Mindhunter s02e03 – Episode 3

It’s a little weird to see “Mindhunter” doing race stuff—and this episode does a lot, not just with it turning out Albert Jones’s Black Southern FBI agent gets on better with other Southerners—Black and White—than Jonathan Groff’s preppy White liberal—but also with Groff thinking he’s getting picked up by the beautiful (Black) hotel clerk only to find she’s bringing him to talk to three (Black) mothers of dead children. I’d heard “Mindhunter” was doing the Atlanta Child Murders this season, so I was expecting all of it, but expecting it didn’t make the scenes any less effective. Especially since Jones barely gets any close-ups—David Fincher, directing again (so three hours of “Mindhunter” so far this season; no wonder he hasn’t been directing features?) usually goes with Groff and the interviewee for the two interview scenes. Jones is sitting in with Groff because Holt McCallany is dealing with a murder in his town (and lying to both Groff and Anna Torv about it).

So the ostensible A plot is Groff going to Atlanta to do the interviews, only the obvious soon-to-be A plot is the dead children, McCallany’s the B plot, with Torv going and asking out the lady bartender the decided C plot. Though Torv gets the best music in the episode (The Pretenders), even though here’s a weird cut at the end with the song volume.

Both of the serial killer interviewees are fine, but other than the white one looking so much like Jeremy Irons I kind of hope they CG’ed him young and it really is Jeremy Irons playing a hillbilly serial killer. Nate Corddry is back again—he first appeared last episode—and he’s got a couple good moments. The episode’s definitely not an actors’ showcase, however. McCallany gets less to do this episode than in either of the previous two, Groff gets overshadowed by everyone (it’s fine but it’s a thing), and Torv’s got two and a half scenes. It’s interesting to see Corddry in such a dramatic part—overwhelmed small town detective on a terrible case. It’s nice to see Corddry again.

“Mindhunter” is being real careful with the race stuff—Groff hasn’t quite grokked the reality for the Black people living in the South yet, especially not in the burgeoning Atlanta metropolis (which comes up). I’m just hoping they can handle it all. It’ll be interesting to see how “Mindhunter” scales, as it’s apparently about to go full procedural.


Mindhunter s02e02 – Episode 2

Now this episode feels like “Mindhunter.” It opens with Holt McCallany going to Wichita, with some great “period” Wichita shots, and consulting on the BTK case. There’s a bunch with him and the other cop, a rather nauseating sequence where they walk the crime scene—“Mindhunter,” at its core, is basically just ‘What if “Criminal Minds” didn’t suck,’ after all—and then a great scene where McCallany interviews one of the survivors. David Fincher directs this episode too (he directed the previous one) and he definitely works a little more at the real-life horror and terror aspect of it.

And it’s only an extended teaser basically. A B plot. The A plot has McCallany bringing back the information from Kansas and having a brainstorming session with Jonathan Groff—again, it feels like “Mindhunter” all of a sudden, even with my far from complete recollection of the first season—and it turns out they’re going to need to go talk to David Berkowitz. Even though Anna Torv doesn’t think Berkowitz fits the profile of the serial killers the team is supposed to be interviewing. The first episode of the season had a lot of talk about where the B.S.U. (Behavioral Sciences Unit, you know it from “Criminal Minds,” right?) is going in the future but not a lot of what they would actually be doing as the season unfolds. This episode gives a little bit better of an emphasis on how the unit is actually functioning.

It’s the procedural.

And it’s a great one.

And then comes Oliver Cooper as David Berkowitz.

And then it really feels like “Mindhunter,” because slowly but surely there’s the fantastic interview sequence where Cooper gets to be phenomenal and Groff gets to show off his brains and McCallany gets to think, hey, maybe interviewing these guys is a good idea.

There’s character stuff with Torv and a little with McCallany (and family)—it appears Groff is losing some of his lead stature after last season’s girlfriend debacle (or so I remember it being)—and it’s good, but it’s nothing compared to the Cooper scene.

The episode plays a lot more like the season opener than the actual season opener plays, which isn’t not problematic, but it’s so good it doesn’t really matter. It’s focused. Last episode—same writer, same director—wasn’t anywhere near as focused. It felt perfunctory; this episode feels exploratory.

Mindhunter s02e01 – Episode 1

I forgot what happened at the end of last season of “Mindhunter.” I remembered about three-quarters of the way through this episode, but not everything. It wasn’t until the second-to-last scene there was exposition covering it all.

No wonder writing about TV is a full-time job.

And not just because you either commit season finales to all your shows to memory or have time to rewatch seasons before new ones start but because sometimes you’re going to be writing about something like this episode, which is almost entirely character… work. Not really development, because it’s just about the characters dealing with the fall-out from last season and confronting each other about their shit; there’s some exposition, but certainly not a lot. It’s not like Holt McCallany is ever going to talk a lot. Though he does in this episode, in one of the (relatively) many comic relief moments—directed by David Fincher. Fincher doing comic relief. It’s kind of interesting to see, especially since he’s not doing a procedural with it. This episode is very un-“Mindhunter” (as far as I remember it); there’s no interviewing serial killers, there’s no crime to solve. There’s an update on the recurring serial killer in training guy, but otherwise it’s all about the team recovering from last season.

It takes Jonathan Groff so long to show up in the episode you forget he was the original protagonist. It’s McCallany’s episode, even though it’s not really his show. He’s great. I forgot how great McCallany is in “Mindhunter;” my bad. He gives such a complex performance in this caricature. So good. Groff’s good too, when he shows up, he’s just not as subtle as McCallany. Not with all his activity.

So the show not being a procedural—it’s an FBI bureaucracy episode with McCallany, Groff, and Anna Torv meeting the new supervisor (Michael Cerveris). Cerveris is off to a good start. It’s hard not to remember him being a shit heel on “Good Wife” though. Cotter Smith gets a nice scene too.

By the end, you remember why you love “Mindhunter,” but you don’t feel like you’ve seen a new episode of it. Not exactly. It’s a post-script to the first season, not the start of a new one; concerning given this season only runs nine episodes.

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