Mindhunter Review: A Second Season that’s Actually Good, Unlike Sacred Games

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Mindhunter Review: A Second Season that’s Actually Good, Unlike Sacred Games

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

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ike many others, I had marked out the days following August 15 for an extended Netflix binge-watching session. But unlike my fellow couch potatoes, I wasn’t priming myself for the highly anticipated second season of Sacred Games. Instead, I was trying to contain my excitement for Mindhunter’s sophomore offering. And after looking at the tepid reaction Sacred Games received from its legions of faithful fans, I think my decision was the right one, despite the sleepless nights that followed my Mindhunter marathon.

Sequels, whether they are the next installment of a movie franchise or the second season of TV show, have the unenviable task of standing in their predecessors’ shadows. Both Mindhunter and Sacred Games became jewels in Netflix’s streaming crown on the backs of their riveting first seasons. One was a taut psychological thriller, the other a sprawling underworld epic, but both shows had fans chomping at the bit for more at the conclusion of their maiden seasons. While Mindhunter manages to recapture the brooding atmosphere that was its signature as well as upping the stakes for its protagonists, Sacred Games’ well seems like it’s starting to run dry, as it tries and fails to present old wine in a new bottle.

For the unacquainted, Mindhunter is the semi-fictionalised story of how the FBI set up its Behavioural Science Unit (BSU), a division that brought criminal psychology into the real world by focussing on why criminals and violent offenders behaved the way they did, rather than merely what crimes they committed. The BSU did this by conducting in-person interviews with some of America’s worst killers, with agents visiting the convicts in their prisons and conversing with them without any guards – or more terrifyingly, restraints.

The second season of Mindhunter retains the in-person interviews as bait to lure in the first season’s faithful, but also switches gears by adding a sense of urgency.

The second season of Mindhunter retains the in-person interviews as bait to lure in the first season’s faithful, but also switches gears by adding a sense of urgency. Whereas the agents were earlier merely tasked with profiling murderers and mapping their behaviour patterns last season, they must now move from the realm of the hypothetical to the practical, as the BSU is tasked with helping solve active investigations. The cases in question are the notorious Atlanta Child Murders, a spate of 29 killings that took place over a two-year period from 1979 to 1981. As it always is with Mindhunter, the murderers and their victims depicted on the show are all too real, which means every time another gruesome attack is mentioned, you will feel a chill run up your spine.

Though every case we see on Mindhunter is based in fact, the protagonists are a fictional stand-in for the actual BSU officers who pioneered the study of serial killers and other violent criminals. Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany play the odd couple pairing of FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench, with Anna Torv portraying their liaison from the world of academia, Dr Wendy Carr. 

The new season of Mindhunter keeps the spotlight on its central trio, highlighting the evolution of their relationship with each other and the chemistry they share, which makes for compelling viewing for fans who invested in these characters during the previous season. It’s a wise decision, especially when considering how Sacred Games introduced a whole new cast of characters, only to see them fail to strike a chord with the audience like Katekar and Kukoo did the last time.

At this point it’s necessary to state that comparing Mindhunter to Sacred Games is like the proverbial apples and oranges. Yes, both are based on books, and both have a dedicated fan following, but the similarities end there. As a member of both fandoms, I have to admit that they’re very different shows, and both are clearly labours of love. I have no doubt that Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane are as possessive and proud of their work as David Fincher is of his. But as a viewer, you can only watch one show at a time, so why not watch the one that won’t make you wish you could turn back time to the first season?

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