Creator: Joe Penhall
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jonathan Groff, Ed Kempner, Holt McCallany, Hannah Gross
The second episode of Netflix’s new flagship series delivers on the promises set up by its pensive first episode. It doesn’t ever betray the fondness for talk over action, but the difference in this episode is that there is action contained within all that talking. When Holden Ford first begins to interview Ed Kempner there is tension radiating from the screen. We see it in the face of Jonathan Groff, continuing his excellent work in the lead role. We see it in the slow, measured, confident movements of Cameron Britton as “sequence killer” Ed Kempner. We see it in the camerawork, keeping cuts to a minimum and focusing on long reactions to specific phrases. The scenes between Ford and Kempner are what this show is based around and through realising that we can see what this show is trying to accomplish: It sensationalises these killers and puts the focus on them to reflect how we see these sensational headline-grabbers. We see them as a point of fascination and Mindhunter exists to tell us why.
Bill is the experienced veteran trying to play by the rules, Holden Ford is the newbie with wild new ideas. Together, it’s them against the world.
But there is more to this second episode than these tense confrontations, though they no doubt form its core. Evidently designed to be viewed as a whole along with the opening episode, this chapter firmly establishes Holden and Bill as somewhat of a traditional buddy cop pairing. Bill is the experienced veteran trying to play by the rules, Holden Ford is the newbie with wild new ideas. Together, it’s them against the world. However this show is smart enough to mix things up, with Holden as the buttoned-up neat freak and Bill as the more relaxed one of the pair. This gives this traditional pairing just enough difference to stand out in their genre.
Ford and Tench, growing increasingly tired of their mundane role as teachers, become more and more captivated by their potential role as psychological frontiersmen as the episode goes on. By its end, Holden has convinced the once-reluctant Bill onto his side and together they have talked their boss, Shepard, into letting their research into Ed Kempner monopolise part of their work time. By framing their day job through repetitive montage and their passion project as aforementioned tense confrontations, we as the audience follow Ford and Tench down this rabbit-hole until we find Kempner just as fascinating as they do. It is a trick director David Fincher pulls off incredibly well in this second episode.
Without a doubt worth seeing through to the end.
In addition, Ford has a budding relationship with Debbie Mitford, a grad student who stokes the flames of Ford’s burgeoning career path. She is played well by Hannah Gross but has yet to be given enough to do to justify the amount of time spent on Ford’s relationship with her and one hopes she will eventually be seen in her own light, not just as a reflection for Holden. This second episode though is a triumphant establishment of what this series is going to be going forward. While the opening hour was a little too keen to emphasise that it wouldn’t be taking the action-heavy route, this follow-up knows just what it wants to be. It is a buddy detective drama with a psychological twist and the occasional dash of dark humour. It is also without a doubt worth seeing through to the end.