Most episodes of Netflix's criminal profiler period piece Mindhunter open with a scene of a seemingly mild-mannered, mustachioed ADT Security employee going about his increasingly distressing business in Park City, Kansas. He's at work. He's dropping letters in the mail. He's tying knots while watching TV. He's breaking into someone's house, waiting for them to come home, freaking out and pounding on his chest with rage when they don't. And in the season's final scene, he's burning disturbing drawings of dead women.
The vignettes obviously show a deviant personality like the ones Holden Ford (Jonathon Groff), Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) are studying, but out in the wild and perhaps one who isn't a killer yet. At first, the scenes seem random and disconnected from the rest of the story until you realize that this guy, played by Sonny Valicenti, is Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer.
Rader murdered 10 people in and around Wichita between 1974 to 1991. BTK stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill," which is what he did to his victims. Rader wrote letters to local news outlets bragging about his crimes, which is what eventually led to his capture in 2004, almost 30 years after the events of Season 1 of Mindhunter.
John Douglas, the FBI profiler on whom Ford is based and who wrote a book called Inside the Mind of BTK, investigated the murders, but had nothing to do with Rader's apprehension. Contrary to reports, Netflix hasn't officially renewed Mindhunter for a second season yet, but there's no reason to suspect it won't. Executive producer David Fincher told Billboard that Season 2 would be about the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-1981, which have nothing to do with BTK. So what will be the payoff to Rader's story as Mindhunter progresses?
When asked how Rader might be integrated into Season 2, Jonathan Groff told TV Guide that he doesn't know, but he does suspect that there's more to the story to be seen. "I feel like with TV shows, you can sense when they're playing it safe, that they're building up to something that they'll pay off in the next season," Groff said. "And because we haven't officially been renewed for a second season yet, they just went balls-out on our show and ended with such a climax, with so many things that are open. It'll be really interesting to see how the writers figure out how to jump back into it if we go for another season."
Although Groff wasn't much help in predicting where BTK will fit in going forward, fortunately, we have our own ideas.
The most obvious guess is that subsequent seasons of Mindhunter will continue to follow Rader as a sort of show-within-the-show. Season 2 may see him start to kill. We may see news reports as the letters he wrote to TV station KAKE become public knowledge. As Mindhunter moves into the '80s, we may see the period of time in which Rader was inactive, a seemingly normal churchgoer and Cub Scout leader. We may eventually see him slip up and get caught in the mid 2000s.
The story of BTK could run in parallel to Holden Ford's journey to show what a serial killer looks like in the world, as opposed to the already captured ones that Ford and Tench interview. It's entirely possible that Ford may even develop an obsession with BTK, like an itch that can't be scratched.
Or the show could throw a curveball and not show Rader again. Perhaps it'll change with the times and show a different serial killer next season, like Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, who was most active in the early '80s. Maybe since they're in pursuit of Wayne Williams, the Atlanta killer, in Season 2, it will show vignettes of his life.
Mindhunter could take any number of directions in Season 2. Now it's up to Netflix to give it the official green light so we can see which way they go.
Mindhunter is now streaming on Netflix.
Additional reporting by Lindsay MacDonald