Stare into the abyss with Mindhunter

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Everybody knows shows like Criminal Minds, where the main protagonists rally around developing a psychological profile of their enemy of the week.

This profile helps the cast get ahead of their subject before they take their next victim and then rinse and repeat.

However, the origins of the Behavioral Analysis Unit on display is never fully explored.

The ultimate question of ‘where did this form of profiling even come from?” never gets it’s own dedication.

Mindhunter, a new Netflix exclusive created by Joe Penhall explores those very ghastly origins through the lens of the original creators of what was then the Behavioral Science Unit.

The viewers follow Holden Ford played by Jonathan Groff, a young, aspiring FBI agent specializing in Hostage Negotiation and his partner/mentor Bill Tench played by Holt McCallany as they begin the process of developing an understanding of the mind of a serial killer.

The show is based off of the real-life developments and experiences of Special Agents John E. Douglas and Robert K. Ressler and Consultant Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess.

The show is well performed, with each actor seeming to fall into character as if the show weren’t a high production value product, but well shot found-footage journal depicting the growth of the Unit. The origins lie simply in interviews with various killers.

The agents seek their insights into why they did what they did, what they felt when doing it, as well as checking into the personal history of the subject, among other topics.

Groff and McCallany play off of each other well, with McCallany capturing Tench’s growing exasperation towards his doe eyed new apprentices equally well played curiosity and newfound disturbing fascination with the twisted.

Groff perfectly encapsulates Fords combination of curiosity, awkwardness, stiffness and escalating arrogance with a likable charm that draws all viewers to the character and his ultimate goal: a perfect understanding as to why serial killers do what they do.

Even Cameron Britton, who plays an admittedly small role as real-life killer and subject, Edmund Kemper, “The Coed Killer.”

Britton brought his character to life by embracing what made Kemper such a disturbing man in the first place: he not only doesn’t seem like the type of man to do what he did, but he is entirely self-aware of what he is, what he’s done and shows very little remorse for his actions.

Even more disturbing, Britton plays his character off so well and charmingly that the viewer may occasionally forget he is a brutal murderer, but a halfway decent, likable guy talking shop with an FBI buddy or two of his.

This only lasts so long before reality is horribly brought back into focus when exploring Kempers psyche or when he jokes about or demonstrates something only he could provide experienced insight into.

The Unit takes these insights provided by Kemper (and others) and applies the Units newly polished theories when assisting various police departments in particularly heinous murders.

The characters inspired by real-life killers get into vivid details concerning the murders they committed, and the callous almost careless attitudes that some of the Units subjects project even begin affecting members of the primary cast in their interactions with others and each other.

Viewers learn alongside the cast that Friedrich Nietzsche spoke maybe a bit too much, but he had a point when he said the abyss stares back at those who stare into it.