The Behavioral Science Division is put to the test. Moved beyond being a simple academic exercise, new leadership within the FBI prompts Holden, Tench, and Dr. Carr to apply their techniques for profiling and identifying serial killers during a string of killings in Atlanta. Producer/Director David Fincher crafts a meticulous second season that is both fascinating and frustrating as it showcases how the wheels of justice are slow to innovate. Less "murder of the week" and more procedural, if you have the patience for a slow-burn thriller, Mindhunter Season 2 is a richly rewarding binge watch. Highly Recommended.
When we last saw Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), he had just gotten a big hug from his "friend" Edmund Kemper and was laying on the ground of a hospital about to pass out. Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) just got home to his ever frustrated wife Nancy (Stacey Roca), and Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) struggles to find her place at the FBI as simply an analyst and not a field agent. With the Behavioral Science Division under severe scrutiny after an internal investigation about the team's methods, new leadership in the form of A.D. Gunn (Michael Cerveris) arrives on the scene.
Committed to showing the division's usefulness, A.D. Gunn is determined to wield Ford's unique insights into an active case to show the suits in Washington the importance of the unit. But to keep Ford in line, Bill Tench and Dr. Carr are tasked with being his blinders; keeping him looking at the evidence and not pissing off the local politics. The timing couldn't be better - or worse. As the rate of child murders in Atlanta rises, Holden is convinced that there is an active predator in the community even though no one wants to hear that news. Meanwhile, Bill must deal with a situation at home with his son Brian (Zachary Scott Ross) as Dr. Carr tries to navigate her own personal life when she begins a secret relationship with Kay (Lauren Glazier). As the number of deaths in Atlanta rise, Holden becomes more convinced his profile is correct while local politicians play their games and more children go missing.
Mindhunter Season 2 will no doubt be a bit more divisive for those expecting "more of the same" like Season One. Season One was a great introduction to the early days of the Behavioral Science Unit of the F.B.I. It allowed audiences to be taken on a journey through time to when the early detection methods were more theory than actual practice. We enjoyed a parade of colorful and personable murderers while we got to know a bit about the ragtag group of agents going through the motions. While there was a narrative throughline, Season One was more of a "murderer of the week" type show.
Season 2 almost entirely focuses on one series of murders - the Atlanta Child Murders of the late 1970s and into the early 80s. And because it focuses on such a specific event, it can be a bit of a grind. Like the actual investigation itself, it's very procedural heavy. Information comes in fits and starts. Joining the effort on the ground is local agent Jim Barney (Albert Jones) who is stuck in the precarious position of helping the new F.B.I. unit do the work they need to do but also balance the local politicians who have a very set-in-stone opinion of who the killer could be. As evidence and clues to the killer's identity come to light, Holden, Bill, and Jim all have to straddle the line of politics - even if it hinders their investigation.
If Season One was more akin to Manhunter or The Silence of the Lambs, Season 2 is more in line with Fincher's Zodiac - more specifically his longer Director's Cut. While this season is one episode shorter, the pacing is slower depicting the grinding day-to-day footwork the agents had to do in order to make the smallest breakthroughs in the case. If you're expecting guns blazing action - you're not going to get it. And as investigations into the Atlanta Child Murders were recently reopened this last March, this season showcases how justice and closure don't always happen.
Ultimately, what I loved about this season was that it was a show about parents. Holt McCallany rides large this season as he's stuck trying to reach his son Brian and smooth his strained relationship with his wife. He's dedicated to his work and his family - but does a terrible job defining boundaries with both. On the other hand, Anna Torv's Dr. Wendy Carr must navigate the frictions within the F.B.I. as well as being a lesbian who has fallen in love with a woman who has a child of her own and her possible role in that relationship. To make matters worse for Bill and Wendy, they're effectively being asked to parent Jonathan Groff's Holden Ford and make sure his "instincts", as well as his natural bluntness, don't derail the investigations.
While the show is far more procedurally focused, it's not without its share of colorful characters. Far more prominent this season is the BTK case. Inch by inch the show starts moving into making him the focal serial murderer of the series within the framework of the major cases the BSU takes on. If you just got back from catching Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, you get another crack at Damon Herriman as Charles Manson. Herriman delivers one hell of a performance in the time he's given. It's almost frustrating how little time he gets, but the coverage of the Manson Family is thankfully focused on the point that Manson wasn't the only one who committed evil actions in his "family." His colorful insanity doesn't overshadow the very real horror of the murders.
Mindhunter is an impressive show using fictionalized versions of real people as the architects of an important F.B.I. unit as they investigate and study very real crimes and killers. Removed from the typical weekly murder shows with the "ripped from the headlines" tabloid touches, this show is intent on accuracy - even at the cost of action. My wife and I worked our way through the show pretty damn fast. We could watch one or two episodes at a time and take a break. By the time we got to the show's final four - we couldn't stop. We had to see it through to the end - adequate sleep-be-damned. I wouldn't say it's better or worse than Season One. Just very, very good! While the show feels much the same, its long focus on a single event was a welcome shakeup to the structure. You can only sit through so many "Colorful Killer Of-the-Week" interviews before that format would stagnate and become old-hat. When the ninth and final episode ended I was more than ready to dig into Season 3. Hopefully, that comes sooner than later as they keep teasing BTK and other infamous cases.
Vital Stats: The Netflix Stream
Netflix delivers Mindhunter Season 2 to 4K UHD Streaming with Dolby Vision HDR on compatible displays with a Netflix Premium Plan. If you don't have Dolby Vision, HDR10 is still available and the show can naturally be viewed in SDR 1080p.
There's something beautiful in the overall drab plainness of this show's production design. Presented in 2.20:1 2160p with Dolby Vision HDR, the show was reportedly captured and finished on a 6K Digital Intermediate making for a richly detailed presentation - even if the show is rarely glitz or glamor. As the show takes place in the late 1970s and early 80s, brown/yellow decor is the rule of the day so much of the show is presented with that aged sickly smoke-stained yellow pallet. That isn't to say there aren't flourishes of color, but seeing as how this show isn't exactly "happy" - the mood is suitably set.
Facial features and patterned clothing enjoy a lot of attention. Shag carpeting also sports some rich textures. One of my favorite pieces of production design is the Atlanta Child Murders command center in an old retail space with newspapers pasted on the windows. It gives enough light that you can see everything decently enough, but bright sunlight casts a septic yellow color that gets extra punch with Dolby Vision. Shadows, black levels, and bright whites all enjoy wonderful shades from light to dark without crushed blacks or bloomed whites.
While I conducted most of this review on my 60inch LG OLED with a 75mbps wired connection, I also tested out the Dolby Vision presentation on my LG G6 phone. It wasn't nearly as detailed, but it was exciting to see my small screen being able to replicate a similar color/black level/contrast experience. I just wouldn't want to watch the show for very long on such a small screen. You lose a lot of great details and it just isn't right to watch something so intricately designed on a device that tiny.
Lastly, I enjoyed a couple of episodes in 1080p SDR. If 4K UHD and Dolby Vision wasn't an option I'd be very impressed. Details are robust. Black levels are deep and inky. Colors allow for some fine primary pop but keep a similar shade of yellow tone over most of the colors. Slipping back and forth to UHD with Dolby Vision, the differences are notable. Details are much more refined - especially in close up shots and coloring feature more nuance and shading - especially in lowlight areas. It may not be the most glamorous looking show ever made, but damn does it look amazing! I really hope someday this gets a physical 4K UHD release - but if that day doesn't come, I'm more than happy with what we're given here.
I was a little surprised to see that Mindhunter Season 2 wasn't given an Atmos audio mix, but the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track provides plenty of mood and dread. As this is such a dialogue-driven show, most of the surround activity comes from background noise or side sound elements. The Atlanta command center proves to be an active area where sides and rears fire nicely. When the show is committed to the one-on-one Killer and F.B.I. interviews it becomes much more front/center heavy - which is fine considering the moment. These scenes are occasionally punctuated with some side activity from a loud prisoner or a closing cell door.
Some of the more aggressively active sequences come from the more somber and unfortunate moments when the Police and F.B.I. agents are checking nearby forests for dead bodies. Every footfall is greeted with either a shuffling leaf or a snapping twig. So, when there are dozens of people in the scene all at one time, it's a rich soundscape. Equally impressive is how silent and claustrophobic any interrogation sequence can get when there are virtually no other sounds in the room than the voices of people talking. Perhaps my favorite audio element of the entire show is Jason Hill's moody and ominous score that runs virtually throughout every scene of each episode. I loved his first season work and I'd say this one is far more unsettling - but in a good way!
If you were expecting more of the same killer-of-the-week structure of Season 1, you may be a bit let down by Mindhunter Season 2 focusing the bulk of its efforts on a single noteworthy case. That doesn't mean you don't get some creepy conversations; you do, and they're great! With that, if you loved the procedural snail's crawl to justice liken to Fincher's Zodiac, you should love this season's focused energies. The primary cast is still impeccable with Holt McCallany the easy standout of the season. It's a heck of a run and I hope Season 3 is in the works soon. Mindhunter remains severely binge-worthy entertainment - Highly Recommended.