‘The Second What’: Science, Tragedy and Mental Abyss in Forensic Files


  • Helge Ridderstrom




True crime, mind reading, tragedy, guilt, justice





Millions of readers and viewers are fascinated by stories about crimes that have actually been committed. In later years there has been an excess of access to true crime novels, movies, TV series, podcasts and blogs, spanning a wide range of formats and subgenres. This article explores some episodes in the series Forensic Files (1996-) in order to explain connections between mind reading, the tragic and true crime. The tragic as concept and mindreading challenges are used to enlighten the role given to science in the series. Forensic Files is a homage to science and forensics, but other evident aspects of the retold crimes are disregarded. A crime has fundamental psychological and mental aspects which are far more difficult to grasp than the outer events and hard facts. The article problematizes the role of thoughts, feelings and intentions in extremely serious crimes as presented in Forensic Files. A significant blank in the process of understanding and judging the perpetrator is named ‘the second what’, a factor which demonstrates a connection between true crime cases and our ability to read minds.


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How to Cite

Ridderstrom, H. (2020). ‘The Second What’: Science, Tragedy and Mental Abyss in Forensic Files. Series - International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, 6(1), 17–27. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.2421-454X/10583



Narratives / Aesthetics / Criticism