Television Man | by Aidan Morgan
“I’m waiting for my Television Man / 26 very small televisions in my hand” —Velvet Underground, “Waiting for My Television Man”
Spoilers for Season Two of Mindhunter follow.
With 1999’s The Sopranos, television entered that era known either as the Golden Age of Television or just the Age of the Antihero, when morally murky characters enraptured viewers by selling drugs or murdering prostitutes or whatever it is difficult men did to win our hearts in that decade. With the second season of Mindhunter (Netflix), I think we’ve entered a whole new age of the antihero — except now it’s their basic competence we’re meant to question.
Great Minds Hunt Alike
Mindhunter builds on series producer/director David Fincher’s bottomless fascination with serial killers (Se7en, Zodiac, Gone Girl, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Alien 3). Based on the 1995 memoir by John Douglas, the series traces the rise of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit. Agents BuildTrench Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Hodor Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) interview serial killers, solve murders and battle institutional prejudice. Psychologist Wendy Carrie Coon (Anna Torv) makes up the third tine of this mindhunting trident. Together they skewer the dark psyches of serial killers until they bleed insights.
The first season presents a familiar take on TV detectives: they’re driven and competent professionals who store their trauma at home, with predictable results. Do they identify a little too much with the murderers they interview? Maybe, but it’s all in the service of defeating evil. When Ford, too empathetic and instinct-driven, succumbs to a panic attack at the climax of season one, we’re forced to wonder if the toll of combating killers is too much for our heroes.
In season two, the show asks a different question: are these jokers even qualified to combat evil?
Hunting In Mind Fields
Sit back and relax as Ford bungles his way through the Atlanta Child Murders, stepping on every racial, political and bureaucratic landmine he can possibly find along the way! Gobble popcorn as Tench half-asses both the case and his home life, to the detriment of both! Rage at the patriarchy as Carr — possibly the team’s only competent member — is sidelined by a sexist director (Michael Cerveris) midway through the season! Mindhunter’s real enemy turns out not to be serial killers — it’s every sleepy bureaucrat and craven politician, every overlooked clue and hastily drawn conclusion. And it’s the detectives who find themselves out of their depth on all sides, desperately looking for answers in a world dead set on withholding them.
Meanwhile, the season is haunted by Dennis Rader, a.k.a. the BTK killer. Rader wasn’t caught until 2005, so it’s unlikely our heroes will be catching this bad guy any time soon.
Fincher has plans for five seasons, so get ready for decades of hardened FBI agents royally screwing things up.