Monday, October 16, 2017

Pilot Review: Mindhunter

Mindhunter (Netflix)
Premiered October 13

I try hard not to read anything about new shows since I find that going into them knowing next to nothing enhances the experience and allows them to speak for themselves in terms of premise and quality. Yet I’m constantly surprised when a debut episode doesn’t make clear specifically what a show is about, and while I was drawn in enough based on the content of the pilot as compared with something like “The Deuce,” I still had no idea that this show would be about its protagonists interviewing imprisoned serial killers to gain insight into why they committed their crimes and why others might. It makes sense as a logical next step, though the way this first episode ended, that wasn’t clear at all. I just finished “Manhunt: Unabomber,” which showed how an unconventional way of thinking helped to catch a notorious killer who went uncaught for many years, and therefore this does appeal. Yet I think that the strongest part of the entire episode was the first scene where Jonathan Groff’s Holden Ford showed up and took charge of a hostage negotiation with just the right approach, only to find his work cut short by a fatal gunshot to the man’s hand. I liked Groff a lot in his role on the second season of Starz’s short-lived “Boss,” and he seems like the right person for this part. I was very fond of Holt McCallany on FX’s one-season boxing drama “Lights Out,” and so it’s good to see him get another major role. I guess we’ll meet Anna Torv from “Fringe” in a subsequent episode. This premiere didn’t draw me in as much as I’d hope, but it piqued my interest to the point that I’ll tune in for episode two to see where it goes.

How will it work as a series? Holden and Bill seem to be on the same page even if they don’t always see eye to eye, but almost everyone they encounter wants direct results that don’t involve nearly as much introspection. Their uphill battle will be made engaging if the stories told by the killers they interview are gripping, chilling, and can be used to productive effect to glean knowledge about why others might do what they do.
How long will it last? David Fincher’s involvement in the show seems to have bolstered its buzz, earning a second season renewal way back in April. While premature pickups often backfire for non-streaming dramas, this might not actually be so bad for this well-reviewed drama that’s probably going to be considered a hit for the network.

Pilot grade: B

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