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Jonathan Groff as Holden in Netflix’s “Mindhunter.”
Jonathan Groff as Holden in Netflix’s “Mindhunter.” Patrick Harbron/Netflix via AP/Netflix via AP

Big kudos to the makers of Netflix’s “Mindhunter.” After a middling first season, with high points (Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper) and low points (Jonathan Groff’s Holden in a flat love affair), they have come up with a somewhat stunning second round.

Now, Holden is more clearly an unstable genius, rather than some kind of formless lead character. And more attention is being paid to his two FBI colleagues, Holt McCallany’s Bill and Anna Torv’s Wendy, both of whom are given elaborate personal plots that overlap provocatively with their professional lives. Sometimes the overlap is a little forced — Bill’s son as a possible sociopath — but generally, it’s a step forward.

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What really captivates me are the serial killers our heroes interview, and the fine actors who play them. The show, which is about the creation of a model for profiling serial killers circa 1980, includes many captivating prison scenes in which Bill, Holden, Wendy, and the fangless Gregg sit across from sometimes terrifyingly articulate monsters such as Charles Manson (Damon Herriman, who also plays Manson in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), David Berkowitz (Oliver Cooper), and Elmer Wayne Henley Jr. (Robert Aramayo).

The killers aren’t just creepy; they’re provocative and trigger all kinds of fascinating reactions in the regular characters. The interview scenes are complex, and so it’s rewarding to watch the team review the tapes later on and do their own analyses.

The show’s narrative is more cohesive this season, too. The team is driven to collect more data from the killers because the so-called Atlanta Child Murders are unfolding and they want to help out with their newfangled profiling. It’s all very, very dark, which for me is very, very intriguing.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.

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