Dark de­buts for Ama­zon’s ‘Lure’ and Net­flix’s ‘Mind­hunter’

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Magazine - TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Fol­low RobOwenTV on Twit­ter or Face­book for break­ing TV

The filmed-in-Pitts­burgh Net­flix psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller “Mind­hunter,” now stream­ing on the ser­vice, opens with big block let­ters: BRAD­DOCK, PENN­SYL­VA­NIA.

Aside from a sight­ing of Oak­mont’s Oaks movie the­ater later in the first hour, that’s about it for a Western Penn­syl­va­nia vibe in the early go­ing un­less you want to con­sider the show’s the­matic sim­i­lar­i­ties to filmed-inPitts­burgh Os­car win­ner “Si­lence of the Lambs.”

Re­gard­less of the lo­cal vibe or lack thereof, “Mind­hunter” of­fers prom­ise, par­tic­u­larly in its sec­ond episode. The de­but hour is a bit slug­gish as view­ers meet and get to know fresh-faced FBI be­hav­ioral pro­filer Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff, “Glee”), who gets la­beled a “goody-goody” by a wo­man he tries to pick up at a bar.

That first hour, writ­ten by se­ries cre­ator Joe Pen­hall (“The Road”) and di­rected by David Fincher (“House of Cards”), is less propul­sive than the pre­miere episode of Dis­cov­ery’s re­cent FBI pro­filer show, “Man­hunt: UN­ABOMBER,” but what “Mind­hunter” lacks in en­ergy it makes up for in bet­ter at­ten­tion to char­ac­ter de­tails.

“Mind­hunter” grows sig­nif­i­cantly more in­ter­est­ing in its sec­ond hour once Holden gets paired with vet­eran FBI agent Bill Tench (Holt McCal­lany, “Lights Out”) and starts in­ter­view­ing coed killer Ed Kem­per (Cameron Brit­ton, who nails a so-serene-it’s creepy vibe). Ford sees Kem­per as a “se­quen­tial killer” (“Mind­hunter” is set in 1977 and “se­rial killer” is not yet a term thrown around with aban­don).

Th­ese pro­filer-killer in­ter­view scenes in­evitably bring to mind the Star­ling-Lecter scenes from “Lambs” but with a dif­fer­ent skew. There’s no hint of ro­mance with Ford and Kem­per, but view­ers do watch as Ford, a novice, takes baby steps in learn­ing how to con­verse with a killer and per­haps even be­gins to un­der­stand, even if just a lit­tle bit, how Kem­per’s mind works.

There’s ten­sion in th­ese scenes that also con­trib­utes to how watch­able they are. Kem­per is tall and large; Ford is small, thin and sen­si­tive. It’s easy to worry for Ford’s safety, es­pe­cially when Kem­per says mat­ter-of-factly and with­out any sense of re­gret that killing is his vo­ca­tion.

“It’s not easy butcher­ing peo­ple,” Kem­per says. “It’s hard work, phys­i­cally and men­tally.”

It should be noted while Kem­per is based on a real-life se­rial

killer with the same name, Ford and Tench are fic­tional char­ac­ters, though Ford is in­spired by real-life FBI pro­filer John Dou­glas, au­thor of a book that in­spired the se­ries.

Net­flix made just two episodes avail­able for re­view — so far se­ries reg­u­lar Anna Torv (“Fringe”) has yet to ap­pear — so it’s a lit­tle un­clear what the show will be as it moves for­ward. Pre­sum­ably it’s a char­ac­ter­driven psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller fea­tur­ing in­ter­views with a raft of se­rial killers that, given the pres­ence of Fincher, will prob­a­bly get darker as it goes.

‘Lore’ comes to Ama­zon

Speak­ing of dark, Ama­zon’s adap­ta­tion of the Aaron Mahnke pod­cast “Lore,” now avail­able, of­fers some fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries where real life in­ter­sects with folk­lore, but the way the show de­picts th­ese tales is in­cred­i­bly hit-and-miss.

When Ama­zon’s “Lore” al­lows Mr. Mahnke to just tell a story, it’s pretty com­pelling. But when the show dives into dra­matic re-cre­ations of sto­ries, “Lore” gen­er­ally fal­ters. The pac­ing slows to a crawl and in one episode, “They Made a Tonic,” the drama plays like a lo­cal PBS sta­tion-wor­thy at­tempt at drama.

Ama­zon made three episodes — half the first sea­son — avail­able for re­view and the best en­try is “Echoes,” shot in black and white, as it de­tails the in­ven­tor of the “icepick lo­bot­omy.” Chilling and eerie, if all “Lore” episodes could be like this in­stall­ment, the show might qual­ify as a suc­cess­ful pod­cast-to-TV trans­la­tion. So far, it’s not.

Ama­zon

In “Lore,” Colm Fe­ore is Dr. Wal­ter Free­man, in­ven­tor of the tran­sor­bital lo­bot­omy.

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