BTK and Trusting Ted Gunn
As she makes her way into her home, the same way she’s probably done a thousand times before when coming back from buying groceries, something feels… off. Music blasts from the bathroom as its door rattles back and forth. The woman calls for someone but no answer. With terror in her eyes and trepidation running through her mind, she doesn’t know what’s on the other side of the door but intuition tells her it’s something she doesn’t want to see. With a twist of the knob, the door flies open as the man she once thought of as her husband falls forward. The rattling of the door was caused by the rope he tied around his neck as it pulled on the door while pleasured himself. Wearing the mask of a woman’s face and his very own wife’s clothes draped across him, the ashamed man chases after his wife who now runs for the door in utter horror.
For most of season one of Mindhunter, audiences simply knew this man as the ADT Serviceman, but as we spent the final moments of season one with him, we came to realize that he was none other than the infamous serial killer Dennis Rader better known as BTK. With the knowledge of knowing who this character is, it adds even more tension to the scene. At first, I thought the clothes that the man was wearing belonged to his wife, but with a little research, I learned that Rader would wear a mask similar to what we see in the episode and dress up in the clothes of his victims for sexual satisfaction. While I’m sure his wife might think he went out and bought those clothes himself, there is more than likely a far more tragic tale behind the clothes we see him wearing in the bathroom.
Following this unforgettable scene, we learn that season two is picking up mere hours from where season one left off by seeing Holden bedridden in the hospital, still being treated for what we’ll learn later to be a massive panic attack. As for Bill, besides being proud of watching his son make friends at church, we see an old work friend of his bring a case file to him that seems to have gone cold. It’s this moment where at least one of our main characters finally learns about BTK. After discussing the antics of the mad man which included sending a romantic poem to a woman that consisted of telling her how sad he was that she wasn’t at home the night he intended on killing her, Bill ultimately moves on like he always does as he’s called to Director Shepard’s office. Thinking he’s about to be fired, Bill is relieved to learn that the boxes in the offices aren’t for him but instead for Shepard who is retiring. Immediately after learning of this news Bill discovers that his new boss Ted Gunn is waiting to meet him in the other room and let me just say that this guy is, extra.
Unsure of whether or not it was actor Michael Cerveris decision to play the character in a way that personally left me uneasy, I immediately knew I had to find out if this man was real, or at very least, like the main characters of the show, were based on real people. To my surprise, this character isn’t specifically based on one person but more intended to represent a group of people. At first hearing of Gunn and learning that he’s coming from DC, everyone seems skeptical but after everyone meets with their new boss, they quickly decide that he’s what their department needs. Learning that this character is completely fictional gives me pause though. Every time he’s on-screen I feel uneasy. The show has the audience constantly meet bad people who are good at tricking others and while I don’t think Ted Gunn is a serial killer, I do think he’s someone to keep an eye on.
It’s after everyone meets their new boss and Bill retrieves Holden from the hospital that the gang is back together with Doctor Carr breaking down a list of killers, their names and pictures on a board behind her. It’s on this board where we see such names as “Gacy, J.W. and Berkowitz, D.” and while we know from the trailer of the show that Son of Sam makes an appearance on the show, it’s the names of two other killers that seem to have the attention of the group: William Henry Hance and William Pence Jr. Both men reside at the same prison in Georgia and the plan is to interview them both while Bill and Holden are there.
To the disappointment of Carr who’s excited at the chance of interviewing Hance and building the first database on black serial killers, Holden seems to be interested in only talking about the news that Gunn has promised them an interview with Charles Manson. Like Berkowitz, we saw from the trailer for season two, that after being teased in season one the infamous cult leader would finally be making his way onto the show. The role he plays, however, will be interesting because as Doctor Carr mentions, Manson technically didn’t kill anyone. On top of that, he also doesn’t fit the bill for the kinds of people that they’re trying to study. While it will be fun to see Manson portrayed in the show, it seems like Doctor Carr is correct. All of the killers on the board seem much more likely to help the agency in its cause, but Holden has seemed obsessed and determined to talk to Manson since the beginning of the show and when Holden wants something, he’s often gets it no matter how many people he angers.
After the meeting, it’s time for Shepard’s retirement party where things don’t go as planned. Holden, though socially awkward, often tries to do the right thing even if it’s not the best choice and its because of this, that during the party, Holden tracks down Shepard to thank him for everything he’s done. It’s during this conversation where we learn the truth about Shepard’s retirement. Because of past mistakes made by the team, he’s being pushed out and forced into retirement. Shepard spews out all the anger and hatred that he has for Holden and it’s here where we see the danger of Holden’s panic attacks. Gasping for air, he stumbles off into the darkness of the driveway, collapsing against a car. He frantically grasps for the bottle of pills that will help him calm down and as he starts to catch his breath, credits.
Whether it’s the conversation that Holden has earlier in the episode with Doctor Carr about his panic attacks and her concern about them occurring during an interview session or the fact that Shepard put him on the ground with just a few harsh words, it’s safe to assume that Holden’s panic attacks are going to continue playing a major role in this season. What I found to be much more interesting however was what we learned from Holden and Shepard’s conversation. Shepard isn’t retiring, but being forced out of his position and is now being replaced with someone from DC. Which leads to the question, is Gunn there because he truly believes that with his help and support he can make the department better and more successful or is he the watchful eye of the US government waiting for another screwup? While I’d love to be proven wrong, excluding Holden’s crippling panic attacks, things seem to be going great for everyone and usually when that happens, bad news is just around the corner.