WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Season 2 of Netflix's Mindhunter, streaming now.
So far, Mindhunter has given us a vast array of killers being interviewed by FBI agent, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), in the late '70s, reminding the audience of a series of real-life slaughters over the decades. Ford's study has been done in the hit Netflix series alongside Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), as they make landmark breakthroughs for the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit on profiling serial killers.
We've seen sadists such as Ed Kemper, with this season bringing in more popular ones such as Charles Manson and David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam. However, in the Season 2 finale, the show finally sets up its most demented killer in what could be its final hurrah by way of Kansas' infamous BTK (bind, torture and kill), Dennis Rader (Sonny Valicenti).
The BTK killer has appeared since the start of the series, with Mindhunter treating him like a secondary character, an afterthought. He's only shown in snippets, with the narrative teasing, dragging and creating a slowburn in short sequences, hinting at what he's been up to. He does hold a larger shadow, though, as the BSU squad keeps prodding at folks like Kemper to find out why the BTK killer is sending taunting letters to the media, akin to the Zodiac killer.
To them, he's a case they can't crack but he still isn't in the foreground right now due to logistics such as distance and other killers readily available for interrogation.
And so, when directors like David Fincher take a stab at the nine episodes this season, Rader once more appears as the ADT Security Services salesman in Lynchian vignettes, similar to the Young Justice end-credits.
We don't overtly see him commit rape and murder this season, but we know enough from subtle shots and clues -- not to mention the sight of him burning evidence in Season 1 -- to know what he's about. Season 2, conversely, deals with him honing his craft, not being part of the main narrative, but still offering insight as the pieces surrounding him become less cryptic.
He's actually caught by his wife in costume and engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation early on, and later she has him sleeping on the couch, reading books on sex therapy and addiction. Rader's being punished and he does try to walk that straight path, but it's too narrow for him.
What makes his arc so interesting is Ford and Co. are dealing with the infamous Atlanta child murders, eventually wrapping the case in controversial fashion through the arrest of Wayne Williams. But when this is done and dusted, the final sequence of this season acts as an epilogue and something you'd expect in a post-credits as we see the cross-dressing, masked BTK killer in a motel with a shrine to all the women he's murdered.
We see their IDs, belongings and all sorts of contraband related to his fetish as Rader once more engages in autoerotic asphyxiation before the screen cuts to black and credits roll.
It's a similar ending to Season 1 and clearly, Mindhunter is setting him up for a bigger role as we get the full picture into his demented mind. He was fighting his alter ego before but after sketching scenarios throughout the season, he's fully embraced the role and this direction positions the show for a time-jump similar to True Detective's third season.
Remember, Rader was caught in 2005 so the series can look at what he did leading up to that time and also, what transpired the year he got caught. It'd freshen up Mindhunter, which does seem to have run its course in 1978, plus we know there has to be some reason Rader's been a focal point.
Fans believe he's there to show the audience Ford's profiling is wrong and the agent's merely lucky due to Rader going against the very profile his team's worked up. Rader's married, working a normal job and bucks the trend of the other killers, so his juxtaposition proves to us that the ADT salesman doesn't fit the usual mold.
Sure, Rader could be there simply for contrast but once more, it appears he's there to show Ford's methods are still trail and error. That said, Mindhunter might be shaping up for a new era which holds a lot of potential with the BSU getting an archnemesis in the field, not in a cell. Rader was caught by cops tracing metadata off a floppy disk that led to him at the Christ Lutheran Church, so it'll definitely be a whole new aesthetic with him if the show follows this deadly path.
Most importantly, it'll be one that's sure to connect with modern fans, giving them a peek at how the BTK killer evolved from the past.
Season 2 of Mindhunter is now streaming on Netflix, starring Jonathan Groff, Anna Torv, Holt McCallany and Stacey Roca.