- Mindhunter returns with its second season on August 16.
- The season takes place shortly after the first season in the late 1970s.
- The first season saw the creation of a new FBI unit and the psychological downfall its protagonist, Holden Ford.
Netflix’s Mindhunter returns on Friday with it’s long-awaited second season. If you haven’t gotten the chance to re-binge this David Fincher gem, or if you missed the first season and just want to learn about the Atlanta Child Murders (the focus of the new season), we’ve got you covered.
Here’s everything that’s happened so far.
Pennsylvania. 1977. Special Agent Holden Ford arrives on scene for a hostage negotiation. A man holding a sawed-off shotgun and claiming to be invisible ushers a woman in and out of a warehouse, asking to see his wife. Holden, following “the book,” attempts to calm the man. The man puts the gun under his chin and shoots himself. Holden returns home to a minimalistic apartment and vigorously washes blood off his sleeve.
The next morning at the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia where he teaches, Holden meets with his boss, Shepard. Holden, believing the FBI’s guidelines are obsolete, is nevertheless told he followed procedure. He’s then asked to focus on his teaching. Later that morning after class, Holden listens in as the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) gives a lecture on David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam killer). The instructor believes Berkowitz represents a new breed of American crime–one in which the motive for violence remains elusive. Holden and the BSU instructor grab a beer and talk shop afterwards.
At the bar, Holden meets Debbie, a grad student studying sociology. She invites Holden over and the two discuss academic theories on criminology. Holden, realizing how little the FBI knows on contemporary social psychology, convinces his boss to let him audit classes at a local college.
Holden then meets Bill Tench of the BSU who invites him on his yearly travels―a liaison program where the FBI and local law enforcement exchange approaches. Part of the program entails convincing local units the importance of criminal psychology in their crime scene assessments. Holden goes further, suggesting criminality may be conditioned and not merely endowed at birth. He meets resistance. However, a local homicide detective approaches Bill and Holden with a grizzly crime for advice. To the detective’s anger, Holden admits the FBI isn’t yet equipped to understand such violence.
The episode opens with a man working inside a warehouse where another man asks for electrical tape. This will be a recurring sequence for the rest of the season. We see this same man go to work as an ADT security installer, visit a house with a woman and child, mail a letter, and watch television.
Meanwhile, Holden and Bill fly to California. Holden proposes speaking with Charles Manson, who is detained there. Bill refuses.
During a presentation with local law enforcement, Holden is told of another killer, Ed Kemper, imprisoned for murdering young women and posthumously abusing their bodies. Believing someone like Kemper might offer valuable psychological insights to the FBI, Holden goes to interview him. Bill assumes Kemper will just lie and manipulate Holden, and decides instead to play golf. Holden finds Kemper to be an articulate and cooperative interviewee. Kemper describes his violence as a “vocation,” and mentions feeling humiliated by women–adding that he believed his crimes sought to rectify abuse perpetrated by his mother. It becomes clear to Holden that Kemper’s crimes cannot be classified using traditional law enforcement categories–like “passion” crimes.
Back on the road, Holden and Bill are once again approached by a local detective. They are told of a neighborhood assault involving and older woman and her dog–she was beaten, and the dog was half mutilated. Holden and Bill agree to help investigate.
Before leaving California, Bill agrees to speak with Kemper. Kemper discusses his mother’s abuse, and after the interview, Bill concedes that Holden’s instinct to interview killers may be useful. When the two return to FBI headquarters, however, they are berated for their involvement in a California homicide investigation. Later, after they admit to visiting Kemper, Holden is threatened with suspension. He pushes back, claiming that the FBI is ill-equipped to understand criminal psychology and that interviewing men like Kemper remains essential. Bill, a more senior agent, risks disciplinary action and voices agreement. “How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?” he asks. The two are permitted to continue their interviews on a limited basis and are given a basement office at the FBI.
Holden and Bill travel to Boston to meet with professor Wendy Carr. Bill had consulted with Dr. Carr in the past and passed along interview notes from his and Holden’s meetings with Kemper. Carr believes the two agents’ research is of vital importance to the psychology community, noting how the pair have managed to study psychopathy in near perfect laboratory conditions. She advises they work full-time on the interviews and publish their findings.
Back at the FBI, Holden and Bill learn that there has been another California case involving an old woman and her dog. This time, both the woman and her dog have been killed. Holden gets excited, much to Bill’s disgust. Suspecting another killing, the agents convince their superior to allow them to investigate.
Given what they have learned from their interviews, the agents believe the killer will be a single white male in his 30s, perhaps living at home. The local detective mentions a witness who approached police after the crime. Knowing that killers like to insert themselves into police investigations, Holden and Bill drive out to visit the man with the detective. The man, living at home with his mom who constantly berates him, demonstrates similar life circumstances as Kemper. After a goading interview, the man confesses to the crime.
Their research validated, Holden and Bill return to interview Kemper. He tells them about how his criminal behavior escalated from picking up hitchhikers to killing them. On their flight back to FBI and to Holden’s delight, Bill decides to push their superiors to allot them full time for the research.
Holden and Bill arrive in Virginia to interview Monte Rissell. It’s now autumn, months since their research began. Rissell discusses his troubled childhood and his strained relationship with women. He then reconstructs his first kill, which involved raping and drowning a prostitute. (She had pretended to enjoy the rape.)
Driving home, Holden and Bill are involved in a car accident. Neither is hurt, but Bill, affected by his mistake at the wheel, reveals to Holden the trouble he’s having with his intentionally mute son.
At FBI headquarters, Dr. Carr consults on the Rissell tapes, noting how Rissell only responded violently after the prostituted feigned enjoyment. She suggests that these killers encounter circumstances similar to other men, but that’s it’s their interpretation of such events that differs radically. Carr also reveals her plan to apply for research funding.
Back on the road, Holden and Bill are approached by a local Pennsylvania cop. The officer is investigating the murder, scalping, and mutilation of a young local girl, Beverly Jean. The agents begin by interviewing the man who reported the crime, though they suspect the fiancée might also be involved.
At the FBI, Shepard informs Holden, Bill, and Dr. Carr that they have been awarded over $300,000 of funding for work on their project.
Episodes 5 and 6
Back in Pennsylvania, Holden, Bill, and the local officer interview the fiancé of the murdered and mutilated girl, Benjamin. He admits to sexual inexperience and begins crying—Bill believes he’s faking. The team then interviews Benjamin’s mother, who talks about their unconventional family: Benjamin’s sister married a man, Frank, when she was 16, living at home with him. When they interview Frank, they learn Benjamin oversold the engagement–Beverly Jean hadn’t decided to live with Benjamin yet, and she may have been seeing other men. Holden and Bill also find out that many years ago, Frank was admitted to a psychiatric facility following an assault of a girl.
When Holden and Bill question Benjamin’s sister, Rose, she deflects. She later arrives at the police station to inform the team that Frank had actually been called to Benjamin’s the night of the murder and that rose had been asked to come with cleaning supplies. She tells them Beverly Jean was dead when she arrived.
Frank and Benjamin are arrested. While in questioning, Benjamin admits to killing Beverly Jean and later mutilating her. He also says Frank raped her. After they leave, Holden and Bill find out that the prosecutor wants Benjamin to sign a plea deal. He will serve prison time while Frank will be admitted to a psych ward for only a few years. Believing that Frank remains the more dangerous man—that his psychological history more closely aligns with psychopathic behavior—Dr. Carr attempts to convince the prosecutor to try both Frank and Benjamin for the murder. But he claims the jury won’t understand how Frank manipulated Benjamin. Frank gets off with a lighter sentence, enraging the FBI team and forcing them to question the practicality of their research for juridical purposes.
Meanwhile, Dr. Carr is offered a full-time position by the FBI. She convinces Holden and Bill to interview Jerome Brudos next.
The mustached man in Kansas packs a bag containing a jacket, tape, gloves, and a gun
Holden and Bill arrive in Oregon to interview Brudos, a man responsible for kidnapping, photographing, and killing several women. He stonewalls and denies committing any of his murders. He does, however, admit to finding sexual gratification in women’s shoes, particularly heels. When pressed on why he dresses as a woman, Brudos leaves. Dr. Carr reprimands Bill and Holden for focusing their attention on Brudos’ cross-dressing, which she says in no way predicates deviant behavior.
Meanwhile, both Holden and Bill begin having trouble at home. Bill refuses to let his son see a psychiatrist despite the insistence of his wife. Upon returning home from dinner, the couple then discover that their son has been hiding a photograph from Bill’s office—which depicts a mutilated woman—under his bed. On his own dinner date night, Holden stays in with Debby who, before the couple has sex, appears wearing lingerie and heels. Holden is weirded out by his own fascination with heels and abruptly stops.
Holden visits a local elementary school hoping to apply practical insights from his research. He talks to students about aberrant behavior among their peers, like hurting animals. After the lesson, a teacher approaches Holden, informing him that the school principal has been tickling the feet of students as “punishment.” He has also been giving them nickels after the tickling.
Holden returns alone to Oregon to interview Brudos. (Bill has become less able to face the killers.) Speaking about the killer in the third person, Holden manages to get Brudos to discuss possible incentives. Brudos theorizes that the killer demonstrated an escalation of violent behavior toward women.
Back at the FBI, Shepard introduces a new colleague, Gregg Smith, to help with Holden and BIll’s investigation. Holden and Gregg return to the elementary school to question teachers, and then parents about the school principal. Later, Shepard reprimands the pair for interceding in the issue. Holden claims the principal may be demonstrating escalating behavior. Shepard makes it clear it is not the FBI’s job to predict crimes. When he’s called by the school board for a recommendation whether or not to fire the principal, Holden doesn’t want to interject too strongly, but he voices his concern tonally nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Holden’s personal relationships are straining. He accuses Bill of cowardice given his growing squeamishness around the killers. Later, a male school friend drops Debbie off at her house. Holden, waiting on the steps, looks concerned. He interrogates Debby about her sexual history. At Debby’s school, Holden finds Debby standing close to the same male student; he storms off, jealous.
The mustached man in Kansas waits inside the home of the woman whose security system he helped install. He grows agitated and leaves.
Holden and Bill arrive in Illinois to interview Richard Speck, jailed for kidnapping and killing eight woman in one night. Speck is uncooperative until Holden, going off script, leans in and begins speaking Speck’s language, using the phrase “ripe cunts.” Speck reveals he didn’t plan on killing the girls until it happened. On the ride back, Bill suggests that Holden “lose” the tape, given his interview technique. Holden then tells Gregg to doctor the transcript.
At home and reunited with Debbie, Holden gets a visit from the wife of the now ex-principal. She says Holden ruined her husband’s life and asks Debby if she knows “the kind of man” Holden is. Holden ignores the comments.
At the FBI HQ, Holden and Bill receive a report from the field office in Georgia. A young girl was found dead in a vicious assault and rape case. Believing it could be the first of more killings, the pair travel to Georgia and visit the abduction site. They speculate that a worker cutting trees by the power line would have observed the girl getting off the school bus and perhaps orchestrated the rape. They find a name of a worker who had been previously arrested for rape.
Back at FBI, Shepard tells Dr. Carr that internal affairs is investigating Holden and Bill’s Speck interview. Speck was jumped after the interview and claims that Holden “fucked with his head.” When interviewed by internal affairs, Holden, Bill, and Gregg lie, saying the tape of the Speck interview was erased. In turn, they present Gregg’s doctored transcript as the complete conversation. Dr. Carr and Shepard find the tape and accuse Holden of acting in an unprofessional manner. Holden becomes defensive, claiming arrogantly that the whole project was his idea. They all decide to burn the tape, but when they leave the office Gregg puts the tape into an envelope and mails it to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
Holden and Bill travel to Georgia to interview the man suspected of raping and killing the girl. Believing the man to be remorseful for the killing, Holden has the murder weapon placed in the room. During questioning, he reveals the object and then elicits a confession. In a bar with local police after, Holden begins bragging about his research. His techniques and information about his off-the-book interview with Ed Kemper are run in a story by the local newspaper, much to the chagrin of Dr. Carr.
At home, Holden becomes increasingly dismissive of Debbie. When he returns from Georgia, he finds her on the porch. Holden deduces she plans to break up with him. He leaves emotionlessly.
At FBI HQ, Holden, Bill, and Gregg interview with the bureau’s internal affairs team. Bill expresses concern over Holden’s comportment during their interviews. Holden dismisses the investigators’ concerns, insulting their interviewing technique. They inform him that in doctoring the tape recordings, he’s lied to the FBI and could face serious disciplinary action. Holden scoffs and leaves the room to the warnings of investigators.
After receiving repeated letters from Kemper, Holden learns that Kemper has attempted suicide; he travels to California to speak with Kemper in the hospital. Holden is now disheveled and, for the first time, without a tie. He speaks with Ed in his hospital room, feigning ignorance and modesty. Kemper suddenly gets up from his bed and stands across from Holden threateningly, asking him why he came. Holden begins to break down while Kemper hugs him. Holden then runs from the room and collapses in the hallway from a panic attack.
The first season ends in Kansas, where the mustached man is standing outside of his trailer, burning drawings of bound women.