Mindhunter and the Privilege of Justice

MH 7

How much justice could your parents have purchased if you were murdered when you were a child? Would your death alone be enough for local law enforcement and local media to become interested or would it take the deaths of  27 other children, adolescents, and adults who look like you and who come from the same socioeconomic background for the public to become interested and for the killer to be caught?

If you looked like me as a child (my condolences) and came from a similar economic background, justice and media interest could be purchased and manufactured almost instantly. On any given day, if I wouldn’t have arrived home by curfew, the local authorities would have been involved within hours. If I had gone missing overnight, the entire community would be on the lookout.

More than 24 hours? State and possibly federal law enforcement would have been involved.

The sad truth is that if you didn’t look like me or come from the same economic background and went missing or were murdered in the late 1970s/early 1980s, justice and media interest were privileges that you wouldn’t have been born with and may have had difficulty purchasing.

Class, race, and privilege are the overwhelming social narrative of the second season of Netflix’s Mindhunter as the series finds the investigative team moving from a reactive role to a proactive role while trying to solve the case the Atlanta child murders.

In short, 28 black children, adolescents and adults, ranging in age from 12-28 were murdered in Atlanta from 1979-1981. In 1982, Wayne Williams was convicted of the murder of two of the adults (Jimmy Ray Payne and Nathaniel Carter) and is widely considered to be guilty of the OTHER 26 murders. Why do I say widely considered?

Because the other 26 cases are technically cold cases. After Williams arrest, the murders stopped, and no one was charged with or tried for the remaining 26 murders. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly.

With today’s social media and 24 hour news channels, it is hard to imagine a case going to this length without getting more attention earlier. However, this was 40 years ago and these families couldn’t afford to buy some any justice. Tough shit, huh?

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

As I stated earlier, FBI profilers Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) head to Atlanta to help local law enforcement catch a killer while psychiatric forensic researcher Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) and FBI newbie Gregg Smith (Joe Tuttle) continue interviewing and researching seriel killers. With the team being split up, a wedge divides them and threatens to derail their work.

Tension also arrives at the Tench household as adopted son Brian is involved in the accidental death of a local toddler. This development builds a wall between Bill and wife Nancy (Stacey Roca) that isn’t made any easier by the fact that Bill is spending the week in Atlanta working a case and weekends at home preventing his son from becoming a bad guy. Essentially, like most of his interviewees, Bill is leading leading a double life.

It is also no coincidence that Brian and Holden mirror each other physically as well as in their distant gazes, disinterest in physical contact, and awkward social interactions.

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With love and support will Brian end up being like Holden, a productive (albeit strange) member of society? Can Brian hope to assimilate into modern society with the help of mental health professional? Would Holden have ended up in a situation similar to Brian’s if his birth parents would have been abusive?

These questions are asked, but not answered, as the viewers are allowed to draw their own conclusion and choose sides in the debate of nurture vs. nature. Of course, in this debate, middle class privilege can go a long way – it can buy assistance and assessments from mental and physical health care professionals, the ability to move to ‘better’ neighborhoods with higher performing schools, and most importantly a safe environment to raise a child.

Perhaps the most important thing privilege can buy is the cognition to realize that these issues matter, that children are fragile, and education and psychological and physical health are important.

The second season finds Wendy in a new relationship that due to its sexual nature she has to not just hide, but in a moment of Judas Iscariotism, has to deny to her teammates.

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The relationship, with local bartender Kay (Lauren Glazer), has an ‘odd couple’ feel and at times, it seems that Wendy views her new love interest as just that – an interest. Although I believe Wendy truly has affection for Kay, she never takes her ‘work hat’ off and is constantly peppering Kay with questions. I really wish the Wendy character would have been given more to work with in this season and it would have been interesting to see her as who she is – a young, gay, professional from an academic background working the case in Atlanta.

Mindhunter is still intriguing even with the lack of character growth and development. The three leads largely remain extensions of their first season selves, just tasked with different personal and professional challenges. However, the second season does develop some dark humor and in the style of creator David Fincher(Fight Club/The Social Network/Gone Girl)  is visually stunning

Lastly, the season one intertwined vignette of killer Dennis Rader (Sonny Valcenti) continues into season two. The details of Rader’s crimes are disturbing but not as disturbing as the fact he is married, has children, is educated, holds a steady job, and is active in his community as a church member and Boy Scout troupe leader.

Privilege can’t save you from a neighbor like that.

On my rating of Pass, Watch, or Binge, I give season two of Mindhunter a low Binge. Lock the doors and give it a chance.

CONVICTIONS & TRIALS

  • Nothing highlights the difference between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat better than the image of Holden, Bill, and their boss leaving Atlanta in a private FBI plane.
  • Bill sees a lot of his son in his interviewees and vice versa. Man, Holt McCallany is good.
  • There is a TON of cross/crucifixion imagery scattered across season two. A toddler’s body is placed on a cross, crosses are spotted in restaurants, and Holden and the team even assemble crosses. I am not quite sure what Fincher is trying to relay with this imagery, but I think it is different for every character.
  • The Charles Manson scene seemed a little forced and only existed so Bill could explode because of all of the tension in his life.
  • Speaking of Manson, actor Damien Herriman portrays Manson in both Mindhunter and Once Upon a Time In Hollywood. Do yourself a favor and watch him in Season two of FX’s Justified.
  • The plot with Holden’s panic attack’s went no where. What a tease.
  • One of the first scenes in this installment is Bill regaling his neighbors with his wicked work tales. Bill hates it and hates his neighbors macabre curiosity with his job. We the viewers are the neighbors and Fincher lets us know it.
  • June Carryl plays Camille Bell, the defacto leader of a group of grieving mothers who are seeking justice for their murdered sons. Carryl steals EVERY scene she is in and I hope her Mindhunter stint leads to more work.
  • Only one scene with killer Ed Kempton (Cameron Britton) is not nearly enough.
  • Kudos for to the casting directors for finding such good actors to portray the seriel killers and even more props to costume and makeup for making them look so accurate:

 

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