Serial-killer confessions (not for the faint of heart)
From the basement to Boston we go in this slightly unfocused episode, as Holden and Bill seek a second opinion on their Interview With the Serial Killer project from Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), a well-regarded psychologist who’s writing a book about white-collar crime and the psychopaths who perpetrate it. Carr is keenly interested in the partners’ research, given that serial killers and psychopaths share underlying personality traits, like lack of remorse and empathy. And, in stark contrast with supervisor Shepard’s conclusions, Carr thinks Holden and Bill’s work could be revolutionary.
“Although your project is obviously in the nascent stages, it already feels like a clear successor to The Mask of Sanity, which as you know is quite a compliment,” she tells them, as Holden frantically tries to scribble that esoteric title into his notes. (FYI — The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues About the So-Called Psychopathic Personality was published in 1941 by psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley and is considered a seminal text on the subject matter. He theorizes that psychopaths wear an outward “mask” to mimic “normal” behavior.)
Carr makes clear, though, that they’ll have to dedicate a lot more than those 10 hours a week to formalize the project and make it viable. And even with full-time efforts, a legitimate academic study could take four to five years to complete. Holden is chuffed by the prospect of publishing their findings, while Bill is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the work.
Back at the office, Holden and Bill begin plotting a murderer map, pinpointing the exact locations of incarcerated killers and how they line up with their scheduled road schools. It’s then that they get a call from Carver in Sacramento: There’s been another attack on an old woman and her dog — and this time it was deadly. Holden quickly realizes that the trip will afford them another chance to talk with Kemper (but more on that later as we have a murder that needs solving).
In Sacramento, they begin to narrow their profile: The perp is no kid but likely a man in his late 20s to early 40s, “physically mature, emotionally immature.” And he’s probably white. That description sparks a memory for Carver, who shows the agents an image of a man who was very eager to talk to cops. (Sound like another loquacious killer we know?) The men arrive at Dwight Taylor’s house — or should we say Dwight Taylor’s mom’s house — and find squalid living conditions, an empty dog dish, and blankets strewing the coach where Dwight sleeps.
The agents and Carver take Dwight outside, away from his domineering mother, and they begin their interrogation, sly. They learn that at 20, Dwight got his also 20-year-old girlfriend pregnant and when his mom found out and told the girl’s parents, she was forced to get an abortion. They also learn that Dwight’s mom owns a dog and recently let her very new boyfriend come to live with them. But the most telling bits of evidence are the harsh red scratches up and down Dwight’s arm. He claims they’re from wood; the detectives are pretty sure they’re from a canine.
Cut to the squad room celebrating Taylor’s arrest, with Carver toasting Holden as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes and Bill as his Watson. Holden thanks them in his typical pseudo-intellectual manner: “And for embracing that if we all work together we can venture into the darkest night and shine a light onto the darkness. I’m talking about real darkness—”
“—And thanks for the beer!” Bill (thankfully) interjects, before Holden can offend once again.
With that case closed, the agents are free to pay another visit to our friend Edmund Kemper, the real standout of this series so far (at least for me). He continues to unspool his backstory for the men, and his cool, detached delivery is as chilling yet convivial as ever. (That explanation of why he put his mother’s vocal cords down the garbage disposal — “Because I couldn’t shut her up” — was particularly troubling.) I hope we haven’t seen the last of Kemper; he’s just so entertaining. (If you’re interested in more of the Co-Ed Killer’s story, I’d suggest Last Podcast on the Left’s two-part series. Warning: Plenty of NSFW language.)
On the plane home, Bill says he’s been thinking a lot about what Carr told them and wonders if they should invite her down to Virginia for a day to strategize. Holden can hardly keep his composure.
“It’s a long shot,” Bill warns him. “[Shepard] hates you already.”
“He’s beginning to hate you too,” Holden replies.
“Right, so why half-ass it?”
At home, Holden is contemplative: “I can’t let these guys rub off on me,” he tells girlfriend Debbie. “The way they use sex—“
“—and women,” she cuts in.
Then in a slightly bizarre sequence of events, Holden tries to prove to Debbie just how “kinky” he can be. The payoff of that weird moment comes quickly, when we flash to the FBI offices and Holden’s having certain words, like dildo and fellatio, struck from the list of deviant terms. Our square is becoming more well-rounded, it appears.
The episode closes with Holden and Bill welcoming Carr to headquarters and this winning exchange in reference to President Nixon:
Holden: “How do you get to be the president of the United States if you’re a sociopath?”
Carr: “The question is, how do you get to be president of the United States if you’re not?”
Most F—ed Up Moment: It has to be the aforementioned vocal cords in the garbage disposal bit. Yuck.
(Click ahead for episode 4)