If you have a weird obsession with serial killers (tbh, who doesn`t?) then you’ve probably already devoured the second season of “Mindhunter”, that fascinating look into the early days of serial murderer-profiling that’s based on a real book (which you probably already read) but is mostly a fictitious retelling combined with real cases and murderers.
If it weren’t enough that half the actors look like their murderous real-life counterparts (some with the help of an amazing make-up team, some through their natural height) and that the show doesn’t even need gory scenes to conjure up horrible imagery, the soundtrack is the last nail into the murder-coffin. The composer is Jason Staehler Hill who produced everyone and their mother and who previously worked with David Fincher on “Gone Girl”.
Look, I’ve seen the real interviews with Edmund Kemper, so I can tell you that Britton nails it.
After season 2, I am absolutely hooked on the soundtrack. Maybe I was too impressed with Cameron Britton looking and sounding exactly like Edmund Kemper (who I, erm, “studied” a few years ago) or I was too happy that Holt McCallany finally got a leading part again after his ill-fated but very good boxer drama “Lights Out”, but I did not notice the music as much as I did this season.
So, I did what anyone would do: I rewatched season 1. And lo and behold, it’s the way it’s being used. In season 1, the viewer is basically tagging along with the agents, particularly Holden. We’re looking over his shoulder. Everything is a lot more noisy, there’s not many scenes in which you just watch without listening to dialogue, background noise, etc.
However, in season 2, you take a step back. You kinda become someone who watches the protagonists. There are scenes that are just you, watching, and the soundtrack. It is quieter but also creates a disquieting feeling.
It creates uneasiness during seemingly innocuous scenes. Watching Wendy visit someone she barely knows in an unknown neighbourhood. Watching Holden get into a car with a stranger. Watching Tench and his wife invite a policemen into their home without even looking properly at his ID. And then, there’s the music, like that unnerving feeling you sometimes get, “Bauchgefühl” we call it in German, that gut instinct.
For a tv show about serial killers, the soundtrack is beautiful. It’s a lot of violins, usually very soft, nearly feminine instruments, that turn sinister, even grating. But only just so, before they revert to their known delicacy. Just like a person leads a normal life, interacts with other people, does normal things and then, only just so, leans outside of this and breaks something. The soundtrack is a constant reminder.
In season 2, especially, it further adds another layer to the show, because there is also a heavy sadness to some of the compositions. Season 1 already takes a lot of time to think about the victims, to see them, listen to them, hear their stories.
These stories often get brushed off, when you listen to serial murder podcasts. I figure it’s easy to make a fun podcast for entertainment about serial killers but it’s difficult to keep up the good mood whilst talking about their victims as real people, leading their lives, having flaws, having aspirations, who then got tortured and brutalised before their untimely death.
Furthermore, though, season 2 shows the effect that violence has on those that are left behind. It puts a big emphasis on the families of the victims and therefore diverts our attention from our initial fascination with the murderers to the lives they erased and the trauma the loss causes not just to individuals but to whole communities and cities. Since the soundtrack itself can switch from a grand sadness to a sinister echoe, it works beautifully with these scenes, reminding us that even though we might enjoy those fun murder podcasts, highly dramatised true crime-documentaries and gritty movies about serial killers, their actions are not entertainment, they are a magnified shock wave of what is wrong with society.