By the very nature of its premise, Mindhunter was never going to be a show about action. The series follows FBI agents in the late ‘70s as they interview and analyze imprisoned serial killers to try to codify a process for criminal profiling. By the time our protagonists enter the story, the murders have already taken place. All that’s left to do is talk. Which is why, if the show was ever going to work, they had to make sure their dialogue was really, really good. Luckily, as the latest video from ScreenPrism explores, it was.
As anyone who has watched the series will tell you, the interviews with Ed Kemper (played masterfully by Cameron Britton) are some of the most revealing and unsettling scenes in the whole show. Within minutes of their first meeting, Kemper and Ford (Jonathan Groff) are locked in a game of wits, a power struggle to see who is steering the conversation and who can better emotionally manipulate the other. The subtleties of the dialogue are highlighted by visual cues, either by the actors themselves (Kemper’s small facial expressions) or the direction (framing certain lines in over-the-shoulder shots to convey a power dynamic).
Still, one of the most impressive things about the dialogue in Mindhunter is its ability to convey the horror of these completely unseen murders. As Screenprism notes, most crime shows supplement the description of a murder with some sort of gruesome visual. But Mindhunter lets the dialogue speak for itself. We, as the viewers, are forced to imagine the horrific scene and, just like when we’re reading a great horror novel, what we can imagine is always going to be scarier than the reality. It will be interesting to see how the tell-don’t-show style of writing evolves in season two, where Ford and his team may find themselves involved in more active, ongoing cases.
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