Rating : 9.5/10
This series came on my radar a few months before it got released on Netflix. The trailer had highly impressed me, looking at serial killer and attempting to analyse their psychology and what drives human beings to act the way they do. What happens when the motive isn’t logical. This is one of Netflix’s newest creations, and in my opinion one of it’s best. There has never been a better time for high quality intelligent tv series than right now. Granted there were some gems that were constructed in the 90s but in the last five to ten years some of the finest television has been created. Not only an intellectually gripping script, these series manage to perfect every facet of their construction, which as a film student is even more impressive. To name a few, Peaky Blinders, True Detective (season 1 not the shambles of the second season) Westworld, Legion, Stranger Things…. These have risen above the greats of the past as they employ strategic pacing amongst a myriad of other postmodern traits.
Our cast has a few familiar faces along with some new ones. Although you may recognize some, the series is of such a high calibre that the suspension of disbelief is never challenged or broken, even momentarily.
As we’ve discussed in other high quality and calibre series there is a long introduction, the juxtaposition of recording equipment with brief flashes of crime scene bodies and murders knits into the theme song pretty perfectly. Like with other series I’ve mentioned, this is not one to watch with your phone out or if your paying anything less than 100% attention. there are so manuy subtle details slipped into the script, cinematography and episode structure (a little like Westworld) that may seem minor and then a few episodes later something sprouts from the moment. No distractions whilst watching this.
It is also a commentary, a fairly scathing one, of Law Enforcement in the seventies. The series was fascinating to me because upon researching it, I found out that the way that the FBI is portrayed in this series in the first few (and all) episodes, is actually how the organisation did in fact view itself. Seeing oneself, whether you’re an individual or an institution as the apex of perfection with no room to improve is unhealthy in any scenario. The fact that there was a very real and verifiable separation of the FBI and Academics is incredible. In the 70s there was students learning about criminal psychology, social deviancy, and a host of other specifically related subjects that the FBI wasn’t even aware of let alone teaching to their students. In an age of serial killers with unrecognisable mental states, all the FBI were training their staff to deal with were logical killers. (ie. Criminals who did things for personal gain, or revenge) No one was being taught or even asking the question – what do you do when the motive is unclear? Okay, brief tangent to my adoration over.
For anyone who is even remotely interested in human behaviour or psychology, this series is a goldmine and heavenly to watch. Its insightful, clever, witty, dark, perfectly scripted and shot. There are no flaws that I can pick out, and I’ve watched it in its entirety several times. As someone who is incredibly interested in psychology and understanding why people act the way they do, to say I adored the show, is an understatement. There’s also a surprising amount of dark humour in it, it is in no way a comedy or even a split genre with comedy but there are a good few chuckles to escape you. Our protagonist in the series is the intreepid rookie ‘Holden Ford’ who is a hostage negotiator with the FBI, but wants to expand the pool of resources within the bureau and push the boundaries.
All of the serial killers interviewed and explored in the show are actually based on real life examples and the lines are taken verbatim out of case files and interviews, to name a few, Edmund Kemper, Richard Speck, Monte Rissell & Jerry Brudos. The first two of those four the makeup and costume department went above and beyond to emulate:
They ponder whether the change to crime is a response to the turmoil that the new world has been facing. “The government used to be, symbolically, a parental institution. The world barely makes any sense, so it follows that crime doesn’t either.” Our protagonist during this exchange comments that they could speculate all night long but no one knows the answers. But they’re supposed to, they’re the FBI, the supposed apex of quality. Then his contemporary says something quite diabolical “That’s the craziest part though… no one is even asking the question.” And this, dear friends is where are glorious story begins. There’s also some really interesting explorations of masculinity and hyper-masculinity, the types of psychologies that lead men to be sensitive to admit defeat, or show their emotions or failures seeing them as weaknesses, for anyone doing gender studies or are just interested in the very relevant and current topic of masculinity and its conflicts, this is a diamond of a series.
For any nerdy heads out there, Emile Durkheim is referenced and his ideas discussed throughout the series. Durkheim was the first to posit that if there’s something wrong with society, then criminality is a response to that. As the times change, so must Law Enforcement along with the tactics and methods through which investigations and protocol are explored. This little nugget of wisdom is given to us by the delectable and intriguing Debbie, the love interest to our protagonist.
She also happens to parallel Holden who is stiff and straight laced. Although she’s highly intelligent she also knows how to let her hair down… Debbie for me was one of the most interesting characters, one who seems settled in herself wheras with our protagonist Holden, he seems to be slowly cultivating his personality through his experiences continually. Debbie’s got hers all figured out.
Delve into this wondrous world of psychology, you will not regret it and will become infatuated with the series very quickly. In my opinion its best to watch in twos or threes (episodes) so that you can really immerse yourself in it and get a sense of the themes and moods better, there are some damn diabolical and glorious one liners that any feminist would get a ridiculously satisfactory smirk out of… On this train of thought, one last comment, the direction in this series is another facet of it that is flawless, it could not be improved upon and uses some compelling, stunning but incredibly subtle & powerful moves that say so much more than you’d think. The style of ending episodes in this series are perfection. My advice is to savour the series.