Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them. – Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s quote well encapsulates the new Netflix crime drama, Mindhunter. A police procedural that describes the genesis of the FBI’s serial killer unit. Set in 1977, I guess making it a period piece now, the show follows the travels of two FBI agents Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany). They’re running a dog and pony roadshow, trying to disseminate Bureau knowledge to local police departments. Occasionally, after their talks a reluctant officer will solicit their advice on a particularly disturbing local case.
In the crime drama genre this FBI unit’s story has been well told. From Clarice to the present, countless variations have been presented. Two things make this telling unique. First, it is an origin story. The show captures well the feel of the late seventies, particularly all of those annoyingly ineffective American cars. A Pinto crash scene is even included, albeit not a fiery rear-end one. Second, is the reliance on chatter over splatter, opening credits are played over the meticulous threading of a reel-to-reel tape recorder that’s used for interrogations. Except for the gratuitous initial scene the only gore shown is in the crime scene photos.
Groff as Ford brings a young naïve idealism to the team that seldom falters, even in the face of so much unspeakable evil. McCallany as Tench plays the grizzled old veteran. As an actor, he seems destined now to land any hardboiled detective role he may want. Together, they appear to have been selected to play good cop-bad cop from central casting. Later this boys club solidarity is violated with the introduction of Anna Torv, who plays a behavioral psychologist. She brings scientific rigor to what had been a do what feels good approach.
As misogyny goes it doesn’t get much worse than depicted in this series, but it’s still on the spectrum. If you slide downward, you’ll find Harvey Weinstein, the groper-in-chief and their ilk are all there too. It is just a matter of degree, as is murder in the first. In the end, it all comes down to convictions.