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In the spirit of Halloween being barely over, I will admit one of my biggest – if not THE biggest – pop culture fears. No, it’s not a Museum of Twilight Saga Wigs, although that really just creeped me out, typing that.
I’m deathly afraid of the movie Red Dragon. I don’t hate the movie. I think Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes (shudder) and Anthony Hopkins and Emily Watson turn in really great performances. And of course the story itself is tightly plotted and the movie, well-paced. It’s a great picture. But I can’t even watch 10 seconds of it and not have nightmares.
It’s Ralph Fiennes’ character, Frances Dolarhyde. I just … cannot with his version of creepy, stalking, horrific crime-spree serial killing. Everything he does so methodically in that movie is tailor-made to creep me the hell out. So why did I decide this week was a good time to binge watch Mindhunter on Netflix?
Truth be told, one of the only things that can get me out of the spiral on anxiety that I feel every time I remember that FREAKING WILLIAM BLAKE POEM or any other detail from Red Dragon is the fact that the movie and the book are FICTIONAL. This brings me great solace. Frances Dolarhyde and his crimes do not exist. Red Dragon isn’t real.
And for some reason, I didn’t realize that Mindhunter was the real life version of the characters and the scenarios that inspired it. Mindhunter is not loosely related to the most terrifying serial killers in fictional history. Mindhunter is based on the real life FBI agents and serial killers that inspired RED EFFING DRAGON. Sure, Frances Dolarhyde isn’t real, but Ed Kemper is.
Vulture has a great breakdown of the real life heroes and villains that the show is based on. I knew as soon as I saw the ADT guy in Kansas that he was a) looking a whole lot like the BTK killer and b) super much like Dolarhyde and therefore going to be THE WORST. He’s yet to proven himself that, but we all know what’s waiting for us in season 2.
It takes no time at all in the first episode to see the parallels between Jonathan Groff’s Special Agent Holden Ford and the Will Graham from Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal, which I really enjoyed. Hannibal was so stylized and so extreme that it didn’t affect me in the same way. I watched Hannibal for the aesthetics, for the psychology. I watched it for Will. So I kind of thought I was safe. My initial reaction to the show was: oh, it’s going to be a period drama that re-examines Will Graham. I love Will Graham.
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Then I remembered Ed Norton’s character from Red Dragon. And then I went: OH SHIT. Holden Ford is going to delve deep not so much into himself, but into the psyches of all these guys who inspired and influenced characters like Dolarhyde and Buffalo Bill, and … can I watch this?
Turns out, the answer to that question was “yes” and “no.” My husband and I binge-watched three episodes one night, and finished the season the following weekend. So empirically, yes, I COULD watch Mindhunter.
But, after those first three episodes, we were getting ready for bed, and I took the dogs out. It was late-ish, around 11. We have a fenced backyard in a very safe neighborhood where the assistant chief of police also lives. Our neighbors are all on the same prayer chain list. But looking out into the dark of my yard, waiting for the new puppy to do her business, I started to panic. He could be out there. Watching us. Learning our patterns and schedules and weaknesses.
I called the dogs in before they were done, and ran inside. The new puppy pooped in her crate that night. I don’t even care.
And after all that, I can honestly say: watch it. The show is excellent. A little bit Spotlight, a little bit Hannibal, a little bit True Detective. But also something original and well-crafted. Watch it for Jonathan Groff’s character evolution, if nothing else. He’s spectacular. Anna Torv and Hannah Gross are also infinitely watchable. Holt McCallany, who plays veteran FBI agent and Holden’s partner, Bill Tench, is also spectacular. I feel safe every time he’s on screen, which is saying something when you are me and me is watching Mindhunter.
So, whenever you get done with Stranger Things Season 2, let Netflix switch you seamlessly over to the next best creepy series they have. Just make sure you close your shades while you watch. Who knows who could be looking in?