Mindhunter Web Series Review: Incredible mindbender

Nov 02, 2017, 08:31 IST | Mayank Shekhar

'Mindhunter'
Psychological drama
Created by: Joe Penhall
Director: David Fincher, Asif Kapadia and others
Cast: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv
Rating: 

There's a copy of Jon Ronson's book The Psychopath Test, resting on my bedside for months (little later on why that's the case), which essentially intends to argue, through evidences and quirky journalism, that people at the top-most echelons of power - regardless of their profession - are inherently psychopaths. By this, what the author means/claims is that while the top leaders are able to mimic human emotions even better than others, especially in public, what they intrinsically lack is human empathy - even deaths can be a matter of headcount for them.

A still from Mindhunter
A still from Mindhunter

You only have to watch Netflix's devastatingly brilliant House Of Cards - a series that's been sadly discontinued for reasons wholly external to the show itself - to confirm how Johnson's theory could play out in realpolitik. It's also an argument about socio/psychopaths that the expert criminal psychologist (Anna Torv) makes in Mindhunter, although the 10-part Netflix series chiefly deals with studying white, male, sexual deviants.

The project, spearheaded by two agents - Holden Ford, Bill Tench (Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany; powerhouse performers, both) - in the 'behavioral science unit' of the FBI, concentrates on getting into the minds of convicted “sequence killers”, motives of whose lunatic crimes/actions cannot be obviously ascertained.

Mindhunter is based on a true story, from a book of the same name. It is primarily set in Quantico in the late 1970s - although tone and mood wise, it bears no relation to Priyanka Chopra's thriller, named after FBI's Viriginia-based training centre. This is also, at every level, a buddy-cop series - but that would be limiting the scope of its drama. As would be to consider it an extreme true-crime type series, along the lines of say Dexter, True Detective, and so many others, that inevitably fire up the Internet.

How can I put it better but to describe this as the goriest possible show - wholly centred on “serial killers” (the term was incidentally coined by the protagonists, during the course of their research) - with hardly a drop of blood on screen. It is, at the same time, possibly the politest, crime-based talkie, ever! Mindhunters craftily flits between long interviews held with Ford-Tench's subjects behind bars, and solving immediate cases (like any other crime-procedural) that the two agents are able to get a better sense of, through insights developed as a result of their  journalistic/psychoanalytical study. At the core of it is essentially Freud, who many have considered a fraud for long, only to prefer psychologists - Jung, Adler, etc. - who are clubbed among 'Neo-Freudians' anyway!

I first heard about Mindhunter at a bar last week. One of my friends had decided to stay off booze that night, just so he could go home, absolutely sober, and catch remaining episodes of the show. I watched it in almost 10 hours flat, with a brief sleep-interval somewhere in between.

Honestly, I wouldn't advise this method, for the same reasons that I still haven't finished Ronson's Psychopath Test. Or didn't pursue Psychology, despite it being my favourite subject in high-school. It messes with the mind - simultaneously the strongest and the most vulnerable organ! You simply can't help applying theories of Psychology perennially to the world around. You just start seeing people a certain way as you read about them, although those theories aim to explain minds exhibiting characteristics prevalent only among about 5 per cent humans deviating, on either extreme, from the norm.

There's more abnormal, general psychology stuffed into this show than all of high school text put together. The stories that the FBI agents work on, inevitably start working on them. I've been trying to avoid human company all evening. Clearly, it works the same way with the audience.

Watch 'Mindhunter' Trailer

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