Serial killer Ed Kemper is one of the great hooks of David Fincher’s excellent Mindhunter, a hulking but folksy monster played by Cameron Britton. A series of long dialogs with him kickstart the show, providing momentum as the protagonists try to create a taxonomy for understanding some of the most grisly murderers in the country. Kemper is the show’s first and ultimately most important subject, providing a mirror for the protagonists as their investigation zigs and zags throughout the season, but it’s his initial interview that makes the biggest impression. Turns out that that’s because it’s almost identical to his actual interview, as the above essay by Thomas Flight points out.
It’s all there, not just via his obsession with TV-show criminals and his broader claims about the total number of serial killers in America, but also specific, haunting phrases, like when he describes the impulse to murder as “this fantastic passion.” Certain lines are layered over each other, showing almost beat-for-beat similarities between the real and recreated versions. The one big difference is that the real Kemper begins to cry and exhibit remorse when he discusses the night he chose to kill his mom, whereas, using most of the same words, the TV show Kemper betrays no emotion. But don’t let that fool you into thinking the real guy somehow felt remorse: He immediately pivots to blame all of his murders on the way he was raised. This guy really did not like his mom, is the point here.