'Mindhunter' is the latest casualty of the streaming era's breakneck pace

Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff in Mindhunter (2017)
Photo by Patrick Harbron/Netflix/Patrick Harbron/Netflix

I regret to inform you: the future of Mindhunter, one of many Netflix series about serial killers, is now in a vegetative state.

The show’s second season dropped five months ago, to far less fanfare than its first. Mindhunter debuted in the fall of 2017 to critical and fan acclaim, earning it a spot on some year-end binge lists. But it took nearly two years for Netflix to release a subsequent season of Mindhunter, and meanwhile, enthusiasm for the series seemed to fizzle.

It makes sense: in the era of streaming entertainment, I can hardly remember what I watched on TV last week, let alone two whole years ago.

After the second season’s lackluster reception, Netflix made no moves towards a third installment. Then the streamer let the contracts of Mindhunter’s cast — led by Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany and Anna Torv — expire last month. Director David Fincher — who helped put Netflix on the map with the O.G. Netflix original series, House of Cards — is working on a bevy of other projects, and it sounds like Mindhunter isn’t even on his radar.

“David is focused on directing his first Netflix film Mank and on producing the second season of Love, Death and Robots,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. “He may revisit Mindhunter again in the future, but in the meantime felt it wasn’t fair to the actors to hold them from seeking other work while he was exploring new work of his own.”

This all means that Mindhunter is probably dead and buried, unfortunately. And it’s a shame! Sources say the cast loved working with Fincher and most would be willing to come back for another season, but if they get work on another series, their hands could be tied. But Fincher also evidently didn’t love filming on-location in Pittsburgh and was looking to raise the series production value. Netflix didn’t bite.

The fate of Mindhunter points to an irksome trend in the age of too much TV. Unless a show really pops for a streamer, earning them awards and accolades, they’re not likely to invest a ton of money into perpetuating it. At least, not when the competition is pumping capital into proprietary content with flashy talent and franchise potential.

Netflix, for instance, bases its renewal decisions on a show’s awards potential combined with a viewership analysis — who are the devoted fans, and what demographic do they represent? Mindhunter was never a stratospheric hit, but it developed a cult following. And the show’s uncertain future is leaving behind disgruntled fans.

The thing is, we’re probably going to end up with a lot more abandoned series in the coming years, in the vein of beloved shows like Firefly, Arrested Development and Veronica Mars. Those stories all got a belated coda, in one form or another. But the wait in between a show’s cancellation and the Kickstarter-funded movie or whatever sucks.

But oh well. It seems, for better or for worse, Mindhunter is joining the ranks of undead television.