Jonathan Groff in Mindhunter. Photo courtesy of Netflix.


“It’s not easy butchering people, it’s hard work.”

The first line from the trailer for the new Netflix show Mindhunter sets the tone for what promises to be a dark and creepy exploration of the minds of serial killers. Produced by a team that includes David Fincher (director of Gone Girl, Zodiac, House of Cards and Fight Club) and Charlize Theron, the 10-episode series will premiere on 13th October, and has already been renewed for a second season.

Based on the true crime novel of the same name, Mindhunter tells the story of the FBI agents who coined the term ‘serial killer’, after conducting extensive interviews with some of the most terrifying murderers in criminal history. The series is set in 1979, when the definition of a serial killer did not yet exist, and will show the profilers trying to convince their colleagues and superiors that theirs is not a pseudo-science, but a way to study and successfully catch the worst criminals imaginable. As Mindhunter character Bill Tench says in the trailer, “How do we get ahead of crazy, if we don’t know how crazy thinks?”


Holt McCallany as Bill Tench, and Anna Torv as Wendy. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

The inspiration for the series is the book Mind Hunter: Inside FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, which was written by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas, and which chronicles the real-life discoveries of some of the very first FBI profilers. John E. Douglas began interviewing serial killers and other violent offenders in a bid to understand the way they think, in order to make it easier to catch them. Understanding their behaviour also made it easier to predict, and enabled them to analyse crime scenes.

It might be a staple of crime TV shows and movies now, but in the 1970s, when profiling was a brand new concept, a lot of psychologists, police officers and FBI agents were initially resistant to the idea of examining a crime scene and being able to use it to determine the characteristics of the person who had committed the crime. It was a revolutionary idea, and many at the FBI thought the profilers were wasting their time, a conflict which will be depicted in Mindhunter.

During his career, Douglas interviewed some of the most notorious serial killers, including Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy. The trailer suggests that Mindhunter will feature at least two characters based on real-life serial killers that were interviewed by Douglas – Edmund Kemper and Dennis Rader, who is also known as the BTK Killer.


Cameron Britton as Edmund Kemper (left) and Jonathan Groff as Holden Ford. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

John E. Douglas has already been the inspiration for other famous fictional FBI agents, such as Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal’s Will Graham and Criminal Minds’ Jason Gideon and David Rossi. This time he is the inspiration for Holden Ford, played by Jonathan Groff, and Bill Tench, played by Holt McCallany, who have to tread the fine line between immersing themselves in the mindsets of the serial killers, without letting them get under their skin. In one scene in the trailer, Holden Ford tells his partner, “I can’t let them rub off on me.”

But, as Ford also states, “You want truffles? You gotta get in the dirt with the pigs.”