Why Netflix’s Mindhunter Needs a Season 3

The meticulously crafted world of the Netflix series Mindhunter made its way into the crowded world of crime dramas in 2017 and made its dent. After a riveting premiere season, the show took two years to come back in 2019 to even more acclaim. But in 2020, Netflix announced that the third season was being put on indefinite hold because David Fincher wanted to pursue other projects. Fincher, who officially served as one of the executive producers and directed multiple episodes of the show, was the de facto showrunner of the series as well.

In February 2023, Fincher broke the hearts of TV audiences worldwide when he was very clear about the show being over. He said it was far too ambitious and represented too much of a risk for Netflix, which wasn't going to expand on the story that had captivated everyone deeply. While fans latched onto the glimmer of hope that maybe it would find a life outside of Netflix, that seems unlikely. Fincher has been in that giant red "N" building for a couple of years with his most recent collaboration being The Killer.

Yet recent comments from star Holt McCallany suggest that maybe a third season is in the cards. Could Mindhunter be the next return? It's still early in the year to speculate on what could happen soon. But in the meantime, let's explore what we got from the series, to see why Mindhunter needs a follow-up in the form of a third season that would potentially give closure to the story.

Update January 14, 2024: This article has been updated following recent comments regarding Mindhunter's potential third season as well as news regarding David Fincher's latest projects.

Mindhunter: The Story That Captured Our Imagination

The series stars Jonathan Groff as special agent Holden Ford, Holt McCallany as special agent Bill Tench and Anna Torv as psychology professor Wendy Carr. Together, they created the Behavioral Science Unit in the FBI. Set in the 1970s and '80s, Mindhunter follows the trajectory of the early days of criminal profiling. They interview imprisoned serial killers to get a glimpse into the disturbing way their minds work.

Created by Joe Penhall, the series is based on the 1995 book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John E Douglas and Mark Olshaker. Development on the show started way back in 2009 when Charlize Theron (executive producer) gave the blueprint of the project to David Fincher.

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Douglas is a retired special agent and unit chief of the FBI, and he was one of the first to use criminal profiling and psychology. He studied behavioral patterns in perpetrators to anticipate their next moves and prevent future crimes. His work helped capture and prosecute many, even though profiling as an effective tool to apprehend criminals still remains a debated subject. The Criminal Minds characters Jason Gideon and David Rossi were based on Douglas, as is Groff’s character Holden in Mindhunter.

Cleverly Mixing Fiction and Reality

 

Most of the show's success is based on the balance between fiction and reality. Fincher and his partners based season one on the character's journey to create the unit, and in season two they went further down the spiral to provide each of them with more dramatic substance. In fact, some viewers were divided about this decision to make the show more about the characters and less about the crimes and the perpetrators they were supposed to investigate. Luckily, the writers compensated with the addition of more exceptional performances of real-life killers to add more weight to the show's realistic side.

Cameron Britton’s Ed Kemper, aka the Co-ed Killer, is one of the standout performances of the show. His interviews with Ford and Tench are some of the most chilling sequences featured. But Kemper was not the only gripping tale of a cold killer who bred terror in the hearts of the American masses while they were out and about. While the first season also covered the stories of notorious killers like Richard Speck, Montie Rissell, and Jerry Brudos (with a tremendously subdued and disquieting performance by Happy Anderson), Dennis Rader’s (the BTK strangler) crimes were intertwined with the other stories.

The second season takes place in the early 1980s, with Ford and Tench mainly investigating the Atlanta murders between 1979 and 1981. The killer was suspected of having almost 30 victims, mostly children. The investigation led to the arrest of Wayne Williams, who was only tried for the murders of two men, causing outrage in the community consisting of the family of the children who were murdered. Ed Kemper made his appearance in the second season as well, along with David Berkowitz, more infamously known as Son of Sam. Charles Manson, who ran the Manson Family cult in California in the late 1960s, was also featured.

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Why Mindhunter Season Three Is Still Very Much in Demand

Apart from our morbid fascination with murder and mayhem, the third season of Mindhunter is still very in demand because of the numerous other serial killers who dominated the '80s and '90s that never made it to the hands of Ford and Tench. Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker, killed 14 people between 1984 and 1985. From his victims to his choice of weapons, Ramirez never had a particular modus operandi and would have been an interesting case for Ford and Tench.

Another duo that terrorized Los Angeles in the '80s was The Sunset Strip Killers, Douglas Daniel Clark and Carol M Bundy. Their gruesome crimes would have been as intriguing to watch as it would have been for them to start picking up on traces of the Cannibal Killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, who was also active around the same time.

According to Andrew Dominik, who directed several episodes of Mindhunter, revealed that a third season would have taken the pioneering FBI profilers to the glitzy Hollywood. The change of setting from the dark and dreary basement to the glamorous world of Hollywood would definitely have been a visual delight, especially in the hands of Finch. Besides, by making that jump, and with the show's clever use of fiction, who knows where they could have gone from a creative perspective? We all know about Fincher's use of the serial killer, and how well he has done in the past.

But Will Season Three of Mindhunter Happen?

Now the question is can Mindhunter return? Fincher's comments in 2023 seemed pretty definitive. However, in recent days, Holt McCallany renovated hope with declarations about a potential third season. He was very clear that he'd heard David Fincher had some thoughts about bringing the show back. Whether he does so for Netflix, it's unclear. The likelihood of the series migrating to another platform seems unlikely due to Fincher's close working relationship with Netflix over the past few years with films like Mank and The Killer.

Fincher is still enjoying a much-deserved break after making The Killer, and news about his next projects is still to be confirmed. Let's not forget Joe Penhall is also a key player in the show, as well as the cast. If the show is announced, but with the absence of any of them, there will be an uproar. So, making the decision, as delicious as it sounds to hungry viewers, is not an easy one to make.

The best hope the series return has is David Fincher. The director is a big name and has a good working relationship with Netflix. Following The Killer and Mank and launching not only Mindhunter but also the first big Netflix original series, House of Cards, he is very much an auteur voice the streaming service wants to keep around.

Yet there is the business side of it. Netflix is about growing viewership, and so far in its entire history, it has not reversed the course of canceling a television show. While they have acquired other television shows to continue on, like Cobra Kai, Arrested Development, or Manifest, their original series they do not seem to save, favoring new titles that hopefully increase subscribers instead of catering to pre-existing ones and have gained a reputation for canceling beloved series. Mindhunter's return could bring in new viewers, but there is also the risk that viewers might be put off due to having to watch two previous seasons.

There is also the budget of the series. Mindhunter itself was not a cheap show, and in the year since, the price would likely be higher due to needing to renegotiate various contracts for the cast and crew. This is a pretty penny that Netflix might be willing to shelve for a big David Fincher movie in the hopes of winning a prestigious Oscar, but the chances for a television series are slim. Yet that might hint at what the future for Mindhunter is: a movie.

Netflix could be persuaded to invest money in a Mindhunter movie, one that they could maybe give a small theatrical window to in hopes of a potential Oscar while giving them a big new original film for the platform. With Disney+ now spinning The Mandalorian off into a big-budget feature film with The Mandalorian & Grogu, this might be the future.

Yet there is always hope. There is always a first time for everything, and Netflix could decide Mindhunter is the first series they bring back, as the fanbase is still strong and clamoring for it. Fincher currently has no film or television series lined up at the moment, so this could be his follow-up to The Killer. Only time will tell, but the announcement of a return would certainly excite fans.

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