In the first two minutes of Kemper On Kemper: Inside The Mind of a Serial Killer, former FBI Special Agent John Douglas stares straight into the camera and says, “To understand the artist, you must look at the artwork.” And that’s exactly what Oxygen’s new special about serial killer Ed Kemper aims to do.
Douglas and his partner Robert Ressler know a lot about “artists” in the criminal world. The two began the FBI Behavioral Science Unit in 1972, but entered the pop culture zeitgeist last year when fictionalized versions of the agents appeared in Netflix's hit series, Mindhunter. In the show, and in real life, they unraveled the psychology of serial killers like Kemper. Their main goal? To get inside the minds of serial killers, switching law enforcement’s focus to prevention of crimes, instead of just the rehabilitation of criminals. To accomplish that, they had to first understand them, or “look at the artwork.”
Both on the show and in real life, Kemper was known as the “Co-Ed Killer” after he murdered co-ed college women, and even his own mother, in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. In Mindhunter, we learn all about his sadistic crimes and his reasoning for them through interviews with the fictional Douglas, renamed Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as the fictional Ressler.
Kemper On Kemper mirrors Mindhunter’s format in breaking down Kemper’s jarring transition from clever child to ruthless killer. It features never-before-seen interview footage of Kemper matter-of-factly recalling his crimes and the interviews are as chilling as the Hollywood dramatization. The first hour of the special focuses on Kemper’s childhood, the thought process behind his grisly murders, and how he evaded capture by outsmarting law enforcement. It'll be interesting to see if season 2 of Mindhunter will delve further into Kemper’s psychology — and Ford's.
In the Oxygen special, the district attorney, an investigator for the public defender's office, and multiple police officers reveal they all got divorced within five years of the trial. The long-term consequences of working with serial killers wasn't explored on the hit Netflix series, but could easily be a major plot line in season 2. “When I get back to the motel after doing his interview I had problems. I had problems that would begin to carry over, where I had flashbacks of those crime scenes,” Douglas says about his time spent with Kemper. And if that intense Mindhunter finale was any indicator of what nightmarish encounters are on the horizon, Ford better buckle up for some crazy flashbacks.
The sophomore season of Mindhunter is reportedly only eight episodes long, two less than the debut season, and according to the show’s executive producer and director David Fincher, the season could focus on the Atlanta Child Murders. But even with the agents investigating a new crime, there's no way they can leave Kemper out of the story. Even if the serial killer's story takes a back seat in the next chapter of Mindhunter, at least it's front and center in Kemper On Kemper.
Kemper On Kemper: Inside The Mind of a Serial Killer airs Saturday, October 20 at 7 p.m. ET on Oxygen.
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