Two episodes in and it’s clear Mindhunter isn’t what I was expecting. The show’s trailers and teasers made it look very moody and gloomy, but it turns out that’s not the case — especially in “Episode 2,” which shows off the series’ twisted sense of humor. I laughed out a few times, often because I was feeling super uncomfortable (see: every conversation between Holden and the Co-Ed Killer) but it was still laughter, so I’ll take it.
In “Episode 2,” Holden and Bill take their dark road show to California. Holden is particularly jazzed to be out in the Golden State. No, not because he wants to work on his tan. He wants to interview a serial killer! Obviously, his first choice is Charles Manson, but there’s no way he’s getting in to see him. Luckily, he gets a lead from a local detectives—Ed Kemper, a.k.a. the aforementioned Co-Ed Killer (Cameron Britton), who murdered several college women, decapitated them, and then had sex with their corpses. Apparently, he’s a very talkative fellow.
Bill thinks visiting Kemper off the books is a bad idea, but Holden throws caution to the wind and goes forward with the interview. (Bill goes golfing instead. Who has the better time in California? You decide!) One of the low-key funniest moments of the episode is when a prison guard makes Holden sign a piece a paper that waives the U.S. government of any liability if he gets injured while there. He’s taken to a room where he comes face-to-face with Ed, a creepily polite guy who is also best friends with every guard in the prison. You want an egg sandwich? Ed will get one of the guards to deliver it to you whether you like it or not. Ed loves cop shows and says that’s how he managed to evade capture for all those years. And like everyone else on this show, Ed notes that Holden is super tense. Britton is also frightening in this role, there’s something menacing lurking just beneath this mannerly exterior.
The biggest and creepiest nugget of information to come out of Holden’s first meeting with Ed is that he views killing as vocation and that it’s hard work. In fact, he refers to his murder spree as his oeuvre. It’s also here that we learn Holden, a relative newcomer to this particular field of criminal justice, has started referring to murderers like Ed as “sequence killers.” Who wants to bet that Holden comes up with the name “serial killers” in the season finale, probably in a scene with his girlfriend Debbie?
These interviews with Ed start getting to Holden and it’s all he can think about. When he grabs breakfast with Debbie after a particular visit, he orders an “Ed Salad Sandwich,” which sounds like the most disgusting thing in the world. Thank God, I didn’t egg salad sandwiches before because I definitely wouldn’t want to after that Freudian slip. Realizing bae needs some help, Debbie gives Holden some tips to make Ed open up.
So, Holden returns to see Ed (again, against Bill’s advice) and tries a few tactics to get Ed to drop his guard, namely by having some uncomfortable sex talk, which leads to Ed describing what it’s like to have intercourse with a neck (Ew!). He actually uses Holden’s own neck as a prop. Eventually, Ed does start to open up about his mother, who worked with co-eds, and how she mistreated him. And here’s where one of the most chilling moments of the episode comes: As the camera dollies forward, Ed coldly shares some upsetting beliefs about women (that I didn’t even bother to write down), never breaking eye contact with us or Holden. Naturally, this leaves Holden quite shaken, but he thinks he’s making progress.
From there, it’s time for a flashy and fun travel montage that eventually ends with the guys back in California helping a Sacramento detective with a recent assault. An elderly woman was beaten within an inch of her life outside of her home and her dog was murdered. The cops don’t have a lead and the woman, who has finally regained consciousness but can’t remember anything except for the fact that her assailant smelled bad. That detail combined with the fact that the neighborhood has a lot of kids suggests to Holden that her attacker may be a teenager, and that his poor hygiene is way of rebelling against his parents. The detective has a teen from the neighborhood he could interview about this, but it’ll be difficult since they’ve brought him in twice already and he has connections. Holden offers to work around that.
Unfortunately, Holden and Bill end up being stuck in California for an extra weekend, and Holden uses this as an opportunity to convince Bill to come see Ed with him so that he can see for himself that he’s not being manipulated. During the meeting, Bill and Holden play some games with Ed, lying about how Bill inspired one of his favorite cop shows. Eventually, Ed does that thing where he nonchalantly and coldly describes doing disturbing things, this time how he murdered his mother.
That encounter convinces Bill that they need to tell Shepard about these little off the books interviews before Shepard finds out from someone else and they get censured. When they get back to Quantico, Shepard calls them into his office to yell at them for the work they were doing on that assault case, so they decide not to tell him about Kemper. However, Holden changes his mind, and so he and Bill tell Shepard what’s up. At first, Shepard shuts them down, but Bill has Holden’s back after meeting Kemper himself (“How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?”) and that convinces Shepard to let them keep working. However, there are some rules: They can’t tell anyone, they must work out of the basement, and they report only to him. Honestly, the fact that they’re being relegated to the basement of Quantico makes sense since they’re about to head down a very, very dark hole.
Most F—ed Up Moment: The fact that Ed said “There, now you’ve had sex,” to his mother — who had been complaining about the fact that she hadn’t had sex in years because of him — right after he murdered her.
(Click ahead for episode 3)