Netflix's hit series "Mindhunter" has plenty of viewers opting to keep the lights on: After all, what's scarier than delving deep into the minds of the most brutal and vicious killers of all time? The show, which follows two FBI agents (based on real-life profilers) studying serial killers for insight into stopping other murderers, has featured notorious criminals like Ed Kemper and Charles Manson. But the second season of “Mindhunter” is particularly chilling, and not just because of its accurately scary depictions of real-life killers. There’s also the gruesome development that occurs with investigator Bill Tench’s disturbed son.
Obviously, spoilers ahead.
In season one, Tench (played by Holt McCallany) confides in coworker Holden Ford (played by Jonathan Groff) that his adopted son Brian (played by Zachary Scott Ross) doesn’t really talk. Tench said that while the boy could speak, he just didn’t. This worried Tench.
Actor McCallany was later asked if his fictional son could grow up to be a serial killer in a 2017 interview with Vulture about the hit show. He responded by saying that was actually an idea that was discussed in the writers room.
“I don’t know if we’ll be dealing with that particular storyline going forward,” he said. “They might consider it a little too on the nose in a certain way. But the kid is troubled, and I have great difficulty communicating with him. And you have to remember, in 1978, fatherhood was different for many of these men."
Troubled, for sure. Brian still doesn’t really talk in Season 2, although he did perk up at one point to ask a death-related question, and while Brian didn’t develop into a serial killer (at least, not yet), his storyline did take a very uncomfortable turn.
The season kicks off with Tench’s wife, Nancy (played by Stacey Roca), explaining that she doesn’t like talking about serial killers or anything else of that nature — but she's eventually forced to deal with the horror of murder and death when a toddler is found killed, dead on a cross, inside the basement of a house she was trying to sell.
Who would do such a thing?
Well, as the season progressed, it was revealed that Brian brought two older boys into the home from a nearby park and watched them suffocate the young boy. Then, thanks to Brian’s suggestion, the boys tied the child to a cross. Nancy seems keen on the theory that Brian told the boys to put the dead toddler on the cross as an attempt to bring him back to life, to resurrect him... but a later scene of Brian creepily staring at a girl on a swing set like a hawk looking at prey may suggest that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Brian isn’t charged with any crime as he’s determined to be too young, but the murder results in alienation from the community and mandatory visits with social workers and child psychologists.
So, did any of this really happen?
Tench is based on former FBI agent Robert Ressler, who has three kids, and only one of them is a son. It does not appear that any of his real kids were ever in any legal trouble. So while that part is not based in reality, the actual crucification murder does appear to be loosely based on a murder from the same decade that took place in San Francisco.
In 1971, two brothers, ages 7 and 10, were playing in a park when they came across a blonde toddler named Noah Alba, according to a PBS Frontline report.
The brothers brought the child to a nearby basement where they “pounced up and down on the baby and furiously hit him with a brick, cutting his head open and exposing his skull,” according to the Frontline report.
Five days later, the boy was found dead by detectives. Noah's body had been tied to a makeshift wooden cross. The boys claimed they thought they could resurrect the baby by putting him on a cross.
While the details don’t exactly line up completely with what happened in the show, the parallels are too similar to ignore.
The names of the two boys who killed the toddler have never been revealed, and they weren’t charged with murder. Instead, the courts put them into foster care therapy, according to a 1996 San Francisco Gate story. While one of the brothers anonymously told PBS that he grew up to have a normal life, his brother ended up getting convicted, twice, for assaulting children later in life.
What does the future hold for Brian? We'll have to wait for season 3 of “Mindhunter.”
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