Showrunner: David Fincher
This show is as if David Fincher had a YouTube channel, people spammed ‘1 0 H O U R L O N G Z O D I A C V I D E O’ in the comments, and he finally relented. I would have been one of those comments, as I have been craving his particular brand of police procedural for a long time. I have been exposed to a long list of police procedurals, all of varying quality, due to my mother’s macabre obsession with all things serial killer. A general interest in this topic isn’t as “odd” a thing as people make it out to be. Take a group of adults, give them some beers, discuss interests, and more often than not you will get a group-wide confession of, ‘I stumbled across Ted Bundy’s Wikipedia page and now I know the gruesome details of at least fifty serial killers.’ You can turn on any TV, and either SVU or Criminal Minds will inevitably be on some channel, somewhere.
Should the police procedural be relegated to, ‘Eh, I’ll watch it when it’s on,’ territory? One of the few genres that still has a slew of episodic content (although the likes of Making a Murderer and Broadchurch have peppered some serialised tales into the mix), it seems like pretty much everything has been done before. We’ve had authors, stage magicians, mathematicians, zombies, and fake psychics all solving murders-of-the-week, and I am sure Midsomer Murders has exhausted every possible avenue for a television murder script. My mother can solve a TV murder in ten minutes. Put on a show, let them set up the crime scene, and she can point at a witness and say, ‘He did it,’ before scrolling through her Facebook feed and half-watching. These shows were no longer intriguing, engaging mysteries—just mindless entertainment. Thankfully, Fincher has saved us once again.
The question of Mindhunter isn’t “whodunnit”, but “whydunnit”. Set in the 1970s, the show follows FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathon Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), as they interview serial killers across the United States, laying the foundations for the beginning of criminal psychology as an area of study. The majority of the show is just conversations, getting to the bottom of why these killers do what they do, and how this knowledge can assist the FBI in locking more of them away. This series acts as a dissertation on the police procedural, not as a procedural in itself. While based on real, historical figures, the show never flashes ‘Based on a true story’ in your face. We are supposed to consume this series like any other, and we are supposed to put in the research on our own to figure out the veritability of the show’s content.
And the content itself should not be as engaging as it is. The majority of the screentime is spent on two characters discussing ethics, morality, psychology, and criminology. Most serial killers we see are ones that are already in jail, and the procedural format takes a backseat to the more philosophical discussions. When beginning to watch the show, I had my phone in hand, ready to flick between browsing on a smaller screen to viewing on the larger one. Within the first five minutes, my phone was down, and I was thoroughly engaged. This intrigue lies in phenomenal dialogue and captivating performances. Jonathon Groff, mostly known as a Broadway actor, does exceptionally well in front of the camera. He’s not your usual “autistic detective”, but a man so fascinated and excited by the implications of his research that it rubs off on the viewers. Every single character in the series is incredibly realistic—a perfect example of when a script and cast work in perfect harmony.
I had pretty much sworn off any modern foray into the police procedural genre, and now I find myself researching any true crime stories I can possibly find. To be honest, I was supposed to write this review yesterday, but I just had to find out more about ‘The Top 10 Most Dastardly Australian Serial Killers’. This show has not just entertained me for an hour at a time, but instead has peaked my interest far beyond that. I want to know more about the topic, to write editorials on the topic (not a promise, but a perhaps). It reminded me why I had spent the majority of my teenage years sharing these shows with my mother—like when she unknowingly paved my way to a future in film by showing me Se7en at age 14. Netflix has produced a series that has saved an entire genre. Watch it, and you will be reading true crime magazine for months.