Mindhunter: Entire Season 1
October 18, 2017 7:49 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

From the episodes 1 and 2 posts it seems like many people have binged the entire season already. Given that it's confusing to remember what happened in which episode, let's discuss the whole thing.
posted by AFABulous (86 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I really loved the pacing of this series. I'm sure some people will think it was too slow but there were enough tense moments that it kept me interested. I came in expecting the show to be a procedural thriller and it's not that at all. It's unique but not self-conscious about it in the way that Hannibal was (to me). Hannibal tried too hard to be edgy.

I'm really, really looking forward to a season two. I can't think of anything I really disliked. I even like the title cards with the huge font.
posted by AFABulous at 7:56 AM on October 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

I'll come back when I finish it but I can't believe how good that little scene was where Dr. whatsit meets Holden and Debbie. she, with all her fancy psychological knowledge, reads the room instantly and correctly re: Debbie's awareness of Holden's crush, and makes a move to ally herself with Debbie with that chummy line about "most men say that but they don't mean it" (about not being intimidated by intelligent women) -- leaning towards her, having already asked if she's also in law enforcement, making a point of engaging with Debbie as a peer and not Holden's appendage and then making that quite smooth but totally obvious try at splitting the group of three into her-and-Debbie as women against the sole man, to defuse any feeling of her and Holden as co-collaborators with the girlfriend the one left out.

and Debbie is NOT HAVING IT. she is not rude but she is melted icewater cool, and her response is so considered and so very deliberately not playing along with the us-girls offer -- the way she says No, Holden actually means it, she's saying No, I know Holden very well and I know you not at at all, and I am not going to pretend to fake solidarity with you, a stranger, just because you are correct about sexism. it is me and Holden on one side and you on the other, not either of the other two ways.

and at the same time she is just saying what she does think, without adjusting her actual opinion for social effect.

it's so brief and so clear and very good. I have seen up through episode 5 so far and the further they go with the misogyny issues (of 1977, parallel to the misogyny issues of serial killers) the less sure I am that I appreciate it. but the part where Rose, who looks ten seconds away from fainting or collapsing from exhaustion and anemia at all times, tells the story of how she was summoned over to scrub up the blood of another murdered woman by the two men whose servant she is, was incredible. this is some kind of paired viewing to go along with the perpetual emotional labor discussions and the #metoo business. very...timely.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:54 AM on October 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

like the church scene where the mother talks about how hard it was to raise two kids on her own, working two shifts or two jobs or whatever, but thank god Rose was such a help cleaning the house and taking care of her brother Benjy

and then you find out that she's his younger sister, not his older sister

the past isn't dead it isn't even past, blah blah blah, I know. but that is how you do period detail. that is more telling about the history of the world than any amount of smoking on airplanes. I feel like it's almost harder to spotlight historical sexism when it's not exactly distinct from present-day sexism, but they do a decent job.

and then the part where Debbie, who seems very honest as well as smart but also a million miles away from her surface at all times, says very crisply that she used to drink a lot because it made it easier to have sex. and then Holden chooses to ignore anything important that he has just been told in favor of turning into a hellmonster, because that's what even very nice men did back then. "back then."
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:37 AM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

I really almost never truly binge watch, two or three eps of a show in one sitting just about does it for me, but I actually did watch this one in about one sitting, it was that good.

I also was expecting a procedural, ala "Criminal Minds", but it's not at all. I do feel like it might go more procedural in a season two, as they start to use their research in more actual cases. I actually don't mind a well-done procedural, but I like the way this is more a character driven piece than about the crimes themselves.

I'm familiar with David Fincher's work, and as I was watching I could immediately identify it, it just has this "look", but I couldn't for the life of me describe it until I watched this video about Fincher's use of camera tilt and pan to track every individual character movement. Now I can't unsee it.
posted by katyggls at 10:43 AM on October 18, 2017 [14 favorites]

Three things that really stood out to me:

1. For a very long time, murderer stories have hinged on similarities between detective and perpetrator. Father Brown was explicitly thinking like a killer over a century ago. This is really the first story I've seen with a protagonist who is as susceptible to narcissism as the killers he profiles. It's a nice change of pace to not follow a cinnamon bun who's too good for this world like Will Graham, a burned-out former profiler like Dr. Hudson from Copycat, or a young would-be hero just trying to do what's right from countless films and TV shows.

2. The isolated mini-arcs that stretched out over the course of several episodes. I don't want to give examples so I don't spoil queenofbithynia, but know this: that bar scene you like is going to come back in style.

3. The settings and period details make me viscerally recall my childhood in a small city in southwest Virginia. Brick office and retail buildings with faded ad murals, brutalist office buildings with plastic-and-steel waiting rooms, regular freight trains, documents and signs from before desktop publishing, cigarettes everywhere, downtowns that were still centers of commerce... Not saying I miss it, just saying the locations (mostly in Pittsburgh and surround) very distinctly and accurately convey America 35-40 years ago.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:01 AM on October 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm also not one to binge shows but this one got me good. I really enjoyed the vibe of the show. Not exactly sure how I'd describe it but the influence of Zodiac is felt throughout.

It's made me miss the 90s serial killer movie craze.

Really strong performances throughout, even from the bit parts. Extra special props to the guy playing Kemper. That last scene is something quite special.
posted by slimepuppy at 11:15 AM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Here's a headshot of the actor who plays Kemper. What an incredible difference. He looks like a guy who works at Starbucks while he's in grad school. Can you imagine being his partner and watching his performance as Kemper? I think I would be freaked out.
posted by AFABulous at 12:26 PM on October 18, 2017 [22 favorites]

That last scene is something quite special.

My wife was in the room for that scene and, despite having only passively listened to bits of the show as I binged, was freaked right the fuck out.

I found it weird that for a show set in 1977, they used BTK as the "they're out there..." killer in the opening shots. Gacy was active then and due to be caught the following year. The Hillside Stranglers were active as well and having a banner year. Does BTK play a roll in the book this is based on? Or maybe they're planning a long haul for the show and know they can keep going back to him for another 20 years or so.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:31 PM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

watching this series really brought it home to me in a way no book ever could, how hard it must have been to track psychopaths in the scary late '70s. any other era you could just put out an APB on men with SUPER scary mustaches, like I don't know the police code for that but obviously they have one, they have codes for all sorts of things. nine tenths of the criminal creeps in the show would have been picked up by or before their first murder and nobody would ever have had to theorize what sequence killing even was.

but tragically it was the late '70s, when the murder mustache was like the guy fawkes mask at the end of V for Vendetta. under several of these mustaches are figures from your nightmares, but no way to know which ones.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:10 PM on October 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

I think it's an interesting contrast with Hannibal; it seemed like Fincher really went out of his way to make all the FBI scenes look institutional, drab, and evenly lit as opposed to most other location lighting, whereas Hannibal is high dark chiaroscuro drama everywhere. This twigged a lot of vague memories of Zodiac for me, especially with the sheer number of loose ends that are put on screen and I'm not sure why (the mystery cat outside the laundry room, for one... I'm not quite sure what I was supposed to learn from that. The doctor likes cats and is a little lonely? Nature is merciless?) It also didn't feel like it had much of an ending, but I guess that's Netflix for you. Hopefully they fast forward a decade or so if they're doing season 2, since that would mean seeing a different crop of killers, a more established BSU, and the actor playing Tench would look closer to the right age (that guy looks a lot older than 44 to me, anyway.)

It was a pleasure to see Anna Torv on screen again, and I hope I get to see her in more of this.
posted by tautological at 2:21 PM on October 18, 2017

>Does BTK play a roll in the book this is based on?

I heard on a podcast today that yes, one of the book's authors was involved in the BTK investigation.

I got sucked into watching all of this over the weekend, and it has stayed with me and led me to reading websites and so on, although I am pretty ambivalent about parts of it. Other parts, like Anna Torv and the montage set to the Steve Miller Band have my unabashed love.

I liked Ann Torv's constant attempts to reign these two dopes in on using a scientific method so they can publish, as well. There is so much about criminology that was developed not scientifically, but from a bunch of guys' gut feelings (and has been debunked, like fire-related crime"science") you can really see the danger of Ford and Tench building theories out of their prejudices and feelings about what feels right.

I've seen such mixed reactions to the performances in this in various places. Jonathan Groff, excellent work as an awkward guy, or weak performance? Anna Torv, wooden or luminous? Holt McCallany, humane and convincing, or ridiculously over-the-top? Hannah Gross as Debbie, really bad or just okay? (I thought she was fine.)

I think almost everyone agrees that Cameron Britton is the stand-out as Ed Kemper.

Somebody in the first episode thread was worried about having to see another Will Graham, but obviously Holden Ford has no dogs so he would never qualify. Hah, but also he's so much more egotistical and assured of his rightness that Will Graham, right up until his freakout at the very end.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:34 PM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

This really hit the right buttons for me. The…texture…of the staging though, for want of a better word, didn't quite match with my memories of the seventies. Collars weren't quite flappy enough, and the hair styles were a little too modified by modern eyes. Mostly it was the lack of polyester though, that made me think of the texture being off.

The clothes missed that slightly nubby, slightly thicker weave you saw in polyester then, which always made it a bit stretchy and gave it that awful texture I despised as a kid, and made it drape just horribly. Colors needed to be a bit earthier too, it felt like. I remember the 70s as being a bit more drab than that, I guess? Having said that, I'm not actually complaining, and I absolutely know I'm filtering this through my own hazy childhood memories of the era, so…

I outright loved that creaky/clunky sound of car doors closing though. They nailed that exactly. It seems like they ALL made that sound, and it just perfectly encapsulates how cheap and shitty American cars were then.

Anna Torv hit it out of the park. Again. Something about the way she played the character felt like an actual no-nonsense female professional of the 70s. She really seems to end up in FBI or FBI-adjacent rôles a lot though. It's like repeatedly casting an American as a member of Scotland Yard, though she does handle the accent well.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 5:37 PM on October 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think it's an interesting contrast with Hannibal

there are plenty of things I don't like about it but the thing I love most is that they don't show you the murders. of course that was Hannibal's whole shtick, but not just Hannibal, every single other crime drama in the world intercuts the detectives' speculation with the actual commission of the act, so that half the time you're waiting to see when the cops find out what the audience already knows.

and except for the ominous pre-title snippets of the terrible mustache man, we don't know any more than they do. except for when we know little things just by virtue of being forty years in the future. at first I thought they only showed photos of the one murder because it was so graphic and awful that photos alone were shocking enough. but no, they held to it all through.

which is so great because you don't actually ever know if they're right, when they're sure they're right. like was it really Benjamin who did the one part of the crime against Beverly and the brother-in-law who did the other part? did Rose really take part in the killing, not just the cover-up? (because when they took the predictable turn of oh, you think the woman is a victim but she's a perpetrator! I thought they were going to go all the way and make her the one who did the post-mortem mutilations. rage against a woman who didn't have her life ruined by marriage and childbearing, or something. not that that would make sense, but when you go on hunches, it doesn't have to.) but we don't know if they were right about who did what, we only know they thought so.

& after a while I decided this wasn't what they were going for, but I would completely buy Holden as a psychopath, though not as a murderer himself. the way he went after Debbie those several times, picking and picking and pressing and pressing and always so calm. she was a stone wall and refused to reassure him or play into his control in any way, but it didn't provoke him to visible anger or apology, he just kept on and on. like he had studied male sexual jealousy and possessiveness and paranoia and he wanted to act it out, to see how it felt or just how it sounded. but it didn't come across to me like he was really getting caught by it, it all sounded like an experiment. and Debbie got to be the lab rat.

all the acting was pretty good but Debbie was amazing. broadcasting a highly rational fear of intimacy. you can see she cares more for Holden than he does for her, so she talks to him more or less like a stranger she met a week ago, through the whole series. but the hardness is all put on, as you can see every time he goes after her and she doesn't exactly take it but she never throws him out or tells him it's over, either, not in the moment. every conversation sounds like a fight that never quite erupts until the last episode. so many scenes where she sounds angry or contemptuous for no apparent reason and he sounds mild and pleasant, and then the other scenes where he just goes for her. mildly.

and narcissist or sociopath or not, Holden is right a lot of the time. like he was absolutely right about the tickle teacher, who cares what the martyred elevator wife had to say about it. no question. I like that too. the show makes a decent case for the best people at this job being the ones who aren't very fit for human society/girlfriends, even though in real life I do not believe that idea at all and usually find it stupid. the change in his personality was way way too fast to believe, but even towards the end there were moments where he wasn't arrogant, just correct. more correct than the people with human emotions.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:17 PM on October 18, 2017 [14 favorites]

I found it weird that for a show set in 1977, they used BTK as the "they're out there..." killer in the opening shots. Gacy was active then and due to be caught the following year.
I might be reading too much into it, but the implication of the BTK's early appearance for ME is that no matter how much Profiling Magix(tm) you employ, sometimes old-fashioned detective work done on a killer who makes mistakes is the thing that works. In Rader's case, he asked detectives working his case if he could be traced through a floppy disk. They said no, so he sent one to them. A quick analysis of the metadata on a Word document led them right to BTK's church computer and the killer himself.
posted by xyzzy at 3:46 AM on October 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

the mystery cat outside the laundry room, for one... I'm not quite sure what I was supposed to learn from that

I think it was parallel to her work. She's trying to help a cat, in a minimal indirect way, staying in her zone in the basement, only listening. At first there are good results, but, apparently it's not enough, the transaction isn't sufficient, it doesn't grow, it goes rotten. The experiment fails, the system doesn't work.

(See also Debbie and Holden's relationship where they've been together long enough (I guess? Time movies strangely in this show) that marriage is looming. It seems obvious that Holden is ready for that, he's dropping fake proposals and kid talk, and Debbie is like, shut up I'm working, and can't look at the future, and I'm hanging out with other boys. But also, Holden senses her reluctance but doesn't do anything about it, he just keeps doing whatever. (You could say.. he's in a Holden pattern.))
posted by fleacircus at 10:05 AM on October 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

It seems like they ALL made that sound, and it just perfectly encapsulates how cheap and shitty American cars were then.

I love that sound, but isn't it just the sound of early version simplicity, the sweet spot of the 80/20 rule? All the cars are hilariously pristine, too; I guess by now the period cars are either well maintained or scrap.

When I watched It Happened One Night, from 1934, it was kind of amusing how the movie a couple times has an old car and an attitude like, "LOL get a load of that jalopy", but to my filthy casual eye it's just another old ass car.
posted by fleacircus at 10:24 AM on October 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

the mystery cat outside the laundry room, for one... I'm not quite sure what I was supposed to learn from that.

One of the vertices of the McDonald triad is cruelty to animals. I read the unknown fate of apartment cat as blunt foreshadowing of a budding serial killer close to Dr. Carr's home.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:29 AM on October 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

They do like to threaten the characters with the specters of serials killers. Will Holden go to far to learn about them? Will Bill's adopted son get the help he needs to grow up as healthily as possible? Does Snitchy have an altar of bones he prays to after routinely betraying his coworkers so that dread Moloch casts a mind fog curse over them to make them trust him again come morning?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:47 AM on October 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

I kind of loved how they keep saying serial killers are made in equal part by mean mothers and absent fathers [1], and then different people keep saying in so many exact words, "all fathers are absent fathers." not to say that they're the ones more to blame, oh no! more to just throw their hands up and say, well, what are you going to do about it? what can't be mended better be ignored.

Debbie says it pointedly, the same way she corrects Holden when he says these guys have issues with sex -- "with women," she says, although holden does not proceed to invite her to give a guest lecture to the FBI on the subject of these being two different things.

and then Bill says it defensively -- his dad was absent like all dads and he's fine! and also defensively because he is never home for his own kid but he and his wife are already deeply invested in believing that anything not right about the kid must be the fault of his unknown mystery first parents. a dad being on the road all the time, who might as well not exist for all the time he's spending parenting, that can't fuck up a boy or every boy would be fucked up to one degree or another! I mean. you know. never mind. Bill's wife has different ideas about it but no particular influence.

[1] nobody has a mean dad of course. mean stepdads and moms' boyfriends sure, but that's just an extension of bad mothers.

(I thought they were going to point out how the one rapist-murderer kid's fantasy about his dad being the only person who ever wanted him, but his mean mom took him away to California, was exactly that, a total fantasy. but unless I missed it they just let it go, as if his fantasy that his dad cared about him or would have tried to keep him if his mom weren't as powerful as God, was the truth.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:14 AM on October 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

The real mystery is what was up with car designers in the 1970s. Were they taking too many drugs? Is there a single aesthetically pleasing car from that era?
posted by AFABulous at 11:52 AM on October 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, there were some great early 70s muscle cars but that's about the best you can say.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:44 PM on October 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

As to why the cars in this show were pristine - Holden and Tench were mostly driving rentals so it makes sense that they're in good condition. And surely FBI agents make enough to keep their own cars in good repair. I'd expect Debbie's car to be in worse shape, but I don't think we see her drive.
posted by AFABulous at 12:58 PM on October 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of the vertices of the McDonald triad is cruelty to animals.

Yeah, that's where I thought they were going with it when the cat was meowing sadly, but I think showing a budding killer would require Dr. Carr to actually go looking for the cat. If she just drops the tuna can in disgust, shrugs, and moves on, despite knowing what she does about animal cruelty, then that seems like an odd reaction to me, especially since the show made a point of Holden becoming more sensitive to weird behavior that reminds him of the killers he talks to.

Similarly, it bothers me that Tench just wants to throw up his hands and go "oh well, my son has issues, guess we just got unlucky" and passively shrug off his wife's attempts to get him to send their son to therapy as weird hippie crap, even though he gets a pretty strong daily lesson in what happens when kids don't get early interventions. Still, that is pretty plausible as disengaged dude behavior, and at least to my eyes, the show definitely portrays him as being wrong about that decision. I guess I have difficulty buying that Dr. Carr cares as little about the fate of the cat as Tench does about his son.

Also yes good god, why is there no blowback for Agent Snitchy at all? (Honestly, every time he was on screen, I felt like they would have been much better off hiring the other guy. Which may have been the meta-point; Holden is unwilling to challenge/change anything he doesn't have to despite constantly fighting institutional inertia.)
posted by tautological at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2017

I outright loved that creaky/clunky sound of car doors closing though. They nailed that exactly. It seems like they ALL made that sound, and it just perfectly encapsulates how cheap and shitty American cars were then.

what are you talking about, that's the sound of a door closing! solid. that's how you know it's really shut good and proper and you don't have to open and slam it closed another two-three more times to make sure. any door on anything should sound like the Law & Order kachunk when it closes or you can't trust it. if I had my way, my refrigerator door would make that sound too.

I also liked how they get hit by a Pinto but nothing explodes. just for a little period scare.

& non car-related, I like how everybody always answers the phone all the time. because otherwise it wouldn't stop ringing.

and all the awful, ungodly awful midcentury modern furniture that wasn't try-hard retro or back in tired style for the 19th time, just kind of twenty years old and shitty. I wasn't even conceived yet in 77 but I remember chairs like that! they sucked.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:59 PM on October 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

Seriously! Snitchy came into the unit and everyone was like He Is A Spy For The Boss. He then snitches to The Boss and Holden's like scorpion's gotta scorpion. But then The Boss gets on board with the coverup and someone snitches and nobody looks at Snitchy? IT'S IN HIS NATURE.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:06 PM on October 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

They all looked at Snitchy! The Boss threw some shade with a line about suddenly growing a conscience or something. But because Snitchy was The Boss’s boy, he couldn’t chew him out in front of the Fearless Profilers without losing face.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:27 PM on October 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

My personal favorite thing about this show is the sound of the IBM Selectrics. Where can I get one for cheap?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 2:15 PM on October 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Great show! Started slow and I turned off the first episode but then I gave it another try and I'm loving it.
The name 'Holden Ford', makes this Australian think of both Ford Prefect from Hitchhiker's Guide, and the fact that the last Australian car manufacturer, Holden, shut its doors last week, a year after Ford closed down.
posted by Thella at 4:14 PM on October 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I believe the problem with Pintos catching fire was when they were struck from the rear. The particular Pinto in Mindhunters wasn’t—it basically T-bone’d Holden and Tench’s sedan.
See also the case of Top v. Secret!
posted by blueberry at 12:05 AM on October 22, 2017

I pretty much liked it. Holden's heel turn did seem a bit sudden, and I never really liked him to any degree. It was an interesting take on the 'hard bitten detective who starts to empathize with criminals'. I'll watch next season, but having Holden as POV got sort of old after a while.
posted by codacorolla at 7:19 PM on October 22, 2017

Also, I'm not sure if we were supposed to sympathize with the principal (Wade?), but even if there was nothing overtly sexual about it, what he was doing was 100% wrong and abuse - even in a comparative sense for that particular time.
posted by codacorolla at 7:21 PM on October 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's interesting that the Park City guy was a real killer. I didn't realize that until reading this thread, and my read on it was actually that his final appearance - burning his diary pages or whatever - was simply to make the point that unnamed, undetected killers would change their ways once Holden and Tench got publicity, and possibly remain undetected. Interesting to re-assess that through the lens of what happened with BTK.

Also, one of the things that struck me about the show - and queenofbithynia's comment gets to some of this - but the show seemed to be making a point that so much of what pop culture considers incontrovertible fact about serial killers was really just a bunch of speculative shit that may or may not even have been right. How many serial killers are we missing every year because they don't fit the mold that the FBI basically created?

Thanks for that link to the video about Fincher, katyggls. He's one of my favorites, and that was a fascinating revelation.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:58 AM on October 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

Just a quick re-mention of the cars and how *clean* they were: for a more lived-in take on vintage cars, look at the clunkers that get driven around on Stranger Things.

Also, after I noticed how clean all the cars were, I also began noticing that they re-used a lot of them. The girlfriend's off-white VW bug shows up in at least 3 parking lots "scattered across the country".
posted by Mogur at 11:44 AM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I’m loving this! I got to the part where Wendy arrives at the restaurant.

I couldn’t finish the Mindhunter book but plan to get back to it. Clearly, Holden is not the flamboyant asshole that wrote that book.

Holden reminds me of Fraser from Due South and even resembles him at certain moments from certain angles. He also resembles a guy who played Ted Bundy in a bad movie I saw years ago.

Wendy looks like Clarice Starling and even sounds like her at moments. Her icy and cerebral tone are about on par with a real-world Bedelia du Maurier. Her outfits - those geometrically patterned shirts and A-line skirts, those are something you’d see on a real-world Alana Bloom who actually cared about not inflicting retinal damage on innocent bystanders. I think Wendy will be my new style model.

Speaking of Bedelia, interesting how queenofbithynia picked up on the triangulation attempt at dinner. Holden’s GF insists he doesn’t have this particular flaw, but he does have others so she’s not idealizing him, so there. And, demonstrably, he doesn’t fear intelligent women. He’s curious and always looking to learn new perspectives on things, and so he likes to be in the company of someone who will challenge him.

The GF, for such a definite character, I can’t remember her name or figure out what she’s wearing. That’s a little unnerving. How can I understand her if I can’t see her outfit.

It’s no wonder Holden is bowled over by Wendy. All he sees are grizzled old gits with grey suits and ties all day, every day. Finally someone with a bit of style hoves into view, of course she’s going to look like a movie star to him through sheer lack of competition.
posted by tel3path at 1:34 PM on October 23, 2017

I think it's interesting that Debbie (Holden's girlfriend) is a sociologist, and Wendy is a psychologist. For as much as they talk about prevention and detection, they're still largely focused on a Freudian perspective that puts the individual and the mother-son relationship at its center. Another way to look at it, as we've seen with our research subjects, is in the social - namely the huge deprivation of not only perpetrator but also victim. Poverty is sort of a backgrounded element (some Goffman there) that's persistent across all of our cases so far, but the protagonists don't necessarily see that.
posted by codacorolla at 1:41 PM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also was Foucault namedropped in the show? That seems like an obvious reference, and the time is about right for Discipline and Punish. Especially with Holden's burgeoning idea (presented at the grade school) that we can do pre-crime and intercept serial killers early, which mirrors Foucault's own preoccupation with the panopticon.
posted by codacorolla at 1:42 PM on October 23, 2017

The girlfriend's off-white VW bug shows up in at least 3 parking lots "scattered across the country".

This *may* be an in-joke from the original Mindhunter book, where John Douglas mentions that the VW bug was a very common car for serial killers to drive.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:10 PM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ted Bundy only ever drove Volkswagens. He was known for it. You could hide a body in a space under the seats, or something - never really understood about that, but the convenient body compartment was the reason why.

Some collector, a rock star IIRC, has Bundy’s Volkswagen.
posted by tel3path at 2:19 PM on October 23, 2017

And the boss man is Principal Skinner in the early seasons, and he looks a bit like George Bush.

Playing Klaatu over the end credits? I only know about that song from Due South and I am now certain that Holden is Fraser.

Not so keen on her blouse this time. Are they meant to be polyester? Everything was polyester in the 70s, though not the good stuff. She’d go down in my estimation if those are polyester, gotta say.
posted by tel3path at 3:06 PM on October 23, 2017

So yes this is a Due South x X Files AU set in the Hannibal Lecter - All Books and Media verse.

Worth remembering that Dana Scully was Clarice 2.0 for the 90s.

I really ought to hate this show but it has a nice fresh take on things, this is good work! A series that is not Hannibal but despite that is worth watching! I thought I’d end my days never seeing good TV again. Well, except Dance Academy.
posted by tel3path at 3:17 PM on October 23, 2017

Aaaaand a nuance of Scully when Wendy is skeptical about the crying guy. Except she says “trust your instincts” when Scully would have said stop trusting your instincts
posted by tel3path at 4:49 PM on October 23, 2017

Scully would also have had some choice words to say if Mulder ever suggested that a man would have to be either a sick killer putting on a show or a guilty weak pathetic little mama's boy, or both, to be bursting into tears like that over his butchered and raped dead fiancee. it's just a dead woman, be a man already, who gets legitimately upset over a thing like that?

I mean I didn't like that kid either, or his sniffles. but jesus christ, 1977.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:05 PM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

tel3path, you thinkHolden is really such a great guy by the final episode (you keep comparing him to a character that was a Mountie, right)?

I thought he was spiralling pretty far out into arrogant jerkmania by the end there. Bill Tench seems like the grounded voice, trying to remind him that basic police work was also part of their victories and Wendy is trying to get some semblance of a scientific procedure, and Holden is basically up on a roof, shouting, "I am a golden god!"

I dunno. I turned on him pretty hard at the end. I'm glad Debbie dumped him.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:34 PM on October 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

For the first 2–3 episodes, Holden seemed like a casualty of that Underwritten Biopic trope where the main character is constantly swimming upstream against everyone around them with the unnatural confidence in some badly explained, vague ideas that only a protagonist can summon. So his narcissistic downward spiral kind of made sense of that and partially redeemed it. I'd be curious where they take it from here.
posted by mubba at 8:44 PM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

you keep comparing him to a character that was a Mountie, right

I thought it was because Debbie is played by Hannah Gross, Paul Gross' daughter.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:34 PM on October 23, 2017

I never said I thought he was such a great guy. I said I thought his character was based on Fraser. Not that he is a straight copy with identical characterization and development.
Anyway, I’m nowhere near the end yet.

When you pick up on something that seems hinky, it’s usually hard to justify. When someone is manipulating you, it always puts your compassion in question. I haven’t gotten to the end of that episode yet though, so my view of that conversation may change by the time they solve the case.
posted by tel3path at 2:22 AM on October 24, 2017

Is there a single aesthetically pleasing car from that era?

Mostly the late 70s were a really bad time for American sedans and economy cars, and of course what you're going to see in rental lots are overwhelmingly this year's or last year's American sedans.

New or not-too-old cars in 1977, with obligatory nod that tastes differ...

Regular-ish cars:
Porsche 914
Porsche 924
Opel GT
Alfa Romeo Spider
TransAm with screamin' chicken
I'm just gonna say it: the Mustang 2 is cute.
Challenger (out of production but there were 3-year-old ones wandering around)
260 and 280z
Mercedes 450 SL
BMW 2002

Some of the fancier American cars -- caddies, continentals -- had a certain stateliness even if they weren't really pretty

DeTomaso Pantera, available at Ford dealers throughout the US.
Lancia Stratos
Lambo Countach, if you like that sort of thing
Lambo Miura, if you have eyeballs
Lotus Esprit
Lotus Europa
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:37 AM on October 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

Apart from the VW Beetle, and I guess the Pinto, all the prop cars I noticed seemed to be of the Giant Mushy Detroit Sedan variety — none of the smaller, more oddball-styled models you would have seen like Hondas, Datsuns, Chevettes, Gremlins, Pacers, etc. (Which, to be fair, are probably very hard to find in good condition.)
posted by mubba at 6:17 PM on October 24, 2017

I just finished the series, and I really loved everything about this show except the costumes. Especially by the end all I could see was how the lapels were not nearly wide enough, the colors were not ugly enough.

The late 70s were really, really ugly.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:30 PM on October 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

They just turned everything to a gray blur so we wouldn’t see they toned down the fugly.

As the tel3mum put it “some things to wear were okay”. This is true. Nearly all of those things were on Charlie’s Angels. The other four are on Wendy.

I like the part where Wendy gravitates towards Quantico because that’s where she’s getting respected instead of belittled. Wonder how long that’s going to last.

Also, Holden going “You really think Kemper thinks we’re idiots” yes, it’s not in his nature to think anything else. Almost cute, really. Of course, we learned that fact from guys like him so perhaps I shouldn’t mock fictitious Holden for going through this fictitious, painful life lesson.
posted by tel3path at 2:59 AM on October 25, 2017

I really enjoyed it. But my wife was troubled by the question of whether massive wine glasses were so popular in the late 70's.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 12:43 PM on October 25, 2017 [13 favorites]

Okay just got to the part with the tickling principal.

I remember not later than 1979, the safety advice we got in school was “Never let a stranger [or adult or whatever words they used] adjust your clothing or fix your hair and if someone does this to you, run away/yell [etc.]”

I asked my parents why this seemingly harmless behaviour was something to defend against, and they wouldn’t answer.

Now this was probably later than 1977, but I also don’t recall hearing similar advice in any safety briefings earlier than the one I described above. It stood out, that’s why I asked about it.

So I was going to say that people were on to that sort of thing by then, and their reaction as LEOs was really naive.

But maybe the knowledge state changed between 1977 and 1979? And in 1977 people REALLY didn’t think they could prove anything based on tickling? That’s the world changing faster than I realized.
posted by tel3path at 2:35 PM on October 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Parallel between Holden’s emergent asshole attitude and Speck’s “born to raise hell” tattoo.

Imaginary-Speck had a point. No-one likes to feel manipulated. The show actually got it across (to me at least). Speck is there to help them and Holden did in fact fuck with his head. Wendy pointed it out: Holden implied he was a coward, apparently with very little concern for, or even understanding of, the effect it would have. On someone who’s HOLDING A WOUNDED BIRD IN HIS HANDS.

And the other guy is saying fuck Richard Speck, nobody cares about him. Well, if their attitude really is that nobody’s beneath their contempt, they would care. Your state transmits after all.

The show is also doing a good job of conveying how insidious the effects of mixing with psychopaths really is on these guys. It’s not the Will Graham thing of oooh you can think like a killer that obviously means that UR a Killer zomg!!!! It’s much more realistic, insidious, and worse.

In other news, my simple Wendy outfit drew compliments at work yesterday.

I am so sad about the cat Wendy thought she was getting, and then... shudder. My headcanon is that the cat found its way home, and the maggots were only there for the tuna. Yes, that’s the story.
posted by tel3path at 4:17 AM on October 26, 2017

Finally - it’s one thing to criticize Holden’s ethics with research volunteers, another to critique his interrogation techniques with suspects. I may have not been paying full attention but I’m not sure how his interrogation technique deviates from “reasonable deception”.
which is not to say there’s nothing to criticize about standard interrogation procedure, only that Holden’s interrogation didn’t seem too far from what I, as an expert cop show viewer, gather to be the norm.

Agreed with the analysis above that draws a parallel between Wendy’s cat and her work. The cat is Schroedinger’s cat, the box is opened (the box of cassette tapes) and the cat is dead. I also noticed that, as the character with the fewest human relationships in her life - the glimpse of her personal life that we did get shows her being undermined and belittled, and showing uncertainty in response to it, and being placed in a lower position, in a way we never see at any other time in the show. Rather than complicate Wendy’s life with more human relationships, we see her caring for an unseen cat in a comparable scene to Will Graham coaxing Winston. It shows her as capable of affection and compassion. (I didn’t read her as not caring about the cat.)

Finally, showing imaginary¡Kemper as a Frankenstein monster of Holden’s making, right down to Holden’s nearly getting hugged to death by the existentially lonely Kemper. (That take on things, about guarding against exploitation by emotionless psychopaths while belying your “empathy” by exploiting them as if they have no feelings to hurt, yeah, good point but also, combined with the interrogation critique it seemed a bit too “Making of a Murderer”.) I also thought the scene where Holden leaves the FBI building was reminiscent of Graham running out of the prison in Manhunter, and Holden’s fainting and panic at the end seemed to map to that same scene.
posted by tel3path at 2:34 PM on October 26, 2017

From that article: “It might simply be that masculinity is so rarely critiqued intelligently and thoroughly that we don’t recognize it when we see it.”
posted by tel3path at 1:54 AM on October 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I agree with the article, and would add that Fincher's wheelhouse (Oeuvre, I suppose) is airport lit. He seems to delight in making subtly mocking representations of middlebrow morality tales, which is firmly what the original Mindhunter is.
posted by codacorolla at 10:45 AM on October 27, 2017

Just finished this and I really liked it, but there was something... unsettling about the pacing, maybe? Like the title credits, with the flashes of crime scene photos breaking in like a 'subliminal' ad. The lighting is very Zodiac-esque, so dark even in a room lit by fluorescents, like the darkness around the light source is pressing inward.

Debbie is definitely driving a Bundy bug--white or off-white, totally nondescript. Back then, VW bugs were EVERYWHERE. There were so many, kids played driving games where if you spotted one and called it out, you got to punch your sibling. I remember sometimes spotting as many as five on a single city block.

I'm not sure where they're going with the BTK vignettes. Rader wasn't caught until 2004, and then (as noted above) not because of any profiling help from the FBI. I think the scene with him burning his drawings is marking the start of one of his down times, where he didn't kill again until 1985. I can't tell what time span the show is meant to cover. I'm assuming the scene where he's waiting in the house getting frustrated refers to Anna Williams, who he had intended to kill. She stayed out late that night, and he didn't get his chance. That was in 1979. I'd assumed we were still in 1977 until then, but maybe not?
posted by lovecrafty at 5:15 PM on October 27, 2017

Another thought on the timeline. Holden specifically names "Bittaker and Norris" (AKA the "tool-box killers") as the tapes he gives to Snitchy to see if he can hack it. They were caught in late 1979. So are we up to the early 1980s by the end of season one?
posted by lovecrafty at 6:09 PM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

The fashions of the 70s changed very very quickly whereas Wendy’s outfits stay the same throughout with *no* changes, which seems odd given a two-year timespan. Sure Wendy’s tastes are classic, but the A-line skirts are definitely dated for example. In fact, Wendy’s silhouette seems good for 1975 (content warning: polyester). If you compare 1977 there’s more blousiness up top, and by 1979 the skirts are trending much straighter.

It makes me think there are two timespans running parallel, like in the Danish 1st season of The Killing. The parents were experiencing grief consistent with a 22 week timeline, while the detectives were experiencing urgency consistent with a timeline of 22 days or less. Is it possible that the Road School and the development of the program takes place in 1977 but the historical context spans 1977 to 1979?

Of course the simplest explanation is that they wanted to dress Wendy in a recognizably 70s style that would nonetheless look good today without standing out too much. This means they had a tolerance of minus 2 to 4 years on Wendy’s wardrobe, with a tolerance of plus 0 to 2 years on BTK.
posted by tel3path at 5:43 PM on October 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

The video FX of the series turned out to be surprisingly extensive. I ran across that link and was genuinely shocked at how FX heavy the entire series was, all with an eye for detail. Erasing curb cuts was especially noteworthy.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 11:10 AM on October 29, 2017 [10 favorites]

I knew that there was a lot of CGI because it was all filmed around here in Pittsburgh and surrounding counties and they managed to make it look like Virginia, Seattle, Northern California, etc. I did recognized a few things: one prison is actually the old Western Penitentiary and the diner next to where the car crash was is Don' Diner right up the street from that. My house is actually in it for a frame or two. When she's in a cab riding through Boston, the view outside is actually Beech Avenue in Pittsburgh. They lined the street with vintage cars that day and ran a 360 camera car down the street and then mapped that video onto the green screen in the taxi windows.

It's funny, I might not have watched this if I hadn't been hearing about the production for two years and wanted to see stuff I recognized. I ended up liking it a lot but couldn't really binge because it weirded me out so much that I could only take one or two episodes at a time.
posted by octothorpe at 6:36 PM on October 29, 2017

I watched the first four episodes yesterday and had nightmares all night. Then I watched the rest of the episodes today. Probably won't sleep well tonight.

I have a bunch of weird feelings about Holden and Debbie because they really feel like at least two relationships I've been in. The reading of Debbie by queenofbithynia seems right, but I sure didn't see that as I watched it. Or, um, when I lived it.

The last scene with Holden and Kemper was astonishing. Organized and methodical, indeed. Despite what he said, Kemper wasn't surprised Holden came -- he knew he would.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:51 PM on November 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

The video FX of the series turned out to be surprisingly extensive. I ran across that link and was genuinely shocked at how FX heavy the entire series was, all with an eye for detail. Erasing curb cuts was especially noteworthy.

Fincher's pretty notorious for doing extensive fiddling of details in post-production and even the most mundane scenes often have as many special effects as your average space battle.
posted by octothorpe at 5:10 AM on November 2, 2017

Anna Torv, wooden or luminous?

I wanted to address this a while back when I first saw the comment.

You might recall that when Fringe first started the exact same comments were made about her perfomance as Olivia Dunham, and they continued until Fringe flipped everything on it's head in the later seasons and Fauxlivia was introduced, and then, in light of this, only then were Torv's performances seen as nuanced and exhilarating. Nothing had changed in her initial performance, but it seemed that condemning her acting ability from the outset was an acceptable critical stance to take.

Torv is perfect in the role. It's very sad that this knee-jerk critique of her acting follows her from role to role, and that critics have apparently learned nothing.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:53 AM on November 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

Torv is such a good actor that I didn't realize it was her at first.
posted by AFABulous at 9:13 AM on November 2, 2017

Yes, I posted that. I loved her in this role and did think she was luminous, but saw criticism of her "lack of affect" blah blah, elsewhere.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:21 AM on November 2, 2017

I was wondering what was wrong with Anna Torv that I just couldn't see. So the prevailing worldview is that she's bad? The prevailing worldview is wrong.

Not that she's necessarily outstanding, I haven't looked closely enough to evaluate her performance in detail, but I really enjoyed her character.

She's SUPPOSED to be a cool, unflappable, Hitchcock blonde type. She's SUPPOSED to bring an outsider's view to this boys' club she has enrolled in, as an academic with no LEO background who doesn't even date men (in fact we never see any males in Wendy's personal life at any point; heck the cat could be a male but we don't even see the cat). She's explicitly trying to take a scientific approach, isn't doing fieldwork herself, and is wary of the dangers of emotional involvement/going off the rails from start to finish. And the show seems to be saying she's right, or at least that this particular experiment led the field agents to get in too deep.

They had that brief scene of her going back to her home field, and being on the receiving end of put-downs and belittlement, and being wrong-footed by it. This presumably was to establish that Wendy has her problems too, and isn't above it all simply because she decides to strike that pose. They didn't go very far in that direction, just enough to make the point.

Going "lack of affect" is like, way to miss the point. Wendy is reason, Holden is emotion; arrogance and overemotion are two of the key dangers of masculinity that the show is highlighting here.
posted by tel3path at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Holden and Debbie’s intimate scenes were really compelling and said everything. Palpable chemistry. I had to hold myself back from yelling at the TV when Holden did not tell Debbie about the meaning of her stilettos, and I immediately thought their interactions would make a damn good AskMe (spoiler: DTMFA, Debbie.)

Also found myself suddenly doing a double take at various times thinking it was Zachary Quinto’s Spock saying several of Holden’s lines— then I went ahead and crawled out from the rock I’ve been living under and looked up Jonathan Groff, and formed another crush.
posted by edithkeeler at 5:07 AM on November 4, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed this, although the first episode was a bit clunky. I liked the slow pace, the absence of re-enactments and flashbacks, the focus on conversation and ideas.

I particularly liked Debbie, and I wish we'd had more time with her. She spoke her mind without flattering the people she was talking to, or hedging her opinions with disclaimers, or making herself smaller. It's rare in real life, a little less so on tv.
posted by harriet vane at 6:16 AM on November 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

"I had to hold myself back from yelling at the TV when Holden did not tell Debbie about the meaning of her stilettos..."

That's when everything went wrong. We then see his hidden sexism come to the fore, so whatever happened just revealed a problem that already existed (and is a parallel to the surfacing of his hubris and arrogance) and so there was trouble ahead regardless, but even so, I feel that a bunch of weird things happened in that scene which the show interestingly doesn't make explicit.

It wasn't clear if he was turned-on or turned-off by the shoes, or both. The superficial reading is that she misconstrued his interest in the shoes and he was horrified at the connection . . . but then why not just tell her? And there's a moment where he says (and seems) to like them. I think what happened is that he suddenly found himself in some sense like these guys and in that moment he had a strong ambivalence about it. Not that he has a shoe fetish or hates women, but that he wasn't as horrified as he would have expected to be with the shoes acting as a sort of inadvertant bridge to this likeness.

Because he is like them -- he, like all men, and more than he wants to admit, is infected to some degree by the misogyny of our culture -- but, that aside, he has the sense of narcissistic superiority that these killers do, and he shares with them a secret delight in manipulation. It manifested in an benevolent way with his hostage negotiation, but as he pursued this work, he's led toward a less benign expression of this.

I think that's the overall theme of what's happening -- these people are a bad influence on him because he shares some of their personality traits, and thus this causes damage to both his professional and personal lives. I think Debbie found these traits attractive when they were subdued and yoked to benevolent use, and similar is true of his co-workers. But not anymore.

Some of the above is likely true of myself, no doubt, but what was weirdly familiar to me about their relationship wasn't so much that stuff as it was the strange combination of openness and careful barriers between them. I would never have thought she was into him more than he was into her, but the idea that she actually was but was careful -- as both she tended to be and particularly needed to be with him -- rings true. And that he wouldn't recognize this and not really understand at all what's going on with her, also rings true, both for the show and in my experience.

For Debbie, regardless of what was going on with Holden and somewhat independent of his burgeoning sexism was the simple fact that he had no clue at all of where she was coming from that night, nor did he use his vast capacity for empathy to understand her, and the way he handled it was all about him, like she wasn't there. The one thing he said was all about how he saw her. This is where she becomes aware that he's not really seeing her, despite his emphatic claims to the contrary.

She bears a bit of responsibility for this because her whole thing is that she's careful about what she reveals and how she presents herself -- her academic interests repeatedly underscore this. But that's the thing: his interest in her, and her interest in him, is because they're the people they are. He wants a puzzle to solve, whether he realizes this or not, and she wants him to solve her puzzle because, yes, she needs someone to see her. He intuitively understands this, but he narcissistically gets caught up in himself instead and doesn't fulfill the implicit (or explicit) promise he made her.

I'm obviously strongly working from my own experience, but this seems like the correct read of their relationship. I think that's why it made me uncomfortable from the beginning. I found her profoundly attractive, but there was always this sense of imminent disaster between them.

This all is of a piece with what's going on with him professionally, I think. Their relationship is not a B-plot, it's part of the overall story. Holden can be a pretty good guy, but his virtues are also his vices when they get out of control. And he's increasingly indulging his worse impulses, and in doing so is aligning himself with his subjects.

Their work is affecting Tench badly and he thinks that Holden is immune. But he's not. I think that Holden, Tench, and Wendy complement each other, but only when Holden is in balance.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:33 AM on November 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

He wants a puzzle to solve, whether he realizes this or not, and she wants him to solve her puzzle because, yes, she needs someone to see her. He intuitively understands this, but he narcissistically gets caught up in himself instead and doesn't fulfill the implicit (or explicit) promise he made her.

what did you think about the break-up scene, then? where all this does happen, but too late? because I thought it was actually really good of him, if not redemptive as such, to mostly do it to himself for her, not pretend to not know what was going on, and then leave without prolonging it. I did not get the sense that she wanted to be talked out of it or was giving him a final chance to apologize and change or anything of that nature. but it was also the first time I ever thought she was outright daring him to figure it out.

I did like the scene whenever it was, when she says if she gets a doctorate she'll be ALMOST THIRTY by the time she's done, imagine being that old before you get that far. which is how old he was when they met, and he doesn't have an advanced degree of his own as far as I remember. that's what you get for dating women at the opposite end of their twenties, Holden. not even sure she said that on purpose, though she might have.

& even though I did not expect any kind of sudden snap into bellowing or glass-breaking or other violence on Holden's part, there is just something about men on television that makes me edgy about waiting for that to happen at any time. the more mild and reasonable a man seems to be, the more the camera gaze seems to be expecting it for me. it seems infinitely realistic to me that for Holden, a breakdown near a breakup would come in two parts (1. drinking too much and saying dumb bullshit in public, half of it lies; 2. hyperventilating and collapsing in a hospital corridor), neither of them involving ultraviolence. but even when television is being reasonably subtle, whenever a camera settles on a man in a tie controlling himself I think a punch is coming, the way every time a camera slowly pans up a woman from her feet to her face I think she's about to take her top off. it is hard not to be wary even when it makes no sense. Holden is a guy who, when extremely hurt or angry, says something very vicious in a smooth tone of voice. not a guy who punches you in the face. & Debbie knows this too, but she still held the breakup in the relative safety of outside.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:24 AM on November 4, 2017 [8 favorites]

Yeah I think the thing with the stilettos, he was just too disturbed to really talk about it. Which actually is very understandable, but also the decision that caused the relationship to crumble and left Debbie hurt and confused.

I thought of that dialogue in Manhunter:
LOUNDS: How does working on these cases affect your sex life?
GRAHAM: My sex life? It doesn’t affect my sex life, it affects yours. Go fuck yourself.

To me it seems like this show took those lines and fanficced them a bit in this AU. Manhunter is a far more conventional redemptive-violence story which is great in all kinds of ways, but never gets anywhere near the book material in dealing with how mixing with serial killers can affect a guy. Because that is the average-morality reaction, right? Slam it shut and say it’s not me, it’s them. And probably in most situations it works... just not this situation. Because the whole empathy thing is about how yes, it is them, but in some ways however distant and homeopathically diluted, it’s also me. The Gift of Fear put it like: if you’ve ever gotten a laugh from jumping out and scaring someone for a second, you know, albeit in a tiny way, what it’s like to get enjoyment from hurting someone. Which is why it doesn’t help to flail your arms and go I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND PEOPLE LIKE THAT, because firstly it leaves you unprepared for threat and secondly, you’re unprepared because you don’t understand yourself. NOT UNDERSTANDING isn’t a virtue or a way of maintaining innocence.

I’m also remembering a book called The Last Victim, which NBC!Freddie mentions in passing.
that’s a book by a boy who corresponded with serial killers, and ended up killing himself. Corrosion of your own thoughts from mixing with the wrong people is a real thing. It’s no coincidence Holden’s ambition was to get to Manson.

I’m not saying Holden doesn’t act like a massive dick and all, but I can’t help feeling for him. Under stress, he ends up protecting himself using the same narcissistic macho swaggering strategies that the killers - whom he *must* fear if he has any sense at all - are using. A little bit of becoming the monster, just a bit, to save oneself from the monster. And the stiletto scene only underlines for me how he’s going out there into terra incognita, and so it’s not surprising he doesn’t know how to support himself emotionally through it. Tench started from a position of not wanting anything to do with it, so he tries to help but doesn’t even know to keep his office locked at home, so emotionally illiterate is he.

And of course those same macho swaggerings are encouraged by the culture as a whole. Except not really, because Tench is expressing concern, and then soon everyone is. Just because something’s a cultural norm doesn’t mean people are blind to how assholish it is.

And then we’re back to Kemper, whose emotions aren’t really so unrecognizable at all. Turns out, he really did want a friend. Really did have feelings capable of being hurt, wasn’t just in it to exploit them for extra privileges or whatever (to hear him tell it, and there’s no reason to doubt it). And given that Kemper is there to stay, who is anyone to say he doesn’t deserve a friend? That’s what it all boils down to, the question of empathy, and yet Holden couldn’t be that because he’d taken on too much.

I presume the name Wendy is an allusion to the Lost Boys.
posted by tel3path at 9:11 AM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

"what did you think about the break-up scene, then? where all this does happen, but too late? because I thought it was actually really good of him, if not redemptive as such, to mostly do it to himself for her, not pretend to not know what was going on, and then leave without prolonging it. I did not get the sense that she wanted to be talked out of it or was giving him a final chance to apologize and change or anything of that nature. but it was also the first time I ever thought she was outright daring him to figure it out."

I have a different take, while I do think there's something right in your view.

My sense is that it's true she wasn't looking for him to talk her out of it, but I'm not convinced she knew exactly what she wanted. It was too late for Holden to fix the damage he'd done, but I think that Holden's short-circuiting the break-up was doubly a mistake -- first, because it was more about his own angry self-protection than it was a favor to her, and, second, he's once again usurping her own agency. It was her decision to make; he didn't go there that night to break up with her.

So I think while it might be the case that things were going that way regardless, how he behaved was just more of the same. He totally validated her feelings of needing to protect herself and end the relationship and I think she was hurt and sad to be so abruptly proven correct. However she may have wanted the conversation to go, that wasn't it.

"Because the whole empathy thing is about how yes, it is them, but in some ways however distant and homeopathically diluted, it’s also me."

It's a genre trope, this whole Nietzschean looking-into-the-abyss and its result, but I think it's true.

Of great importance, I think, is that the show has Wendy -- the true expert -- asserting the inverse of the cliche that sociopaths don't feel normal human emotions. No, she says, they do, but believe that everyone else doesn't. The show ends up giving us two mutually exclusive versions of a theory of this kind of psychopathy, and in doing so I think it's revealing the bullshit of those cliches for what they are. There's something else going on -- it's not about emotion, but something about the connection between empathy, reasoning, self-image, and a sense of morality.

Kemper, in fact, seems intent on rubbing Holden's nose in what Kemper correctly understands as the brutal and nearly incomprehensible reality of the serial killer's apotheosis into this version of a Nietzschean ubermensch. And Holden really doesn't get it, he doesn't hear what Kemper is telling him.

He thinks Kemper intends to shock, appall, and in so doing dominate -- which is true, of course -- but Kemper is also testing Holden's empathic comprehension and his flirtation with transgression.

As Holden himself says in response to Kemper's question: yes, he wants to understand.

But he can't, really, unless he becomes a monster like Kemper. This is how Holden is out of balance -- he hasn't understood the implicit limits on what he's been trying to do and in consequence he's put himself into an untenable place, psychologically.

He's feeding his worst tendencies.

When the show opens, he's done a good job keeping his sense of superiority restrained. His mildness is less a facade than it is a necessary habit for someone like him. He's functional. He can be a man who isn't intimidated by authority, or feel the need to blend in, or for that matter have his masculinity threatened by brilliant, aggressive women . . . while avoiding being an asshole. This is something Debbie likes about him, justifiably.

By the end of the season, he's thoroughly an asshole, and not coincidentally he's become a controlling, dismissive, sexist jerk. Even less of a coincidence is that these serial killers are all rabid misogynists. There's a theme here.

At the risk of sounding a bit overheated, the patriarchy is, at root, the enslavement of half the population. Enslavement is dehumanizing -- it is treating another human being as a thing, instrumentally. And it does so within the context of the most personal, intimate of contexts. And so we can see that the misogyny of the typical serial killer is the fullest expression of this.

This is why this is all bound up together; why, in exploring this world, someone like Holden -- who initially seems to be notably not sexist -- becomes something ugly in his own relationship with Debbie.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:43 PM on November 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh, also:

"what did you think about the break-up scene, then? where all this does happen, but too late?"

He sees her in that moment, but not deeply, not the self that she wanted him to see. In fact, I think that was her challenge to him which he failed -- he used all his talent to see only so deeply as he wanted to see, not what she implicitly was, and had long been, asking and hoping for him to see, which was in some sense her secret self.

I don't mean to argue that she wanted him to save their relationship -- I think that one way or another she understood that the night had to end the way it did. Even so, she still wanted. She was still asking.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:55 PM on November 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

“Holden is a guy who, when extremely hurt or angry, says something very vicious in a smooth tone of voice. not a guy who punches you in the face. & Debbie knows this too, but she still held the breakup in the relative safety of outside.”

Spot on. Debbie knows Holden is truly someone to fear, despite his faux outer veneer of calm. His mixed messages are quite the mindfucking. “I see you” blah blah “delighted to be in your life” oh hey let me go down on you but be really selfish about it actually like he’s concerned about his performance instead of anyone’s pleasure. Grilling her about her number of past partners, that fucked up scene on campus where Holden sees Debbie interacting with another man for her sociology activity to which Holden was invited and he makes a quick, dramatic exit as if he just caught Debbie in bed with another man. Jesus. He is an abusive mess. Yes—Debbie was shrewd to seek the relative safety of outside and to let him do the breaking up.
posted by edithkeeler at 5:42 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

that fucked up scene on campus where Holden sees Debbie interacting with another man for her sociology activity to which Holden was invited and he makes a quick, dramatic exit as if he just caught Debbie in bed with another man.

According to my one trip into the Mindhunter subreddit, that scene is proof that she's a lying cheating whore and they have no idea why Holden kept dating her after that.

I do think it's important to remember that Holden was one of those undercover FBI narcs who ratted on student activists and draft dodgers while pretending to be their friend. He's not trustworthy, imo. (Not sure how effective he was, given how uptight he seemed when he went home with Debbie that first time... but still.)
posted by lovecrafty at 7:41 PM on November 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

They weren't just interacting, though -- my recollection of the scene was the way she was sitting on the table and he was standing between her legs really looked like they'd been embracing and possibly kissing.

But stuff had already gone wrong between them and I don't really care to defend him. In my experience, that's how these things go. He wasn't paying attention to the signals she was sending him.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:59 AM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

That's what I thought he walked in on, too. In isolation, anyone who walked in on their GF like that would have reacted the same.

In the context of his contribution to the breakdown of the relationship, it's obviously much more complex and I'm not into defending him either.

I will say that I truly didn't pick up a vibe that Debbie was afraid of him at any point. Nor do I myself perceive him as frightening.

What I do perceive is that she was annoyed, hurt and disappointed by his specifically masculine annoying, hurtful and disappointing behaviour. Again, perhaps that's because I wasn't watching closely enough. But I think it's also more interesting for the relationship to end because he's an obnoxious guy, rather than because he's scary. That the situation is bad even when no threat is present.
posted by tel3path at 9:25 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

...it struck me as pretty clear that Deborah and her study partner were making out. Just before the camera pans to them someone says, 'C'mon guys' (I assumed, upon seeing them, that they had been even more closely entangled.) It was surprising how this was handled between them - in that it wasn't. There was never the argument, the confrontation that would have to arise. Which suggests maybe they really hadnt been? This moment that felt like it should have been (what it turned out to be) the end of their relationship (the unmistakable flashing sign-post, that is) was never really rounded out as such - and there was none of the painful giving it one more try. The next time they were together things were as they were (dysfunctional) and ... It was pretty obvious what was going to happen (similarly, when she has the shoes on and he says, 'they're not you' and the hurt she feels and his lack of empathy or any reaction, was hard to watch.)

Which speaks to the really great work on the part of the makers of this show that they are able to examine so closely how fucking crappy men can be and often are that a really worthwhile and insightful conversation (here) has arisen from it. I feel pretty confident that the writers have a good handle on what they're after. I am really looking forward to the next season.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:37 AM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

...it struck me as pretty clear that Deborah and her study partner were making out. Just before the camera pans to them someone says, 'C'mon guys' (I assumed, upon seeing them, that they had been even more closely entangled.) It was surprising how this was handled between them - in that it wasn't. There was never the argument, the confrontation that would have to arise. Which suggests maybe they really hadnt been?

Yeah, I agree that we were meant to understand that they were doing something they shouldn't have been in the dark. I think there was no confrontation because Holden (and Debbie) saw it more as confirmation that the relationship was over than a shocking revelation. No point in confronting it when the confrontation wouldn't help anything.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:39 AM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Angelica Jade Bastién: Mindhunter Is a Surprisingly Good Commentary on Toxic Masculinity
posted by octothorpe at 10:18 AM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

My recently retired colleague, an English professor, used to be a cop and told me about being assigned to follow Ted Bundy around in his little volkswagen, because they knew he was trouble. He also was around when Gary Gilmore killed people at a local hotel.

One of the Mindhunter authors spoke at Portland State University around 1994. The talk and slides were so disturbing that I had to leave. There was nothing glamorous about the damaged monsters he was discussing. They all seemed like unintelligent weirdos with bad teeth and a history of broken relationships.
posted by mecran01 at 12:02 AM on November 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Related, I found Malcolm Gladwell’s 2007 article about the history of profiling serial killers interesting reading after having watched the show.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 6:19 AM on November 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

edmund kemper (the real) as covered by podcast 'sword & scale'. it's as horrifying as you imagine. tw: ALL the serial killer stuff. no punches pulled.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:54 PM on December 10, 2017

& even though I did not expect any kind of sudden snap into bellowing or glass-breaking or other violence on Holden's part, there is just something about men on television that makes me edgy about waiting for that to happen at any time. the more mild and reasonable a man seems to be, the more the camera gaze seems to be expecting it for me.

Yes, especially when he stood up.

I've been struggling the whole series not to just see Emmanuel Macron and by the end I was pretty sure that Macron and Holden have similar personalities.
posted by knapah at 7:14 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

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