s allowed to be in. But, at least, the moment passes the Bechdel test, as professor Wendy and academic Debbie chat about sociology for a little while.
But, before Ford is completely led out of his intellectual depths with Debbie and Wendy, he has a lot of murder-tinged psychology research to do. First we meet Monte Ralph Rissell (Sam Strike), who is a deeply, deeply unsettling character. Monte is a serial murderer and rapist who has no remorse for his acts of fatal brutalizing five women. He killed some of his victims through blunt force trauma and drowning, others with stabbing.
It’s chilling to hear Monte describe what led him to carry out the his murders and subsequently pour over each and every detail of the initial killing. It’s clear director Asif Kapadia wants viewers to feel uncomfortable, considering how he has actor Strike nearly stare into the camera with a blank expression while retelling such a horrific story. We get more of Monte’s tale later in “Episode 4” after Ford and Tench bring him a bribe in the form of a Big Red soda six pack. That’s when it becomes clear Monte pities himself and hates his mother in the same way both Kemper and Dwight Taylor do.
The other major through line of “Episode 4” is the Altoona, Pennsylvania, investigation into the murder of Beverly Jean Shaw, an engaged 22-year-old babysitter. Beverly Jean’s body was meticulously placed in the local dump four days after her murder. Her breasts were amputated post-mortem, as was her scalp, including her long blonde hair. The scalp was placed on top of an ironing board in the dump, along with her body. It’s unclear where her killer was holding the corpse before putting it at the dump. The Altoona detective investigating the case, Mark Ocasek (Alex Morf), is rightly freaked out, and near tears, about the disturbing nature of the murder, since it happened in his tiny town. “I go to church with these people,” Ocasek says. He’s convinced the perp has to be a “drifter,” but, thanks to his level of assurance, I have a feeling the inevitable reveal of the budding serial killer’s identity will hit much closer to home. I already feel badly for Ocasek, even though his upcoming trauma is nothing compared to the mutilated, late Beverly Jean.
While Ford momentarily suspects local welder Alvin Moran (Hamilton Clancy) could be the murderer, that seems unlikely. Despite the level of suspicion around the older man — from his questionable explanation as to why he found Beverly Jean’s body to the fact she rejected his advances on multiple occasions — his alibi is airtight, as his wife Ruth Moran (Amelia Campbell) confirms. Ruth knows her husband acted inappropriately towards Beverly, but, the married woman swears, Alvin was at home with her the entire night the young woman disappeared.
While Monte and Beverly Jean are the two big cases of “Episode 4,” we also get a little bit more information on Bill Tench, which is sorely needed. After he nearly kills Ford in a car accident, where Tench didn’t see an oncoming vehicle, he finally opens up to his pseudo-partner, technical underling, Ford. The Tench family adopted a baby boy three years ago, Brian (Zachary Scott Ross), and he’s now 6. It’s tearing Bill up inside that his son has the ability to speak, but will not. Although the agent is at a loss for an explanation, it does sound like the little boy simply has an undiagnosed disorder of some kind. Unfortunately, Mindhunter still has 40 years catch up with our current medical understandings. Throughout recent episodes it may have seemed like Nancy may have left Bill due to his constant travel, the actual tension is coming from their issues over their son. Yet, even with the difficulties, Tench still loves his wife very much.
The episode ends with FBI boss Shepard revealing he’s shored up nearly $400,000 in grant money for Ford, Tench, and Carr’s research. While Shepard is annoyed academic Carr was blabbing to her peers about an investigation she shouldn’t even technically know about, this just might be good news for everyone involved. The reason no one is smiling about the huge cash influx? A whole lot of oversight is on the horizon, and even Congress just might care about what this trio learns
(Suspected) BTK Killer Watch: Dennis continues to be creepy in Kansas. This time, he’s returned to Wichita to silently creep around a woman’s home… as an invited ADT rep. The still unconfirmed-BTK-killer is so quiet the homeowner didn’t even know Dennis was still in there with her doing a consultation. And, Dennis still really loved rules.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“Episode 5”
As I have raved to at least one person on Slack so far, “Episode 5” is Mindhunter’s best episode yet. That is mostly due to the fact the thriller finally zeroes in on one specific, distressing case, as opposed to many disparate serial killer-related threads. That case is the Beverly Jean Shaw mutilation murder case from “Episode 4,” which gets more obscure as Ford and Tench delve deeper into the investigation with their local, tender-hearted collaborator, detective Ocasek.
Ford and Tench spend nearly the entire episode in Altoona, save for two scenes in their home base of Virginia, both which only serve to remind us Wendy Carr and Debbie exist. For the record, Ford is becoming increasingly interested in Wendy, whom Tench said two episodes ago his partner is crushing on, and increasingly judgmental toward Debbie. It’s definitely not his business how many people his girlfriend slept with before him. You'll notice Debbie never asks Ford the same prying question.
Now that we’ve went over the full six minutes of screen time Mindhunter's women were allowed to split, it’s time to get into the death of Beverly Jean Shaw. Ocasek called her “fiancée” Benjamin Barnwright (Joseph Cross) ahead of time to notify the grieving young man of law enforcement’s imminent arrival at his doorstep — they go to the same church after all. Ford and Tench find Benji unsettlingly emotional, as he offers them donuts — “half glazed, half cake” — and openly weeps over Beverly Jean’s death. Forch finds the display unseemly and runs out of the home as quickly as they can once the male waterworks begin. They’re not sure if Benji was crying because he was overcome by his fiancé’s murder or because it got the police to dash out of his house within seconds. During a short conversation with Dr. Carr, Ford decides it’s the latter, since Benji “didn’t seem vulnerable,” amid all the tears.
It’s eventually revealed Benjamin’s brother-in-law Frank Janderman (Jesse C. Boyd) went to a mental hospital as a teen after he hit a young woman in the face with a wrench. He denies the assault was on purpose, but the bruises later seen on his wife, and Benji’s sister, Rose Barnwright-Janderman (Jackie Renee Robinson) suggest there’s more to this story. Although Frank may have a violent streak, he doesn’t seem to have the twisted pathology of the show’s previous serial killers.
Benji, on the other hand, does. It sounds like he was a loner in high school, admitting he did “nothing” over the four years, doesn’t exactly have any friends now, and projected his sexual fantasies onto Beverly Jean, who may not have actually been his true fiancé. As Frank says, the couple didn’t choose a wedding date, and, as Rose admits, Benji thought the object of his affection was “giving him the runaround.” Benjamin also suffered through a traumatic childhood, as his father abandoned the family when the possible murderer was just 10 years old. The most interesting visual tidbit during the Forch investigation in Altoona is when Ford mirrors Rose’s behavior during their interview to trick her into saying more. It’s a subtle call-back to Debbie’s explanation of how women get men to open up to them.
By the close of the installment, we do get a little bit of an explanation as to what happened to poor Beverly Jean. Her killer wasn’t a drifter, as Tench figures out in the middle of “Episode 5.” Rose, desperate to protect her newborn baby son, comes clean to police about the fateful night her supposed sister-in-law-to-be vanished. She and Frank didn’t spend the night in with Hannah’s Diner takeout, which Mr. Janderman only left the house for 20 minutes to pick up. No, Benji called the Janderman home to beg Frank to come over. The new dad disappeared for nearly three hours, and then called Rose, asking her to come over, too, even though she was eight months pregnant. He also demanded she bring cleaning supplies.
By the time Rose got to her brother’s house, she had forgotten the cleaning supplies. When she entered, Frank told his wife not to get upset and revealed “something bad had happened,” Benji had gotten “mad” at Beverly Jean and “hit her.” Then Rose went to the upstairs bathroom to check on her brother. There she found Benjamin sobbing and Beverly Jean, dead, covered in blood, and pantiless in the tub. Frank and Benjamin then wrapped Beverly Jean’s body in a tarp. The men rolled up the body of a human woman like an old newspaper and “drove [her] off.” Rose stayed behind to clean up the gore in the bathroom because “that’s just what [she’s] always done.”
Although Benji is now in police custody, it’s unclear if he or Frank actually murdered Beverly Jean, or mutilated her dead body, since Rose doesn’t know either.
(Suspected) BTK Killer Watch: The cold open shows Dennis wearing leather gloves, which don’t leave fingerprints, while dropping off a letter. It’s possible this is a nod to the real letter the BTK Killer sent police describing one of his 1970s crimes.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“Episode 6”
So, previous episode “5” still ranks as Mindhunter season 1’s most thrilling installment yet, but, “Episode 6,” is the drama’s most fulfilling. While viewers first met Dr. Carr in “Episode 3,” we’ve barely learned anything about her. Yes, she’s usually the smartest person in the room, takes things far more seriously than anyone else, and has known Tench for years, that’s really all we've been told. That is, until now.
In “6,” we see Shepard finally offer Carr a full-time position at Quantico, which is more than deserved. The research with Ford and Tench is starting to get major buzz around the Bureau, and he needs her to manage it in a more serious, permanent fashion. Although Carr says she doesn't have a husband or kids back in Boston she refuses the offer (Shepard tells her to “sleep on it,” echoing his “Episode 1” announcement that Ford should accept the fact he’s becoming a full-time instructor).
Later in the installment we see why Carr isn’t ready to pack her bags and leave Boston behind: her older girlfriend Annalise Stillman (Lena Olin). While it’s not specifically stated, it seems most likely Annalise is a tenured professor at whatever university Carr teaches at. Annalise tries to urge her partner to turn down the exciting opportunity by essentially mocking the FBI. But, Annalise literally holds on too tight to Carr during dinner, practically squeezing her hand off while speechifying about performative lives. Carr doesn’t feel supported by her girlfriend, and leaves dinner, and then Boston as a whole. By the close of the episode, the researcher is “organizing her space” in Ford's basement FBI office, and renting an apartment month-to-month.
Wendy Carr isn’t the only Mindhunter woman whose character gets a little shading this time around. At last we get to hear Tench’s wife Nancy’s voice, and she’s a genuine, honest delight. She laughs with Debbie — who’s just reacting the world around her, obviously — and shares her honest feelings about motherhood. It’s touchingly raw to hear Nancy admit she questions whether she’s giving her son Brian, who has yet to speak at age 6, even though he has the capabilities, the best home. It’s even nice to watch Nancy get in a subtle dig at Tench, reminding him it’s possible to have a relationship where both halves of the couple really talk to each other. As Kevin Hart once said, all double dates are actually just competitions.
As much as I would have loved for this episode to have been Ladies Hour, there was also a ton of disturbing murder investigating going on. With Benjamin and Frank both in jail, Carr realizes Rose also has a hand in Beverly Jean’s death, as the new mom said the late woman’s blood was “splashing” not “splashed.” That means she saw either her brother or husband slash at Beverly Jean, creating blood splatter in real time. As anyone who’s taken Forensics 101 could tell you, blood can't splatter after death, since one’s heart is no longer pumping the red stuff through their body.
According to Carr’s “intelligent, accurate analysis” this is what really happened: Benji hit Beverly Jean, knocking her out, then he tied her up and called the Jandermans. When Frank arrived, he took advantage of the situation and raped Beverly Jean after coveting her for ages. Benji doesn’t stop the rape because he wants Beverly Jean to be humiliated, and seemingly punished, for making him feel impotent. To keep his rape of Beverly Jean a secret, Frank starts convincing Benji his girlfriend is a “slut,” pushing him to stab her multiple times. After Rose shows up to clean up the bathroom, she realizes “the poor girl” isn’t dead. So, someone in the group stabs her again, ensuring she’s really gone. Then the brothers-in-law drove off from Benji’s house and left her body at the dump. But, Benji later returned to mutilate the body because “he couldn’t let go.” We later find out Benji also kept Beverly Jean’s breasts and buried them in his backyard.
Despite Carr’s rock-solid explanation, the Altoona district attorney only prosecutes Benjamin to the full extent of the law, while both Rose and (the extremely violent, dangerous) Frank get softer plea deals. Ford, Tench, and Carr are all angered by the news, but decide this semi-loss will just drive them to create research the judicial system can seriously use and understand. That means using a questionnaire over the FBI agents’ free-wheeling guts.
Well, they’re going to need a system in place before speaking with Jerome Brudos, another real-life serial killer, who is obsessed with keeping souvenirs from his victims, including plaster-cast amputated breasts, which were used as paperweights before his capture.
(Suspected) BTK Killer Watch: Dennis is practicing intricate knot tying as he sits in the living room with the people we’re meant to assume are his wife (Katherine Banks) and baby. A shoelace has never seemed scarier.
“Episode 7”
The cracks are beginning to show for Team Ford & Carr. This makes a lot of sense since Mindhunter is officially entering the home stretch with “Episode 7.” While a lot of the action centers around serial killer Jerome Brudos (Happy Anderson), this installment is truly a study of character decay and growth for our three principal leads. So, let’s check in with everyone beat by beat.
Dr. Wendy Carr
The official academic is having the best go of it out of all of her serial killer-steeped colleagues. That’s probably because Carr gets to stay in the office and listen to the tapes of known murderers, while Ford and Tench are looking these men in the eye and trying to get into their heads in real time. As Tench said in an earlier episode, “It’s like standing next to a black hole.” So, since she's surrounded by all of this darkness, Carr is trying to put some light into the world. While doing laundry, she hears a kitten’s meow. She goes upstairs, picks up her leftover tuna fish, and leaves it at the windowsill for the tiny animal. Though the kitten doesn’t approach her kind offering, Carr goes back upstairs simply happy to help. She’s equally happy the next morning when she comes back downstairs to see the cat ate the snack sometime after she left. So, Carr does it all over again that night.
Yet, everything isn’t peachy keen for Dr. Carr. When she hears Tench’s interview with Brudos, she becomes rightfully hostile, because what was meant to be an academic study actually turned into the investigator prosecuting the serial killer for his perceived sexual “deviancy.” Yet there’s nothing inherently dangerous or disturbing about men dressing “women’s” clothes, since it’s all just self-expression. The reason for Carr’s anger can be traced back to her conversation with Annalise in “Episode 6,” where the woman swears Carr's FBI colleagues will never accept her as a gay woman. Tench attacking someone for bucking sexual norms only reinforces Carr’s fear Annalise was right.
Bill Tench
Tench isn't having a good couple of days either. He recognizes working with serial killers is getting to him, especially one like Brudos, who plays games, lies, and cut up women in truly unspeakable, haunting ways. The FBI agent can’t even handle letting a man like Brudos say his wife’s name. Yes, it’s likely Tench’s behaviors make a masculine soldier like Tench uncomfortable, but Brudos is also a nebulous black hole onto himself. We can all agree the serial murderer masturbating in front of Fronch without warning is appalling.
Bill’s problems don’t end with work, as his wife Nancy wants to send their son Brian, who can speak, but won’t speak, to an expensive-for-the-late-’70s “hippie” music teacher Tench clearly doesn’t trust. The agent tells Nancy could also send their son to an actual doctor, since he got a good recommendation about a month ago. In a moment of true honesty, Tench admits, “I was hoping it wouldn’t go this far.” Yet, it did, and now he and Nancy have to deal with it.
To make matters worse, Bill and Nancy’s babysitter found one of the Bureau employee’s crime scene photos under Brian’s bed. That means the little boy also saw the frightening, bloody photo, which is from the “Episode 1” Ada Jeffries case. Nancy is originally angry about the fact Bill brought such graphic photos into their home and can’t connect to their son. When Bill finally breaks and shows Nancy just how dark his work is, she stops being so upset and holds her husband. This entire ordeal helps Tench to realize the knots binding Ada in the offending images are a nautical style, despite the fact Fairfield is landlocked.
Holden Ford
Ford is clearly the member of the group who thinks he’s handling this entire bizarre, soul-crushing situation the best, but is actually unknowingly doing the worst. He’s getting comfortable telling serial killers his most personal shames, like the time his mom caught him masturbating. It’s highly likely Ford hasn’t even told Debbie something as private as that. Plus, Ford is legitimately worried about whether his OG serial killer conversation partner Ed Kemper actually called him an “idiot.” This is troubling.
The agent fully cracks during a romantic evening with Debbie, who celebrates the fact exams are done by cooking Ford dinner. Once Ford is done complimenting his girlfriend’s culinary skills, they move things to the bedroom and Debbie pauses the action to slip into something a little more comfortable. She returns in some sexy black lingerie, complete with fishnet thigh high stockings and… Jerome Brudos’ favorite shoes. Oh no. Ford tries to pretend he’s into everything Debbie is doing, since she’s clearly trying so hard, but he can’t stop thinking about the heels. The same heels that turned a serial killer on so much, he masturbated about three yards away from Ford. Instead of explaining any of this to Debbie, Ford eventually tosses her off of him and blames her for his sexual misfiring, saying, “This? It’s just not you.”
“Yeah, Holden. That’s the point,” Debbie sighs, storming out of the room. Can we all agree these two should maybe take a break?
(Suspected) BTK Killer Watch: In this episode’s cold open, Dennis has laid out all types of murder paraphernalia, from Latex gloves and duct tape to a gun and a large parka jacket, which would theoretically cover one’s body from blood splatter. During the real-life Rader’s 2005 testimony for his serial killings, most of these items came up.
“Episode 8”
I’m going to predict now this is the closest Mindhunter season 1 will come to a bottle episode. Even though “Episode 8” isn’t confined to one space, like a traditional bottle episode in the vein of Mad Men’s “The Suitcase,” it is mainly confined to one specific storyline. The installment begins with what we assume is a traditional BTK Killer-starring cold open, but the first moments after the chilling credits prove the Netflix psychodrama tricked us. The man underlining and circling the traits we traditionally associate with serial killers — deviancy, pyromania, interest in hurting animals, etc. — isn’t Dennis Rader in the midst of a grisly personality quiz. Instead, it’s a local elementary school principal, Roger Wade (Marc Kudisch), circling the words he doubts his students will understand.
The reason Roger is confronted with a list that would definitely give children nightmares is because Ford is about to speak to elementary school aged-children about how to spot a future serial killer. Principal Wade rightly thinks the word “mutilation” should be left out of any conversation with kids younger than 10. Thankfully Ford obliges and gives a great, child-friendly speech. While it seems like everything is going well, a teacher named Janet Ebner (Suzanne Hevner) pulls Ford aside to talk to him about “disturbing” behavior she’s personally noted around school. Unfortunately the culprit in her eyes is Roger, who has a policy of tickling his student’s feet and then giving them “pocket change” for it. Most people can agree that could be deemed inappropriate contact between an administrator and student, especially if the parents request the behavior stops, no matter Roger’s innocent intent.
However, Roger refuses to stop, even telling one flabbergasted parent who asked their son is never tickled again, “My covenant is with your son, not you.” Ford interviews essentially every single person he can, but can’t come to a solid conclusion on whether Roger’s behavior could escalate to an unquestionably dangerous or inappropriate level beyond feet tickling (which, for some is already far too invasive). Although multiple people tell Ford to fall back, he can’t stop worrying he’s not allowing his research to reach its full potential if he doesn’t use it to protect these little kids from a possible predator.
The concern makes sense since Roger refuses to even consider ending the tickling, leading Ford to believe he’s masking an actual compulsion as a choice. However, Roger counters during a screaming match that the FBI agent is projecting his deepest fears from the research onto him. We’ll never know the truth since Roger admits nothing, and, if he is displaying a low-level version of the kind of pathology in line with Ed Kemper’s, the principal would be highly skilled at hiding his compulsion. Unless the administrator actually commits a crime, Ford will only have his serial killer-stained theories to go off of. This reality is why his vague hint Roger deserves to be straight-up fired by the school board, rather than required to stop all tickling in perpetuity, is so unfortunate. If Roger is simply stubborn, not a predator, he is now out of a job and a 401k.
But, there is a reason Ford makes such a reckless decision, mere hours after his colleagues Tench and Carr asked him to run all future wild choices by them first: Debbie broke his heart. As we’ve seen over the last few episodes, Debbie can’t seem to humor her federal agent boyfriend anymore after his weird judgments about her sex life before him and his seemingly-weird (but unknowingly justified due to trauma) judgments about her shoe choices when it comes to seduction. She even starts sarcastically calling him “dad” thanks to all of his pestering. By “Episode 8” she asks her college friend Patrick (Joshua Wills) to drive her home, leaving Ford waiting up on her stoop with a six-pack of beer. On a subsequent evening, Debbie tries to casually mention Patrick is also her partner for a class project. Ford, a not-so-low-key jealous type, is immediately suspicious of his girlfriend’s buddy friendship.
Ford tries to be a good boyfriend and shows up to Debbie’s artsy experience, where people are forced to interact in the dark, where no one can see them and therefore they aren’t forced to perform a persona. When the door to the room opens, flooding the space with light, he catches a glimpse of Patrick and Debbie standing hips-to-hips against a table as the college guy’s hands rest on Debbie’s stomach. Ford bolts out of the room at a near-comic book superhero speed. The next day, clearly feeling like he has nothing left to lose, Ford insinuates prior a school board meeting firing Roger wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Amid all of this Roger Wade drama, Ford does take a quick trip out to Oregon to chat with Brudos, who is much more talkative this time around. The serial killer keeps up his innocence act, claiming an unknown man actually committed all of his crimes. Through this evasion, Brudos and Ford are able to talk about the logic behind murderer’s crimes without the killer feeling guilt or putting parole at jeopardy. If you dodge all of the more chilling, graphic details, Brudos essentially wanted his victims to be “quiet” so he could play with them like dolls. Notably, Tench didn’t go on this trip, apparently realizing after “Episode 7” the job is starting to get to him.
The team also hired Greg Smith (Joe Tuttle), whose dad is friends with Shepard. Greg is a total narc.
(Suspected) BTK Killer Watch: As we said, there is no glimpse of Dennis’ latest activities in the cold open, which usually belonged to the infamous serial killer. Instead, it’s a Mindhunter bait and switch.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
New hed: R29 Binge Club: Mindhunter Season 1 Recap
“Episode 9”
If I’m being honest, I would like this recap to simply be five words: Gregg is a total narc. Guys, I know I was hard on Ford at the beginning of Mindhunter — we can all agree he gets far too excited about the darkest of dark murders — but at least he’s not a coward like Gregg. Freakin’ Gregg. The behavioral science unit newbie had go and blow up the entire team’s well-planned cover-up moments after they settled on keeping the honestly-disgusting Richard Speck interview tape a secret until the grave. Ford was right about Gregg not having the stomach for the BSU. To understand why I’m currently railing against Gregg, as opposed to the quickly emotionally devolving Ford, we need to go to the very start of “Episode 9.”
At the top of the installment, Ford and Tench are back on the road again, which is my favorite version of Mindhunter. They’re in Joliet, Illinois, to visit aforementioned infamous serial killer Richard Speck (Jack Erdie) who raped, tortured, and killed eight women in one night in 1966. Ford is kind of awed by the idea of meeting the murderer and even brought along all of his Speck-related murder clippings, which must be at least 11 years old during the time of “Episode 9.” The special agent jokingly asks Tench if he thinks Richard will give him his autograph. Although, if the serial killer did offer Ford his John Hancock, I doubt he would turn it down.
Now, let’s all recognize Richard’s prison looks like a gothic castle. It’s kind of sight to behold from the outside and a living hell on the inside, save for the very cool, very weird spinning bird cage-like entrance into the building. Ford and Tench’s meeting is similarly all over the place. Originally Richard is cagey, but then, once Ford stalks speaking like a disgusting pig as a way to the murderer feel comfortable, he opens up. Yet, the entire interview becomes garbage once again as soon as Ford starts asking the difficult questions, like whether Richard tried to commit suicide after he murdered his victim. The killer is so dedicated to his badass persona, he claims he got his apparent self-harm scars from someone else in a bar fight.
In a last-ditch effort to prove he’s no coward, Richard tosses the bird he carefully nursed back to health with an eyedropper into a fan. He tosses a bird into a fan, spraying feathers everywhere. It is a ghastly scene and Forch flee the building immediately. Tench rightly points out to Ford how repugnant he sounded at the start of the interview and recommends he makes the “eight ripe cunts” portion of the chat disappear. Again, it’s impossible to say spending all of his time thinking about serial killers hasn’t broken something inside of Ford. But, I don’t think he hates women. Instead, it feels like he has absolutely no Truth North on his moral compass anymore when it comes to getting these killers to give him the information he wants. If only Vice President killing, small child threatening Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and Ford weren’t separated by decades and networks. They would probably have so much to talk about.
Although it seems like the entire Richard Speck fiasco has been quashed, it rears its ugly head once more when the serial killer files a civil rights complaint against Forch, naming Ford specifically for “fucking with his head.” This could hypothetically be a bigger problem, but Ford already had Gregg transcribe the terrible parts of his Speck tape as an “inaudible” tape malfunction. When the “boys” go in for their meeting with Office Of Professional Responsibility, everyone lies accordingly and presents the appropriate materials to make everyone look like an angel. Gregg is a part of this group and doesn’t question Ford at any point. At no point does he even share his misgivings, until after the meeting is over and he’s completely lied to OPR about accidentally destroying the Speck tape. Ford didn’t even tell him to say that part; no, Gregg made up that detail himself. Yet, the moment the BSU men leave their meeting, Gregg is complaining about sweating through his shirt, like he didn’t enter this cover-up pact with clear eyes and a full heart of lies.
The only problem is, when Ford, Tench, and Gregg get back to the basement office, Wendy Carr has already found the incriminating tape, listened to it, and asked everyone’s boss Shepard to check it out too. After some debate, everyone agrees to leave the cover-up as is and forget about the whole mess. Shepard is annoyed but, agreeable. As usual, Gregg goes along with the plan and then comes back when no one is around to send the tape to OPR.
If Gregg wants to be a warrior for truth, he should just be up front about it, rather than go behind everyone’s backs. Now, he just seems like a coward. Especially, since this is the same thing he pulled with Roger Wade in “Episode 8.” Gregg was the one who urged Ford to confront the principal about his actions, since they’re “the fucking FBI.” Then, when Ford did what Gregg suggested, the narc went and tattled to Shepard about Ford’s supposed bad behavior. Afterward, Gregg didn’t cop to his backstabbing and simply slid out of the room, silently ashamed.
Speaking of Roger Wade, the aftermath of Ford’s choice to intimate the tickle-happy principal should be fired arrives. Roger’s wife shows up at Ford’s building and tells him off. Mrs. Wade (Enid Graham) is correct in saying Ford shouldn’t be indiscriminately ruining people’s careers. But it’s confusing she doesn’t recognize her husband shouldn’t be tickling children against their parents direct wishes. That is inappropriate. Still, Mrs. Wade's big hallway speech couldn’t have come at a worse time for career-ruiner Ford, since Debbie overhears it. The couple gets back together in “Episode 9,” but now their love doesn’t seem long for this world.
And, the final piece of the “Episode 9” puzzle is from Adairsville, Georgia, where a 12-year-old majorette was raped and murdered. Going into “Episode 10,” it looks like we’ll find out the identity of Mindhunter’s latest revolting new serial killer fairly quickly.
(Suspected) BTK Killer Watch: Dennis has made his way to Park City, Kansas, where he’s clearly broken into a stranger’s home through the kitchen door. As I suspected, he’s wearing the parka and Latex gloves — along with a previously unnoticed hairnet — to keep from leaving too much identifying human DNA or fingerprints behind. Although Dennis has something murderous in mind, it seems evident the family isn’t coming home any time soon. So he throws a small fit, very politely washes the glass he was using, fixes the kitchen towel, and leaves.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“Episode 10”
I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but Jonathan Groff looks like Glenn Howerton’s handsome little brother. While watching Groff’s Ford fall further and further into his own ego as a hotshot special agent throughout Mindhunter season 1, it was really difficult for me not see flashes of Howerton’s shining portrait of a self-obsessed monster, It’s Always Sunny In PhiladelphiaI’s Dennis Reynolds. Yet, by the time “Episode 10” rolls round, Ford is no longer showing flashes of Dennis’ worst impulses. Instead, he is a monster to rival Dennis, although the agent’s basic goals are far more altruistic than anyone in the Philadelphia gang’s ever could be. While the success goes to Ford’s head, perverting his lofty goals of justice, at bottom, he just wants to put away violent criminals.
This is why the Mindhunter finale returns to Adairsville, as the suspect for the murder of 12-year-old girl Lisa Dawn Porter is about to walk. Ford and Tench can’t stand for such a thing and fly to the Georgia city in an attempt to save the day. Ford gets way too involved in staging the interview room and decides to fill the interview room with all the items Lisa Dawn was wearing during the final moments of her life. He even has an officer buy a fake baton and make it look old to really sell the entire schtick.
Although all of those theatrics are already extreme enough for a federal officer, Ford takes it a step further by having an extremely inappropriate conversation with suspect Gene Devier (Adam William Zastrow). As with many things Mindhunter, the conversation is too creepy to detail, but let’s just say it sounds like Ford is momentarily obsessed with the anatomy of young girls.
After all that disturbing chatter from Ford, Devier feels comfortable enough to start admitting to being attracted to Lisa Dawn, a child. This fact doesn't let Ford off the hook for peddling hauntingly creepy small talk to get a conviction. Ford stoops so low, he quotes serial killer Ed Kemper during his interview. “You got to make it with that young pussy before it turns into Mom,” he tells a smiling Devier. Ed told Ford the same thing in “Episode 2,” swapping out “before” for “real quick.” Following all of this quoting of corpse rapists, Ford unveils the murder weapon used to bludgeon Lisa Dawn, and Devier confesses.
Carr is less than happy about the news, since the BSU is dragged into the news article about the arrest. This leads to the moment the academic researcher seems to cut ties with Ford, since news the press hurts the group’s chance of talking to more serial killers in their investigation. Tench is also increasingly concerned about Ford’s “attitude” since he seems far too excited about the media attention and puts the BSU in an uncomfortable situation. All of this comes to a head when the Office For Professional Responsibility officially gets that tape Gregg The Coward sent them.
Gregg is still the worst because he doesn’t admit to being the tattletale, even when Ford and Tench point the finger at Carr. While Gregg is a coward, Ford continues trashing around in his own eggo, telling off the OPR and calling them feeble for trying to censure him. Then he storms out, whispering, “The only mistake I made was ever doubting myself.” It stands to reason Ford’s FBI career could be coming to an end. The agent’s sanity may be as well, as he closes the season flailing around on the floor of a prison hospital after visiting his biggest fan, Ed Kemper.
Ed made Ford his medical proxy and then attempted suicide. It’s all but said the serial killer tried to take his own life as a cry for attention from his FBI “friend,” who was ignoring the murderer’s many letters. The pair then have a heart-to-heart about the research, and Ed says even more unsettling things about the women he murdered. Finally, Ed hops out of bed and towers over Ford. It’s the physical manifestation of how in over his head the agent got while trying to become a self-described “expert” in serial killers’ psychology. When Ed goes to hug Ford I jumped, as does the lead Mastermind character. After accepting the gesture for a moment, admitting he has “no idea” why he’s in Vacaville once again, he realizes how bizarre all of this is and runs out of the room. Unfortunately, his body is overwhelmed with all the stress of the day and he falls to the floor, seemingly having a panic attack. As Ford swears he’s dying right then and there, he hears all of the advice he got from superiors, loved ones, and Ed warning him of this inevitability, which originally fell on deaf ears.
Oh, and Ford and Debbie broke up. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
(Suspected) BTK Killer Watch: Dennis doesn’t get the cold open spot. Instead, he appears in the final scene of Mindhunters season 1, tossing extremely unsettling drawings of bound, scantily-clad women into a literal garbage fire.
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