'Mindhunter' season 2: How David Fincher's crime drama brings Charles Manson's twisted and manipulative side to Netflix
Manipulative, shrewd and twisted, David Herriman ticks all the right boxes with his portrayal of Manson in the Netflix series. No wonder, he also plays Manson in Quentin Tarantino's film 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'.
"Charles Manson is small. Really small. Try not to stare," Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton) warns special agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) on 'Mindhunter'. David Fincher's 'Mindhunter' brings the "really small" criminal and cult leader on screen and it has got tongues wagging. Manson is the hot-button issue right from the beginning of the series. When Ted Gunn (Michael Cerveris), the new Assistant Director at the FBI Academy, asks Holden who he wants the most, pat comes his reply: "Manson!"
Manipulative, shrewd and twisted, David Herriman ticks all the right boxes with his portrayal of the cult leader in the Netflix series. No wonder, he also plays Manson in Quentin Tarantino's film 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'. But how close is the impression of real Manson? In the late 1960s, Manson brought a group of men and women to form the Manson family, a quasi-commune based in California. His followers, who were drawn to hippie culture and communal lifestyle, were accused of a series of nine murders at four locations. The mastermind behind it, he was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy for seven deaths.
Did you know Manson was a singer-songwriter before he became the cult leader? As predicted, Manson's obsession with music is a part of the series. Before heading out for the interview, Holden listens to his song 'Cease to Exist'. He also keeps the book 'Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders' inside his bag when Bill comes charging at him: "Are you going to take his autograph, now?"
Unshaven, disheveled, maniacal, Manson enters the interrogation room and like a magnet, he steals all the attention with his entry. From the way he flips his hair to his accent, Herriman nails the portrayal. "My truth is simple and your truth is complicated," are his first words. He is fidgety and truly, a big attention seeker! Manson sure knows how to deviate from the topic and take it where he wants it to go.
"How did the Family begin?" Holden asks him. "These people you call as Family are just people who you didn't want. You threw 'em off like trash. So, I picked them off the side of the road and I said this: in love, there's no wrong." Brushing off the blame of the murders from off his shoulders, he says, "Oh so, now it's my fault? It's your fault that your children do what they do?" adding, "All I said was: You do what your love tells you to do. I'll do what my love tells me."
Manson was known to be obsessed with the Beatles, particularly their 1968 album 'White Album'. Reports say he used to play the album on repeat, forwards and backward in search for concealed messages in the lyrics. Some of his favorites were 'I Will', 'Blackbird' and 'Piggies' — which, in his twisted mind, represented an impending race war. However, in the series, he outright denies having had started the race war. "It was Sadie who started hearing messages in the White Album. She gave the media the material for any perversion they cared print," he says, trying to make them believe how the story was fabricated in the media and courtroom.
Contradictory to his doings, his words have the power to make people believe what he wants them to. And precisely, it is there, where the Netflix series hits the jackpot by presenting Manson's twisted mind. "We're all our own prisons. We're all our own wardens. We each do our own time. Prison is in the mind," he says, adding, "You look like a composite of someone who told you who you should be. You live for other people's opinions. You got pain on your face and you wonder if you look okay." His words will haunt you for nights to come.
It is these dialogues for which 'Mindhunter' writers deserve a trophy. The way Manson makes Holden and Bill doubt their own judgment is what he did to hundreds of other followers. In a funny episode, he asks for Holden's glares and later, an officer comes back to return it saying Manson bragged about how he stole it. Manson could wear any hat and you couldn't see what was beneath it. Perhaps, it is why his name has a sense of admiration and awe still attached to it.
Towards the end of the episode, Holden notices how Manson's eerily signed an autograph on the book. He is shaken, spooked out. That is the effect the real Manson had on people.