About 4 episodes into the psycho horror/Thriller Mindhunter, I realized two things. It is not healthy to drink coffee past 9pm, and Mindhunter is the best thing to happen to Netflix since Stranger Things.
The streaming service’s newest hit has garnered plenty of critical praise as well as fan attention, and rightfully so. Mindhunter is a show that unfolds more like a lengthy movie than a show, which each episode feeling like a stopgap to the next. For a company throwing cash at seemingly anyone willing to put a story together, that’s a damn good thing. The visual storytelling of David Fincher, and the excellent photography work done by Erik Messerschmidt are the cornerstones of the shows first season. Even though Fincher only directs four of the episodes, it feels as though he has his handprint all over this one. The stories being told feature minimal light, and a color palette that elicits exactly the sort of feelings you would expect from a show with subject matter this heavy.
I won’t talk delve into the show, if you haven’t already checked it out, do yourself a favor and stop reading this and do it. You owe it to yourself.
Mindhunter does something that I find Netflix show’s don’t do particularly well. It transports you right into the world of the show, grips you hard and doesn’t let you go until the final episode. In September, Netflix released nine new TV shows. For comparisons sake, Fox released three. Netflix has an issue with oversaturation, they go extremely wide, and not so deep. It’s a formula that worked to get them to this point, buying property after property and handing it to consumers in a way they had never seen before, essentially inventing the binge culture we enjoy today.
However, there’s a big difference in how you bring customers in, and how you keep them begging for more. If Netflix wants to keep customers around doing just that, they’ll have to be more than an on-demand streaming service, there’s simply too many of those now. The company did the right thing when they began producing their own content, it was the most logical next step without a doubt, but somewhere along the way they got complacent in quality. They started to trust creatives more than their gut, and have had some huge flops because of it. Naomi Watts is great, but have you seen Gypsy?
Mindhunter works on the platform because it doesn’t feel like a show built for the platform, it feels like it’s going for something much bigger and better. The show is not trying to drive home some obscure plot, settling for mediocre actors to tell the story. I’m looking at you Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, The Defenders, Marco Polo, and Marsielle. The story is simple, it’s minimal, the production is top notch, the actors are fantastic, and it’s a great show because of it.
Disney is coming, Amazon and Hulu aren’t going anywhere, and the increased pressure from live TV alternatives don’t help the cause. If the granddaddy of them all intends to stay on top of the food chain, Netflix originals have to mean something, they have to hold a certain level of quality. In a world where everyone is so quick to move onto the next big thing, complacency is deadly.