It’s safe to say that in recent years, Netflix has struggled to generate the kind of “prestige” dramas that still routinely draw viewers and critical buzz to premium cable networks or streamers such as HBO. Few among us could hope to understand the demographics being sought by such a massive entertainment juggernaut, or decrypt the desires of the unknowable algorithm as it tries to translate social media hype and bots sharing GIFs into subscriber predictions for three quarters from now. Trying to account for every variable would take supremely gifted intuition and insight into the human condition … the exact skillset of the fictional (but reality inspired) protagonists of Mindhunter. And Netflix let Mindhunter lay fallow, so who’s going to save us now?
The drama devised by creator-writer Joe Penhall and showrunner David Fincher was the rarest kind of Netflix project—a beautifully rendered, big budget, period piece drama with near universal critical praise and audience plaudits to match. And yet, as is so often the case with these diamonds in the rough, the show simply didn’t seem to have the groundswell of support and widespread hype to match the adoration it received from its rapt viewers. At the very least, it wasn’t as widely adopted as Netflix seemingly demands every show be in order to avoid the ever-looming axe, although Mindhunter was never truly canceled with finality—instead, it was sent into “indefinite hiatus” as Fincher’s attention drifted by necessity to an array of other projects. That “hiatus” has now stretched for more than three years, and although rumblings of a Mindhunter revival always seem to be percolating, each passing month only renders a third season less likely when all is said and done.
And that truly is a shame, because Mindhunter was one of the most gripping, unnerving, brilliantly designed and powerfully acted series that Netflix has ever brought to the world of streaming. It’s also a painfully incomplete narrative, as its second season concluded with numerous major storylines dangling in space, robbed of their dramatic possibilities. Watching the series again in retrospect, it’s clear that Mindhunter had a map for where it was headed over several more seasons, but it feels very unlikely we’ll ever see the satisfying payoff of its journey into the darkest parts of the human psyche.