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Warning: spoilers ahead for Mindhunter Season 1! Read forward at your own risk!
Between 1995's Se7en, 2007's Zodiac, and now the new series, Mindhunter, it's pretty clear that David Fincher knows how to get into a killer's head. The freshman Netflix series took Jonathan Groff's increasingly cocky agent Holden Ford to some dark places in its first season, culminating in an Ed Kemper-induced panic attack that closed out the current arc. Holden's progression into darkness has led some viewers to theorize that he could become a killer himself, but Groff sat down with me at a recent Netflix press event and admitted that he's confused by those fan theories. The Frozen star explained:
The serial killer thing is such a head scratcher to me as people, my friends are texting me like, 'I'm calling it! I'm on [Episode] 6 and you're going to be fucking killing someone by [Episode] 10!' I don't understand it. I don't understand it, because that's not what I was playing in my mind. But it's interesting to me that's what people are seeing. It's based on John Douglas, who did not become a serial killer. Also, he talks a lot in his books and emails to us, he always talks about the epic emotional toll and physical toll [of] talking to the serial killers, but more so talking to the victims, and how it wore on him and changed him and how he almost didn't survive. To me, that's what we're playing and honoring in Holden's journey.
The rationale for this fan theory stems from a few specific pieces of "evidence" that have popped up over the course of the Mindhunter's first season. Some have argued that Holden Ford meets many of the clinical requirements of a psychopath, as far as what's laid out by the show. His lack of empathy (coupled with his possibly troubled relationship with his mother) may suggest that he's not nearly as far away from a guy like Ed Kemper as he would want to admit.
That said, the progression of Holden's character and psyche is rooted in the trauma faced by real-life FBI profiler John Douglas. It's meant to show the dark ways that this experience affects Holden -- not necessarily to telegraph him eventually becoming a serial killer himself. Considering how many TV shows embrace plot-altering twists like that, it's perfectly reasonable for people to make such assumptions.
Beyond feeling baffled by the theories that Holden Ford could become a serial killer in Mindhunter Season 2 (which is reportedly in the works) or beyond, Jonathan Groff also told me that he doesn't think the FBI profiler has descended nearly as far as some have suggested.
For me, I think David and the writers did such a good job of...I don't think that anyone in the show is ever wrong. Holden, yes, certainly gets a little full of himself and maybe because I'm playing him I have more empathy for me. But in my mind, nothing that he has said or done, nothing that Wendy has said or done, nothing that Bill Tench has said or done, is wrong. They're all kind of right in their own way.
In the end, it might be for the best that Holden isn't going as dark as some fans have assumed. For him to become a full-blown killer at some point during Mindhunter's run might read a little too close to the ending of Se7en -- which similarly sees Brad Pitt's Detective David Mills becoming the monster he was investigating by murdering serial killer John Doe. Holden's experiences with these killers is messing him up pretty badly, but we will have to wait and see exactly how this pans out as the show progresses.