How to Sound Smart While Talking About ‘Mindhunter’ Season 2

... even if you haven't watched it

Have you watched Mindhunter yet?! Season 2 of Netflix’s serial killer show is as bingeable as it is disturbing, although the ending is a bit of a dud (fight me).

Even if you’re not a fan of the David Fincher series, it may be hard to avoid Mindhunter as a topic of conversation at parties and at work for the next few weeks. You can watch it yourself, but why not just read up on everything there is to know about the show’s second season and its various killers? You’ll be the talk of the office water cooler when you reveal the true story behind everyone’s favorite new serial killer.

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Ready? Grab your 1970s era tape recorder and let’s get started. Mindhunter school is in session.

Mindhunter 101

If you’re coming in fresh, here are the basics of this addicting series:

  • Mindhunter takes place in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, focusing on a group of FBI agents as they develop a new form of behavioral psychology by studying repeat murders, or, as they call them, serial killers.
  • The series is based on this non-fiction book by FBI agent John Douglas and his writing partner, Mark Olshaker.
  • Mindhunter stars Jonathan Groff as Holden Ford (a stand-in for Douglas), Holt McCallany as Bill Tench (based on FBI agent Robert Ressler), and Anna Torv as Dr. Wendy Carr (based on Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess).
  • Season 1 featured a handful of real-life serial killers, including Ed Kemper (played by breakout star Cameron Britton).

Who’s your favorite member of the Behavioral Science Unit? Ford? Tench? Dr. Carr? Email me your pick at jacob@inverse.com to be featured in next week’s newsletter.


What Happens in Mindhunter Season 2?

In short: a lot. Mindhunter’s second season features a cavalcade of killers, including the infamous Charles Manson and Brooklyn’s own Son of Sam. Each killer gets a lengthy interview with Ford and Tench in two of the best scenes from the new season. Damon Herriman plays Manson in an enthralling performance — and yes, that’s the same actor who plays Manson in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Oliver Cooper plays an extremely convincing David Berkowitz (aka Son of Sam) in a performance most notable for how damn similar he looks to the actual killer.

However, the biggest plotline is devoted to the Atlanta Child Murders, an ongoing case during Mindhunter Season 2 that slowly goes from an overlooked murder spree to national crisis as the season progresses. The story offers a fascinating look into life in the southern city during a dark chapter of American history, and it doesn’t shy away from the racism that enveloped the city. The alleged murderer’s identity is one of the biggest reveals of the season so I won’t spoil it here, but you can check out this article for a detailed breakdown of the true story behind the Atlanta Child Murders.

Mindhunter’s second season also continues the show’s slow-burning obsession with the BTK Strangler, another notorious serial killer who sent letters to the press and fashioned himself after his predecessors like Son of Sam and the Zodiac Killer. For decades, Dennis Rader terrorized the Wichita, Kansas, area with a series of brutal murders. Season 1 offered a brief look at BTK, but Season 2 goes even deeper with a series of short scenes at the beginning or end of multiple episodes.

One new episode even focuses on FBI agent Bill Tench as he travels to Kansas to investigate the case in person, but this plot is quickly derailed by the Atlanta Child Murders. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though; in real life, Rader wasn’t arrested until the early 2000s when he sent a floppy disc with a message to the local news station. Police were able to decode a deleted document on the disc that led to Rader’s arrest in 2005.

Finally, Mindhunter features a season-long plot focused on the murder of a young child in Bill Tench’s hometown. It’s a gruesome story that somehow makes the show’s other serial killers look tame by comparison, but before you ask whether it really happened, the answer is a firm no. Still, that doesn’t make this B plot any less powerful.

Need even more info?

  • Read our pithy breakdown of five key plot points from the first three episodes of Mindhunter Season 2.
  • You can also check out this list of the best movies, books, and podcasts to learn even more about the show’s scariest serial killers.

Mindhunter Owes a Key Plot to the “Father of Psychopharmacology”

Inverse Mind and Body staff writer Emma Betuel writes about the real-life science behind Holden Ford’s panic attacks in Mindhunter Season 2. As Emma explains it, the series is set just as professional medicine began to take “panic disorder” seriously, even if some of Ford’s colleague’s still think he just needs to walk it off.

Here’s an excerpt from Emma’s story:

The timeline of Mindhunter falls right during a crucial movement in the real-world understanding of the condition. Due largely to the work of Dr. Donald Klein, the “father of psychopharmacology” during the late ‘60s and ‘70s, “panic disorder” finally gained recognition from the American Psychiatric Association. Coincidentally, on the same day that Mindhunter Season 2 premiered, Klein died in New York at the age of 90. Read more.

Reader Mail

Last week we asked who your favorite Mindhunter serial killer was and Jaron sent us this hilarious response: “I haven’t watched Mindhunter … but Zac Efron as Ted Bundy is DREAMY 💗 … I mean really accurately portrayed.”

Not quite what I was hoping for, but thanks Jaron! Don’t forget to email me your favorite BSU member jacob@inverse.com to get featured in next week’s newsletter.

This is a recreation of Inverse’s twice-weekly newsletter, Multiverse. Sign up here for free.

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