In the summer of 1976, New Yorkers were terrorized by an unnamed specter. Just as temperatures were rising to a fever pitch, and the term “serial killer” was still a fresh household term, a man started tracking down young women in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. It would be noted later, after David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam, was caught and interrogated, that he preferred brunettes. He also loved killing girls in front of their boyfriends and enjoyed returning to the scenes of his crimes to reminisce. In fact, for a “dumpy, awkward mailman,” as Doctor Wendy Carr describes him in Mindhunter Season 2, Berkowitz was oddly talkative in interrogations, admitting to the police that he had hunted down his victims while trying to satiate a demon who had inhabited his neighbor’s dog.
But what was happening during that summer, the one New Yorkers came to call the Summer of Sam? When Berkowitz told the police later that he had invented the demon dog hallucinations, was everyone too quick to accept that? And where does the Son of Sam fit in the dark tapestry of American serial killers, many of whom share his profile, his killing patterns, and his zest for hurting others?
Lucky for us true crime fans, everyone’s serial killer-obsessed researchers from the 1970s are back for round two, and they’re definitely going to explore Berkowitz. On Friday, Netflix released Season 2 of Mindhunter, the crime drama based loosely on Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, a true crime book by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas. Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff play fictionalized versions of the book’s two authors as they travel around the country with Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) interviewing incarcerated serial killers. Dr. Carr, of course, is a fictionalized character based on Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess.
Unlike the series’ protagonists, the infamous and lesser-known killer characters in Mindhunter are, for the most part, based on interview transcripts and court documents from their murder trials. We met Dennis Rader, Ed Kemper, Montie Rissell, Jerry Brudos, and more in Season 1, but Season 2 will feature even more well-known names from American true crime accounts. Charles Manson, who also appeared this summer in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood, will have a large role in Season 2, and he’ll be accompanied by none other than Berkowitz. In fact, the Son of Sam shows up in Episode 2, when Tench and Ford decide to interview him while tracking a Son of Sam copycat killer going by the alias BTK.