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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Jonathan Groff talks through Mindhunter's divisive final scene

Photo: Netflix
Photo: Netflix

There was a cold, formal quality to Netflix’s Mindhunter, which was both expected—David Fincher helped set the tone—and wholly appropriate, what with the show centering around measured, clinical conversations between FBI agents and serial killers. There was something satisfyingly jarring, then, about the finale, which unhinged the camera and cranked up the soundtrack—Led Zeppelin’s “In the Light,” perhaps never used so well—to confront us with the unraveling of its coiled-up protagonist, Holden Ford.


Still, it was a divisive episode for some, including our own reviewer, who found the episode “disappointing” and “inconclusive.” While Ford’s break was telegraphed throughout the latter half of the season, his final scene with serial killer Ed Kemper takes a shocking turn before ending abruptly. In a new interview with Esquire, actor Jonathan Groff addresses his character’s journey in the finale, as well as a few more of the season’s more curious aspects (tickling principal!).

As Groff puts it:

I love the evolution of the Ed Kemper-Holden Ford relationship, the arc of it through the season, and the way the writers put in this energy at the end almost like Ed is this jilted ex-lover. Holden is so completely different in his final scene with Ed than in his first scene with Ed. In that first scene we see him buttoned up, horrified, scared, and then in their final scene you have him sort of begrudgingly come back to visit Ed when he’s got nobody else in his life. It’s that sort of desperation and need that drives him straight to the center of it all with Ed. And Ed is the one who gives him the wakeup call.

One of the most interesting takeaways, however, is that the hug that drives Ford out of the room wasn’t in the original script.

I remember when we were in rehearsals, [series creator] Joe Penhall saying, “What if Ed hugs him? What if the end of the first season is the serial killer hugging the profiler? Isn’t that a horrifying image?” Cameron is so amazing, and when I read the scene with him for the first time, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. That final scene was easy to act, because he is truly terrifying.

What he doesn’t mention, however, are the bits centering around a budding monster (most likely the BTK killer) peppered throughout the season. The finale ends with a shot of him burning some rather disturbing drawings, a moment that for some didn’t really round out the character’s story or provide an interesting set-up for next season.

Trust us, though. If it is BTK, he’ll be back. And it won’t be pretty.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.