Mindhunter: Episode #1.2
October 15, 2017 11:06 AM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Holden interviews the eerily articulate murderer Ed Kemper, but his research provokes negative feedback at the Bureau.

Holden interviews psychopath Ed Kemper in prison over the objections and scorn of his partner, Tench. Holden is simultaneously intrigued and horrified by Kemper's blase, unremorseful description of his actions. Later he convinces Tench to sit in on a second interview, and they formulate psychological theories to explain Kemper's motivations.

Holden's and Tench's superior confronts them when he discovers they've been consulting with Sacramento police on the assault of an elderly woman. After sharply rebuking them, Tench confesses that they've also been interviewing "sequence killers." Holden manages to convince him to continue the interviews, but they are relegated to a basement office and limited to 10 hours per week.

This episode contains very graphic descriptions of defiling corpses, although thankfully no flashbacks of it.
posted by AFABulous (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't understand why the FBI is soooo reluctant about Holden's research. Isn't it kind of obvious that to understand horrible people you need to interview horrible people? It's not like the 1800s where we might have used leeches or whatever. I was alive in 1977. I wish they gave some explanation for the reflexive resistance, like budget cuts or a different crisis that required all hands on deck. Instead they're acting like Holden is Fox Mulder investigating gray aliens.
posted by AFABulous at 11:50 AM on October 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


I had that same thought, but I eventually gathered the show being set at this time is supposed to show some of the shift in culture from the old Eliot Ness/J. Edgar Hoover/just-the-facts-ma'am FBI to more modern methods. I can't really say for certain since I am by no means an expert on FBI institutional cultural development. But with that idea in mind, it did seem to shed some light on the powers that be shifting behind their research.

The old guard in the beginning episodes really recapitulated the arguments I used to have with my father over this. He said serial killers were new and of course the old days (i.e. his youth) were better, and I argued they'd always been with us, we just caught them now. Holden seems to glide right past that argument, being more interested in where modern methods are going. I like seeing both Holden and Tench's character arcs. They start to develop in this episode, and the dynamic between the two feels legitimately rendered.

Unrelated, there's still a part of me that gets excited seeing an Out actor on screen in a leading straight role. It feels silly, but it still makes me happy to see some bit of progress.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 2:03 PM on October 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


They don't get deep into it but they do mention that the FBI is not interested in preventing crime, simply catching criminals once they have committed a crime. There is nothing to be gained from these inquiries as these killings are seen as one-offs done by insane/evil people. The FBI is very much described/shown as bureaucratic, behind the times and conservative.

The show doesn't dwell on overall mindsets changing unfortunately as it's focused on the actual case specifics.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:09 PM on October 15, 2017


Who is the out actor?
posted by AFABulous at 2:11 PM on October 15, 2017


They don't get deep into it but they do mention that the FBI is not interested in preventing crime, simply catching criminals once they have committed a crime

Good point! I can't believe I forgot that, it gets mentioned more than once.

Jonathan Groff's been out for nearly a decade now. He and Zachary Quinto made quite the cute couple for several years, but have long parted company.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 2:17 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


I am somewhat ashamed that I know these things. Celebrity gossip does not sit well with my image of myself.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 2:19 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


The more I watch of this show, the more jarring the enormous city name becomes.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:28 PM on October 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the giant location text just reminds me of Preacher, which is a far more cartoony show. Maybe it's designed that way to be legible on small screens, but it's a weird choice.
posted by tautological at 7:39 PM on October 15, 2017


The actor playing Kemper is incredible and it's clear he spent a lot of time studying actual interview footage. Much of the character's dialogue is also verbatim from the real Kemper's interviews and writings.
posted by Rust Moranis at 7:46 PM on October 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


Jonathan Groff's been out for nearly a decade now.

I figured it was probably the young white prettyboy but I was kind of hoping it was Holt McCallany (Bill Tench) just for a change of pace.
posted by AFABulous at 8:05 PM on October 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


I read Bill James' (the baseball guy) book on true crime about five years ago, and as I recall, he spends a lot of time talking about how law enforcement simply didn't believe in the existence of serial killers until surprisingly recently. Watching this show makes me want to read the book again.
posted by liet at 9:11 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Kemper portrayal is my absolute favorite part of the show. Not only did he study his subject quite thoroughly and translate his work into an accurate and nuanced portrayal, he manages to use his physicality in a way that actually comes through the screen to the viewer. I felt sincerely menaced. Give that man a supporting Emmy.

It's sort of interesting to watch this show while cognizant of all the modern criticisms of profiling in general and Douglas in particular. For instance, I read a paper recently about how statistics demonstrates that organized vs. disorganized sexually motivated killers is pure bullshittery. I read another that examines FBI profiles and compares them unfavorably to astrological analyses/horoscopes. I think that this background makes me less sympathetic to the protagonist, especially as the show progresses.
posted by xyzzy at 7:34 AM on October 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


I've been watching this, swallowing my annoyance for Fincher's colorfucking. (So. Much. Yellow.)

I'm enjoying it so far. I really like Bill Tench. His actor does a great sidelong glance, and while the character is right on the edge of being generic, he strives to be constructive in his criticism. Of course by the end of the episode he's on board, so I guess I'll see how the dynamic develops.

I also liked his reaction when Holden comes to pick him up, like, he obviously has been working alone a long time and isn't sure how much he likes someone else from work even catching a glimpse of his private life.
posted by fleacircus at 7:17 AM on October 17, 2017


It's sort of interesting to watch this show while cognizant of all the modern criticisms of profiling in general and Douglas in particular. For instance, I read a paper recently about how statistics demonstrates that organized vs. disorganized sexually motivated killers is pure bullshittery. I read another that examines FBI profiles and compares them unfavorably to astrological analyses/horoscopes.

I really liked the scene in whichever episode where they're talking to the cop about the mother+child murder and Holden starts trying to formulate this hypothetical what-if theory about what various places and objects might have symbolized to the killer and then when the cop is in his very upset NO THINKING ALLOWED MISTER, WE'RE COPS HERE emotional place, Holden kind of deflates all at once and says, sorry, I'm just making shit up, I have actually no idea what happened and no way to figure it out, I am just playing pretend, with my imagination, and making things up.

wasn't sure if you were supposed to read it as partly Holden backing down from a good idea due to lately-acquired people skills, but it was kind of great as a stern rebuke to nonsense garbage shows like Criminal Minds and adorable ridiculous shows like Hannibal. the latter of which I love and understand is about magical powers, not realistic crime-solving, but I still always hoped Will Graham would go into one of his magical crime-solving fugues and then stop and say no, obviously I am making this up, because "empath" is not a profession and I am not a literal crime wizard. I am just being fanciful, the way we college professor types do.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:45 AM on October 17, 2017 [6 favorites]


I'm also kind of consuming this on a meta-level of understanding that many aspects of criminal profiling are, as it turns out, not evidence-based. I can appreciate the origin story of the field (I mean, lots of things turn out to not be backed up with evidence, but in order to figure that out you do have to give it a whirl and see what the data says) but I desperately want some acknowledgement that being skeptical of crime wizardry doesn't automatically make you an anti-intellectual blowhard. There are extremely good reasons to be skeptical, along with a lot of dumb reasons.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:32 PM on October 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


The Kemper portrayal is my absolute favorite part of the show.

Yeah, I'm on episode 3 and I'm hoping the whole season includes him. A friend showed me a video of Kemper in the early days of Youtube and I haven't really forgotten it. And the actor here does an amazing job. I would like a series centered around this actor in this role, which I feel uncomfortable admitting. It would certainly be a step further into anti-hero TV to say the least, and cause big controversy. I have never watched the prison dramas but I imagine a good writer could mine various wells to keep it interesting (backstory, manipulation vs earnestness, good and bad all in one character, conflicts within the prison bureaucracy as to how to "use" Kemper, relationships develop from the psych tests he is said to have administered as a volunteer, visits from "fans" established by letters...)

None of that it to say I am compelled by what he did, but that character-as-TV is just interesting. It would be like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for a darker, darker time, because at the end of the day, the dude is just evil.
posted by sylvanshine at 8:31 PM on October 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


I had that same thought, but I eventually gathered the show being set at this time is supposed to show some of the shift in culture from the old Eliot Ness/J. Edgar Hoover/just-the-facts-ma'am FBI to more modern methods.

This theme is reinforced in the show's costume design so far.

The FBI has an unofficial uniform from back in the Hoover days of dark suit, white shirt, dark tie. The G-man look is not just a fictional trope but is grounded in truth; for example in a 2008 profile of Robert Mueller as FBI director he asks a deputy in a colored shirt, "what exactly are you wearing?"

To backtrack a little to the first episode, the show draws attention to the character's wardrobe. You have Ford making a joke about his boring G-man shoes, but more so you have the aftermath of the failed hostage negotiation. Ford finds blood on his dress shirt, his hands are clean, literally, but his cuffs have blood on them. Juxtapose the blood on his work uniform with the feedback he gets from his supervisor (who is always impeccably dressed), the failed negotiation was a success because it met the FBI's narrowly defined metrics. The bloody white shirt reinforces the idea of a system built on rigid uniformity that's not working at the margins.

In the beginning of this episode we see Ford and Tench sticking with the G-man look in Quantico, but Tench is the first to ditch it. As soon as he's out of Washington his shirts change, first short sleeves, then blues, then yellow and even pink(!) dress shirts. His wardrobe shows that he enjoys the freedom of working outside of a field office but he always dials it back in when he has to, it's a hint that he's open to more modern flair if given the space. Ford sticks with the G-man look until his second interview with Kemper, switching to a grey shirt showing he knows he's playing outside the rules. He stays in blue and grey shirts (still conservative compared to Tench), returning to white in the last scene when they're granted permission to continue their work officially. Walking to their new basement office, Ford's outfit hints he'll still follow his own leads even when tightly scrutinized by his boss, his dark charcoal suit and white shirt is strangely paired with brown shoes.
posted by peeedro at 11:15 AM on October 19, 2017 [5 favorites]


Loving this show so far. I've been hearing about it forever since it was mostly filmed around here in Pittsburgh and it's fun to try to figure out what was filmed where. I loved that they were at the Oaks Theater.

So did anyone instantly think Blade Runner when Holden was sitting across the table from Kemper and asked him about his mother? Fincher loves putting little references to other films in his like the disco version of Zarathustra which references both 2001 and Being There.
posted by octothorpe at 7:27 PM on October 20, 2017


Oh, just realized that his full name is Holden Ford, definitely a Blade Runner reference.
posted by octothorpe at 6:17 PM on October 21, 2017


Late to watching this but my husband and I had a spirited conversation about whether Kemper was "likable" or not. I found him quite unlikable and if he sat next to me in a bar with his endless "intelligence," I'd get far away. Whereas, of course some guys have no problem with that – sure, let's pontificate endlessly together and also talk about "pussy." I guess Kemper is a guy's guy? Is he likable? He didn't charm his female victims, he picked them up on the side of the road as hitchhikers. I don't know, this idea that "we love talking to him" just kind of sickens me to my core. His crimes are real.
posted by amanda at 1:08 PM on January 9, 2018


« Older Dirk Gently's Holistic Detecti...   |  Halt and Catch Fire: Search / ... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments

poster