Monday, October 30, 2017

TV Review: MINDHUNTER - Season 1

Mindhunter is the new television series on Netflix from the minds of David Fincher and creator Joe Penhall. Based on the books of real life FBI agents John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, the series follows fictionalized versions of these men in agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) in the late 1970s on their journey of creating the Elite Serail Crime unit born from criminal sciences regarding serial killers. The idea that young Ford brings into Tench's world is that by conducting various interviews with multiple murderers, trying to understand their psychology might be the key into these insane men's (as the show remarks multiple times: it is generally men that commit these acts) mind and thus develop a method to better understand, investigate and prevent these killings.

Whenever David Fincher steps behind the camera there is nothing I can think of other than making my eyes see what he makes as soon as they possibly can. He has proved himself to be the true heir apparent of Hitchcock in this age of cinema and the title doesn't bear only a symbolic significance. His perfectionism, his thematics and his legacy have all had very similar developments as in Hitchcock's filmography. They have both pushed the boundaries of what audiences expect to see on the big screen and neither have been recognized immediately as the visionaries they are.

Once again Fincher (director of Episodes 1-2-9-10), with the support of his fellow directors, has taken a beautiful piece of writing and made it into something that is new, original, reinventive of the genre, but most of all insanely riveting to watch. What might start out as a confusing tone in the first episode quickly becomes a new kind of procedural narrative that takes the viewer in the deepest corner of these protagonists' lives. The series is fueled by conversations, some of these are purely character driven whilst others have real psychological talk in them, and it is a pleasure for the viewer to be treated with such intelligence. The series might on rare occasions ask a little too much of the audience and get a little lost in chronology and geography of the events, but that is the part that matters the least. What will have you not being able to stop pushing that "next episode" button is the intricate dynamic that is established between the characters and their everyday work.

It all starts with character of course, and here we are treated with a core group that is as fascinating as any dynamic I have seen in entertainment this year. Jonathan Groff was a real revelation to me here, this performance is truly special. He subverts every single expectation you would have from him. He manages to bring you along into the depths of darkness and there is not a false beat in his performance. You are always conscious of why you empathize with him, and the best part is that you do even when he is making decisions that are highly questionable. Here is where Holt McCallany comes in, grounding the show and undermining the tough cop cliché with the season's most emotionally devastating and unexpected moments. The two share so much screen time together, yet the conflict and respect that their relationship has never runs out of steam in the 10 episodes, instead it becomes highly addictive, which is why I just can't wait for season 2.

The discussions they raise go much further than simply asking killers why they did what they did. The show is a brilliant way of exploring human behavior and psychology and the best part is that in some way it makes you feel like you are a part of the conversation. It asks questions, gives answers and then takes them back to leave the viewer truly active in the moral dilemmas raised. There is not an easy answer, there isn't a quick exit from these problems, and by showing the full sophistication and complexity of the whole ordeal, the audience is able to truly appreciate the work being done by the agents and get an insightful glimpse into these men's lives. In some ways you start to become a detective yourself, and by the end of the show you are in such sync with the characters that you start to operate and look at the scene just as they do, which brings us back to the brilliant directing work done by Fincher and his team.

Mindhunter might require one or two episodes to get adjusted to, but that is not a take away from it, it is actually a perk of this incredibly novel experience that is some of the best narrative work I've seen this year, definitely the best TV series I have seen recently and one that I can't wait to keep watching and revisiting for the sheer amount of detail and discussions which have surely slipped by on first viewing.

James' Score: 9/10 

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