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Mindhunter (S2) Pt 2: Fierce mothers and closeted sexuality

previously on Mindhunter

by Ginny O'Keefe

Episode 3
The infamous BTK killer is spending some hard time at the library sketching some things he really shouldn’t be sketching in public. Every time he comes on screen I scream, “Man, I can’t wait for them to catch this guy!” Then I remember that he doesn’t actually get caught until 2005 [spoiler]. 

Nancy is still shaken up after the dead body that was found at her open house and wants Bill to take down her information on the “For Sale” sign. Bill is reelingsince it definitely has something to do with his family. Holden will interview serial killer William “Junior” Pierce alone and tells Bill that he can handle it. But Agent Tim Barney of Atlanta will be assisting him to which Holden responds with “Oh yeah the Black guy you like!” Dear God, I know this is the early 80’s but please don’t let that be this man’s only label...

We Need to Talk About Brian. But seriously, if this kid had anything to do with the dead body at the open house then that just confirms the worst fears we've had about him since season 1. He comes into the kitchen after wetting his bed and repeatedly saying “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Nancy goes to clean him up and Bill is seen looking concerned for all the right reasons. Is this some ironic soap opera twist where a serial killer expert, has a practicing serial killer in his own home. It’s maudlin. 

We’re off to Atlanta (the airport is under renovation, hoping to become one of the largest in the world) ! I immediately like Jim Barney and I really wish he'd have got the job instead of Gregg in season 1, but, alas, you can't always get what you want. 

Back in Virginia, Bill goes to the house to deliver his wife’s shoes to the cops so they can rule her out as a suspect. The cop then asks Jim to take a look at the crime scene. We find out that a 22-month-old toddler was found strangled in the basement of the open house and then tied on two pieces of wood like Jesus on the cross. And I feel sick. Bill tells Nancy and she of course is hysterical and says that she knows the parents and the little boy since they go to their church. She wants to call the family and give them her condolences but Bill tells her it’s not the right time. Nancy then says she needs a glass of wine (honey, me too).

Back in Atlanta, Holden and Barney are in the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville interviewing William “Junior” Pierce who between 1970 and 1971 killed at last 9 people and sexually assaulted one of them. Junior doesn’t really understand the point of the interview but claims he is “whole witted” and speaks seven languages. It’s clear this guy is no Ed Kemper in terms of intelligence. He says he grew up “real poor” and he got his “intellick” from his daddy. He also claims he committed no murders and was coerced into confessing he did. Holden realizes that talking with this guy is equivalent to talking with a six-year old. Barney tries a new approach and gives Junior sweets in order to get him to be more honest. It works. Junior loves Reese’s Pieces. So they get their interview. Barney then drives Holden back to his hotel and Holden notices Black families holding hands while walking on the streets at night and wonders if this is an “Atlanta thing”. 

Holden then checks in to the Omni hotel and the concierge, a woman named Tonya immediately takes interest in him when she finds out he works for the FBI. She insists on taking him up to his room and then invites him out to dinner when she gets off work where he’ll get “the best meal in Atlanta”. Holden thinks this is a date and gets all spruced up like a smitten kitten. Tonya then takes him to a seemingly closed diner in Atlanta and that’s when the night really begins. 

Best Scene: “Our Children Are Dying”
In the nearly empty diner Holden meets Willie Mae Mathis, Venus Taylor and Camille Bell. They are three black mothers who have devastating reasons for wanting to meet Holden. Because their cries for help have fallen on deaf ears, Holden doesn't know what's been happening in Atlanta so this is a quick terrible explanation. Venus’ daughter, Angel, went to a friend’s house and her body was found in the woods several weeks later. Willie Mae’s son, Jeffrey, is still missing and they haven’t found his body yet. Camille Bell’s son, Yusuf, disappeared on his way to the grocery store and his body was found stuffed in a maintenance trap in an abandoned school. Holden wants to help and Camille gives him a book detailing where all the bodies were found along with newspaper clippings and eyewitness reports from neighbors that the police don’t even have. 

“Parents teach our kids ways to go about this world. How to take care of yourself, take care of each other. Our promise is to help do our best to help keep them alive.”

This scene is haunting and a punch in the gut thanks to the acting and the terrifying score in the background. The actresses who play the mothers really make the episode: you can feel their pain and anger. This show continually mixes terror and empathy n one pot and it makes for something very emotional. Something horrifying is always hanging over our heads; we can’t see it but we know something is there. I also love how this show balances the pain and desperation that these mothers feel while also remaining fascinated by Holden's proximity with terrible serial killers. Some people may think Groff’s character can be stiff but that is what an FBI agent in this field has to be in order to get the job done. He cannot let emotions override his job.

By the end of the episode Holden learns that the reason  these murders aren’t getting much press is because of the kid’s race and socioeconomic status. Plus, it’s bad business for tourism in Atlanta if there’s a predator on the loose. Holden can’t do much on his own, but he wants to dive into this case even if the number of dead children is “average”. The episode caps off with Dr. Wendy Carr (who’s plotline this season mostly revolves around her sexuality) asking a cute bartender out on a date. It’s a sweet scene, but I really want to dive back into the gritty crimes ASAP. 

 Episode MVP: Momma Bear Camille Bell who is ready for justice and done with the bullshit. I could totally see June Carryl getting a nom for best Guest Actress next year. I would vote for her. 

Episode 4
The “kidnapping” scene in the beginning really had me going. It's stomach-turning to watch and see how easily kids get into a car with a stranger. It took me back to when I was a kid and one of my classmates was almost abducted after school but he ran away into the woods before they could lure him into his car. After that, several parents in the neighborhood hired actors and police to play “dangerous stranger” to see if their kids would fall for it. This show takes a deep-rooted fear that is every parent’s worst nightmare and it puts it right in your face. The fact that it was all a set-up from Holden made me breathe again, but as we know, not all kids are lucky enough to be picked up by the cops performing an experiment. And then Gregg “the drip” tries to “kidnap” some Black kids and they won’t touch him with a ten-foot pole since he’s White and they think he’s a cop. It’s made clear that Black kids in inner cities have more trust with a Black stranger than with a White one. Which then becomes a part of Holden’s hypothesis of what race the Atlanta Child murderer might be. Black male, mid to late twenties. What I like about Holden is that he gets to the point. Sure, he might not do it in the most polite or gentle way, but he wants to help and to do that he has to get down to the nitty gritty. 

It’s sad to think that the FBI can’t get involved unless the crime crosses state lines, but it is also made clear that Atlanta doesn’t want this to make any smoke. Wendy Carr then goes on her first date with Kay (hot bartender). You can tell that Wendy is a total fish out of water in a bowling alley, but at least she’s having fun...

Best Scene: Elmer Wane Henley Jr. Interview 
Episode MVP: Anna Torv as Dr Wendy Carr
I’ve been waiting two seasons for Wendy to get into the interview game and I was not disappointed. Given most of the serial killers we’ve seen, having a woman conduct interviews would be…distracting. But God, get this chick out of the basement and let her do some work! Wendy and Gregg interview Henley  in a prison in Hunstville, Texas and of course Gregg freezes up and is unnerved by Henley. Henley, played by Robert Aramayo (AKA Young Ned Stark), is hot-headed and stubborn and maintains his innocence throughout the whole interview. Claiming the only person he killed was Corrll and that was in self-defense. 

Henley was serial killer Dean Corrll's (The Candy Man) teenage friend and “mentee” in a way. Henley would help bring in young boys to Dean’s house with the promise of weed and booze. The boys would later be drugged and Corrll would rape, torture and eventually kill them. One day Corll turned on Henley after he brought a girl to his house and Henley shot him. The interview begs the question: did he really partake in the torture and killing? Or was he brainwashed by an adult that he had to do these things in order to be loved by him? 

Aramayo plays a great Texas punk smart-ass and has no time for boring questions. He lashes out when his father gets brought up and builds up a wall in order to act like he did nothing wrong. Wendy finally gets to dive into the interview saving Gregg from floundering on tape and Henley can’t help but be amused and curious about her presence.

“It speaks. I thought they brought you in just to throw me off.”

What’s great about this scene is how Wendy realizes she’s not going to get anywhere by acting like a doctor --She needs to talk to him on his level. Wendy then reveals she was in a toxic relationship once with a woman who was also her lover. You can tell this surprises Henley (and also Gregg). Henley isn’t used to this kind of honestly and vulnerability from shrinks and law enforcement. She explains that she wants to know who he is, not what he did. She gets through to him and he begins talking about how he met Corrll at a young age and how he was only thinking about money Dean would pay him when he brought young boys to him. 

“I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for you to kill the one person who’s ever treated you with respect.”

“Nah, it was cool!”

Henley is volatile when it comes to Wendy questioning his sexuality and he vehemently denies ever having any sexual relationship with Corrll. His fragile masculinity is starting to show and he lashes out. The strength of the scene is in the connection between Henley and Wendy, two people that aren’t very open about their own sexuality and have concerns of what others may think of them. I really hope that that recording of her saying she was romantically involved with a woman doesn’t come back to bite her in the ass. 

Bill and Holden are sent to Atlanta to officially help out in investigating the child murders. And by the looks of it, Atlanta needs all the help it can get. It's interesting that the show makes it clear that cops have an issue with FBI “basement boys”. Somehow, they are seen as prissy and not hard working enough like regular cops. Holden thinks that this is a sexual predator and anyone calling in for ransom money is just playing a sick joke. Another child has gone missing and the scene in which they are at the mother’s house waiting for the supposed kidnapper to call is absolutely heartbreaking because we know that her son is probably dead. There is plenty of frustration coming from the politics of Atlanta because they don’t want there to be a predator in their city, whether it’s a Black man or a White man. The whole thing is trying to be kept under wraps. This is the start of a divide in the city in which people want a certain “type” of killer, and nothing else will do until they find the kind of person that they want. Some believe it to be the work of the KKK or another racist white man in the area, but Holden is adamant that serial killers don’t cross racial lines. 



We REALLY Need to Talk About Brian. My worst fears were realized. By the end of the episode, Bill gets a call from his wife that he needs to come home. The cops are at his house and he finds out from Nancy that their son Brian had broken into the house with some older boys that he plays with and he was the one who put the dead toddler on the cross. Brian didn’t kill the boy, the others had already done that, but he thought that if he put the baby on the cross then he would come back to life like Jesus did. Oh boy...Is it bad that I kind of want Holden and Wendy to get involved in this? 

The whole Brian storyline, though, is  over-dramatic and ridiculous. You can have worries about your son without him being a part of a murder of a toddler. 

Lines that made me laugh:

“I want my two dollars!” – the kids to the cops after being fake-napped. 

“It’s a dollar”- Camille Bell after offering Holden some cornbread 

And Gregg and Wendy enter the prison to interview Henley...

“In any hostage situation the women are always raped.”- Gregg Smith 

“Ehh, not exclusively.”-Wendy Carr 


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Reader Comments (2)

I finished this season and it was a tough watch. I hope it helps to bring closure in Atlanta.

August 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJono

Ginny -- so glad you singled out June Carryl as the leader of the grieving Atlanta mothers-- she was just so riveting every time the season came back to her.

August 25, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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