Mindhunter – The Show That Redefined A Genre

Netflix’s Mindhunter is the show that redefined the psychological crime drama thriller genre.

Mindhunter is a dark, tense and thrilling tv series that tells the true story of the pioneers of the Behavioral Science Unit of FBI, John E. Douglas, Robert K. Ressler, and Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess.

When we discuss psychological thrillers, we talk about the silence of lambs, Hannibal, Dexter, Zodiac, Criminal Minds, Red dragon, American Psycho, etc. But this show is something different it is more of a story than a gory that make this show unique piece in this genre.

Here is one of the main aspects that make this show a distinctive psychological thriller.


As we see in other shows or movies of this genre there is a lot of action and violence. But in the case of Mindhunter, there is no action throughout the two seasons except the opening scene of the first season. This show relies on mostly conversations and information about crime and psychology. But these kinds of things are quite so boring and dry for a tv series yet Mindhunter is so thrilling and dramatic that it draws viewers into the depth of the story.

So how this show makes these mere conversations so interesting and dramatic?

Here are some techniques that Mindhunter used to make its conversations interesting.

· Conflict of interests

Mindhunter increases the drama of expositional conversation by inserting smaller conflicts and disagreements between characters.

A prominent example of this is the scene of the interview of Richard Speck, we can observe the disagreement between Holden and Tench which is just established simply by a small look.

This scene may be simply a dramatic conversation but this additional layer of conflict that makes this scene more dramatic and interesting. Through this technique, it lures the attention of viewers towards this conflict and meanwhile the characters talk about the information that moves the plot forward. Mindhunter uses this technique in almost every scene of an interview with serial killers.

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But it also applies this technique to other scenes like a scene between Holden and his girlfriend Debbie in which Holden want to talk about a case with her but she wants to focus on what she was reading and this conflict creates a backdrop for exposition about psychology that relates to a case Holden was working on.

So, in this way again viewer get the information by means of conflict.

Similar technique used in a scene between Dr. Carr and Glazier as a result of which we get some information about the psychology of a serial killer which was interviewed by Dr. Carr earlier in the episode.

In every scene almost we see the elements of disagreements or interpersonal conflicts between two or more than two characters that make the conversations more interesting and engaging.

But in some scenes, there is no need for conflict, just the possibility of conflict creates tension in these scenes. As in these scenes, there is always a visual element with the collaboration of contextual setup that causes panic and tension even there is nothing happening on the screen. This technique targets our subconscious mind to create the feeling that maybe something will happen.

The scene of Tench meeting with a victim of BTK killer is an example of such situations.

In this scene, tension is created by a contextual setup that Tench can’t see backward as the victim doesn’t want him to see his face, which creates a kind of curiosity and sense of tension that what will happen if Tench see his face accidentally.

And the gun in that vehicle increases the stakes as there was the possibility that the victim might use it. There is no need for something to happen in this scene to grab the attention of the audience. Because there was a feeling that things could escalate very easily in the whole scene that kept the viewers on the edge of their seats.

· Setting and Locations

The model of Mindhunter is very recursive as we see the conversations after conversations with no action all along the series and it’s a quite monotonous and unidirectional approach. So how Mindhunter tackle this problem?

Mindhunter keeps its conversation interesting and fresh by setting them at interesting and relatively unique places to engage the viewers.

In these scenes, we can see characters moving around while talking which makes these conversations dynamic in nature and with these changing visuals the viewer never bored.

In this scene location of conversation is used to illustrate the information about the plot that makes this conversation more engaging.

In these scenes to make the conversations more interesting, it uses the locations that affect the tone of voice. In the first scene, Holden and Debbie are shouting as they are in a club and in the second scene Tench and Nancy are whispering as they are sitting in the waiting area.

Final Verdict

The way dialogue develops and unfolds in Mindhunter is as important as the content of the conversation. So basically, we are also drawn in these conversations by all that’s not said and all the complexity that surrounds these conversations. This shows that the words are the tool representing the outermost level of connection both in narrative and in life.

As David Fincher (Producer of the show) himself said:

‘‘For me conversations are the obviously the lifeblood of the work (interviews) they are doing.’’

He also describes these conversations as a battle of words

‘‘But it (conversation) is also a power struggle.’’

‘‘It (conversation) is an elaborate game of chess.’’

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