Everything you need to remember about Mindhunter before watching season 2
It’s been almost two years since we were first given a front-row view into the thought processes of serial killers in Netflix’s Mindhunter.
The first season, set in 1977, followed FBI Agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), who join forces with psychology professor Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) to create a Behavioral Science Unit within the Bureau that seeks to understand the psychology of serial killers. To do this, Holden and Bill travel the country interviewing as many serial killers as they can.
The show returns on Aug. 16, and in case you don’t have time to rewatch (or watch for the first time) season 1 (though we strongly encourage you do!), we’ve created a primer on everything that you need to know/remember ahead of the second season.
Here, EW takes a look at where our favorite characters left off at the end of season 1.
When we first meet Holden, he’s fresh off of a hostage negotiation and teaching at the FBI. He also meets and starts dating sociology grad student, Debbie Mitford (Hannah Gross), who encourages him to learn more about the minds of criminals. Enter Bill Tench, the head of Behavioral Science at the FBI. The two go on the road together to teach local cops the methodology of the Bureau. Holden expresses interest in talking with Charles Manson, but the local police encourage him to speak with coed killer Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton) instead. Kemper’s insights prove to be invaluable, and with the addition of the academic knowledge of Dr. Wendy Carr, the Behavioral Science Unit and their study of serial killers is born.
Throughout the season, police frequently request the help of Holden and Bill with their murder cases, allowing the two to put their burgeoning knowledge to practice as they continue their interviews with murderers around the country. Despite the protestations of Wendy and FBI bossman Shepard, Holden tends to get too friendly with the psychopaths by attempting to get on their level and mirror their language, in order to get them to open up. During a trip to visit Richard Speck, a man who raped and murdered eight nursing students, Holden uses particularly disturbing language, and Bill later encourages him to delete that part of the tape so he doesn’t get in trouble, but Holden fails to do so. Speck later files a complaint accusing Holden of “f—ing with his head,” and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) starts an investigation into the matter. Holden tells newbie agent Gregg Smith (Joe Tuttle) to transcribe the interview with Speck — minus his problematic comments — and Gregg is clearly uneasy with the idea. Although the team (reluctantly) agrees to destroy the full tape, it’s later revealed that Gregg’s conscience got the better of him and he mailed the tape to the OPR, but the ultimate consequences of this action are not revealed.
By the end of the season, it’s clear his work has affected Holden more than he let on. Debbie accuses him of being different, and the two break up. Holden, who apparently was getting letters from his buddy Ed Kemper but not responding to them, gets a call that the murderer had tried to kill himself and is in the hospital. Holden flies to see Ed, but after a strange encounter with him which ends in a big, ominous hug from the killer, Holden has a panic attack. The last we see of him, he’s lying on the floor of the hospital, clutching his chest.
Bill spends much of the season reigning in the impulses of his partner. It’s largely thanks to Bill that he and Holden are allowed to conduct their interviews with the inmates because Shepard trusts him (but not Holden). Bill is also the one who introduces Holden to Wendy, whom he had met during his road school days.
He’s also married to Nancy, and the two have an adopted 6-year-old son named Brian, who doesn’t speak. When the Tenches have Holden and Debbie over for dinner one night, Nancy reveals to Debbie that they adopted their son when he was very young after they struggled to conceive, but they don’t know much about his history before his time at the orphanage. It’s later revealed that he bit another kid at school — it becomes clear throughout the season that he has behavioral problems — and it’s suggested that Bill’s absence due to work may be a factor.
Unlike Holden, Bill is more outwardly bothered by the nature of their work, as well as the strain it puts on his marriage. Things come to a head when he and Nancy discuss, and argue, about therapy for their son. They return home to find a distraught babysitter, who shows them a disturbing crime scene photo that Brian found in his dad’s office.
At the end of the season, the OPR interviews the members of the team, and it comes out that Bill had expressed reservations about Holden’s methods to the investigators. Holden, feeling betrayed, confronts Bill, who tells him he told the investigators “the truth.”
Dr. Wendy Carr
Wendy is working at Boston University, attempting to earn tenure as a social sciences professor, when we are first introduced to her. She is immediately interested in the work that Bill and Holden are doing with the serial killers and agrees to join the team on a part-time basis. Thanks to Wendy’s involvement, the team secures a large sum of grant money for their research, and later Shepard offers her a full-time position with the FBI. Wendy then returns to Boston, where she asks her girlfriend, Annaliese Stilman (Lena Olin), for her thoughts on the FBI’s offer. Annaliese doesn’t think it is a good idea, but Wendy decides to leave for Virginia anyway.
She finds herself a new apartment, and one night in the laundry room she hears a cat meowing. Although she never actually sees the cat, she leaves it a can of tuna. When she returns to it later, the can has been licked clean. She later leaves it another can of tuna, but the cat doesn’t touch it, and by the end of the season it’s unclear what happened to that cat.
In the finale, Holden and Bill celebrate with local cops after solving a case. Holden openly boasts about their work, and it’s revealed that a member of the press was nearby, and they published what he said. Wendy worries that the publicity could jeopardize their study, because serial killers won’t want to talk to them if “they think we’re sending people to the electric chair,” as she puts it. She flies with Holden to Georgia, which is a death penalty state, and tries to convince the District Attorney there to not give the suspect the death penalty, but to try him for life in prison. Their mission is ultimately unsuccessful, as the DA tells them they should keep their business out of the press, and since capital punishment is the will of the people of Georgia, it’s what she shall seek. A disappointed Wendy returns to Virginia with Holden.
The BTK Strangler
Dennis Rader — the murderer who would come to call himself BTK (for bind, torture, killer) in real life — is slowly introduced throughout the first season, although his full name is never explicitly stated. He starts off as an ADT serviceman, installing security systems in people’s homes. Slowly his scenes, which appear either at the start or end of almost every episode, become more sinister in nature: he’s seen making a knot in a rope, or waiting in someone’s home while they’re not there. By the end of the season, he’s seen burning disturbing drawings of women in what is presumably his yard.
Season 2 of Mindhunter debuts Aug. 16 on Netflix.