Spoilers for a subplot in Mindhunter follow below.
The new Netflix drama series Mindhunter is not really a show about solving mysteries. Sure, it’s based on the true story of the early days of FBI criminal profiling, specifically with regards to serial killers, but CSI this is not. There’s no “case of the week” with happy closure at the end, and while there are a couple of intriguing mysteries that are solved within the first season, the show is much more interested in understanding the criminal’s thought process—and what that understanding does to our protagonists—than it is in celebrating the capture of “the bad guy.”
But there’s one mystery in Mindhunter that has proved a bit obtuse, and no doubt some fans were perplexed by how it played out. I’m talking about the cat that Anna Torv’s Wendy Carr befriends in her apartment complex. This is a relatively minor subplot in the show that only plays out for a couple of episodes, but we see a newly relocated and somewhat lonely Wendy befriending a lost cat down by her laundry room, offering it some food. But after a few days pass, she discovers the cat is now dead, and the last bowl of food she put out is covered in ants.
These scenes all play out wordlessly and the viewer is left to interpret this series of events how they see fit. So when TV Line spoke with Torv about the show, the actress explained her initial read on the cat business and how it was subsequently debunked by executive producer David Fincher:
“I always take things a little too [introspectively], so when I first read it in the script I was like, ‘Oh my God, wow, this is actually interesting.’ I thought, ‘This little kitten is representative of all these faceless [victims] and we only notice the ones that are dead because they have families that are looking for them. And then here’s this little abandoned cat that no one is going to care about. And if that was a person, it’d be the same thing.’ That’s what I first thought when I read it, but that’s just because I’m crazy,” Torv adds with a hearty laugh. “I was making it so deep when probably she’s just, you know, feeding a cat.”
Indeed, when Torv pitched her theory to Fincher, the filmmaker—who directed four episodes of the series and essentially served as its showrunner—had a different explanation:
The actress later ran her theory by Mindhunter exec producer David Fincher, who quickly informed her, ‘Oh… no, that’s not it,’” she guffaws. Fincher then explained to her that the cryptic series of scenes were, at least in part, suggesting to the audience that perhaps “there was a kid in the building who’s going around killing cats. And it’s a birth of a new sociopath that we don’t quite know about. Because that’s how it starts — with [inflicting harm on] animals.”
That certainly makes sense, but yeah, that thought had not yet crossed my mind. Regardless, Torv knocked her performance out of the park, and in hindsight this storyline is a great way of reflecting how the work with these psychopaths is following our protagonists home.