Warning: Spoilers ahead. If you have not watched Netflix's Mindhunter, please proceed with caution!
David Fincher's newest Netflix drama, Mindhunter, hits on a lot of uncomfortable themes, misogynistic qualities, twisted individualism, failing relationships, human differences, self-identity, group identity, human behavior, repressed sexuality, and life the working world. In a show filled with FBI Agents, scientific research and serial killers, Fincher and company demonstrate an understanding of these worlds and how to depict them to their audience. However, after finishing the 10-episode run, I began to analyze how this show is about so much more than FBI Agents, serial killers, and science.
First, Mindhunter is about the work that we do each and every day. In doing this work, how do we define our own identities to those around us, and most importantly, to ourselves? Should work be our identity? Is work our only identity if we let it be? Where do we draw the line? As the season progresses and Holden tumbles further and further out of touch with his girlfriend Debbie, we start to see his obsession with the work that he does. It slowly becomes less about Bill mentoring Holden and more about Holden's obsession with his work and how much good he is doing for the world.
Similarly, several of the serial killers Bill and Holden interview are pretty obsessed with their work, wouldn't you say? When speaking with killers like Kemper, Bill and Holden are exposed to someone that meticulously plans out his killings, takes pride in his work, and loves to talk about it when given the right avenue to do so. Sounds a little like our guy Holden doesn't it?
Obsessed with his process? ✓
Obsessed with his work? ✓
Loves talking to others about his amazing qualities and work style? ✓
So, when we compare his behavior to Bill's and Dr. Wendy Carr's, it is interesting to note the underlying differences and similarities between the three. For starters, Bill is also completely obsessed with his FBI work and brings it home with him each and every evening. Grotesque pictures fill his unlocked office cabinets, stopping the bad guys controls his inner thoughts and emotions, and his relationship with Holden becomes a massive part of his everyday existence. Throughout the series, we see glimpses of Bill outside of work and learn a little into his backstory as well. Growing up, his 'old man' never spoke to him, which is why Bill has such a tough time connecting with his son, communicating with his wife, and showing compassion and love. He didn't grow up with it, and as Fincher notes throughout Mindhunter, sometimes we can never escape our upbringings and past.
Now, think about Holden. He seems to be pretty innocent when we first meet him in the show, right? A little off, yes. But, a viewer might say he seems like a nice guy, that might be a tad inexperienced with women. However, from his first bar interaction with Debbie, he seems to hit all the right notes. Is he faking this bravado? Looking back, it would seem like he is. Holden doesn't seem to know or ask about his relationship status, is sexually blown away by Debbie on all accounts, and also seems to use her intelligence as a way to justify these two being together in the first place. Because when you really think about it, these two could not be more on more opposite ends of the spectrum if they tried.
Or, take the scenes with Carr and her newfound pet that she discovers in the laundry room basement of her building. As we all know, Carr is one smart person. She works extremely hard, has built her way up in both respect and status, and is always there to provide insight for Bill and Holden after their interrogations. She is also a lesbian in a largely 'straight' world in which she now works. Throughout the series, we start to see Carr's struggle with the cooker cutter apartment (it already came furnished) and her lack of love interests since her move. We see that Carr (the sharpest of the three), can turn her work off and attempt to relax. However, her fixation on helping a hungry animal shows her compassion and necessity for love and connection. She is living dual lives (not far off from the serial killers or Bill and Holden), and when the termites take over the tuna in the season finale, we see just how much this affects her.
How about Bill? He finally cracks during the babysitter episode and can no longer hold in his bottled up emotions as an FBI Agent. His wife begs and pleads for him to show compassion and love for their son (he doesn't know how), and to tell her more about his days at work. What does he do every day? What does he see? Is it difficult? Easy? Fun? Boring? Exciting? Scary? She is kept completely in the dark (think Jerry Brudos and his garage) and it is completely tarnishing their family's relationship with one another. When Bill finally breaks down, his wife gives him a hug which lets him know that everything is going to be okay. Bill gives off the 'man's man' style of masculinity, but deep down, we all know that he just wants to connect with his wife, son and family to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.
Holden? He's a different story. You see, while Carr and Bill are both attempting to build relationships or show love and affection, Holden is starting to act completely different. Instead of asking Debbie about her partner in class, he tells her very creepily while she is bathing, that she should call him next time she needs a ride. Do we ever see Holden ask Debbie any questions about her classes? Her friends? Her interests outside of class? The only question he ever asks her revolves around the number of sexual partners she's had in her life so far. As Holden states after one of his interrogations, "The motive is always sexually driven." Now, that's interesting.
So, as our agents take a deep dive into the minds and 'patterns' of serial killers, do they really understand them? Will they ever understand them? As we see in the personal lives of Carr, Bill and Holden throughout the series, do we even understand ourselves and our own strange behaviors? I guess we'll find out in Season 2.