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In the final episode of Mindhunter season 1, after his meeting with Kemper, Holden escapes the hospital room and is having something like a panic attack. I understand that Kemper has threatened to kill him but since he is out of the room and safe, the panic attack (in which he sees fragments of his life) seems a bit overreacting.

Is there a deeper meaning in this panic attack rather than just his being afraid of Kemper killing him?

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According to NHS England

Most panic attacks last between 5 and 20 minutes. Some have been reported to last up to an hour.

So it's not unreasonable to expect a panic attack to continue on past the initial inciting incidence.

Speaking as someone who has been prone to such things in the past, often a panic attack won't really "kick in" until after a situation has passed and the the brain starts trying to rationalize or justify what has passed. The memory of a trauma can be enough to set off an attack.

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Holden might not be reacting to Kemper's immediate threat, but to his broader situation

You interpretation is that Holden is reacting to the specific threat from Kemper which has receded.

But this is a narrow frame to use to interpret his reaction. The broader context is that Holden has been testing out a somewhat academic theory about whether he can derive new insights from serial killers that can be used to help solve cases. He is thinking about gathering data and doing analysis, and those are not risky activities.

My interpretation of the panic attack in the context of the whole show and Holden's character arc is different. The key is that Holden has now been shaken out of his academic approach and the potential consequences of his work are now personal. To gather the data he needs he has to expose himself to people who are dangerous not just to gather evidence.

The panic attack occurs because he realises that he wasn't just gathering data but was exposing himself to serious potential threats. And was going to have to do it again if the work were to continue.

In addition, his personal interaction with Kemper may have crystallised directly just how dangerous Kemper was, which might have been a purely theoretical thing before they interacted directly.

Either way, it is the sudden realisation that the threats from serial killers are real, concrete, personal and persistent that triggered the attack, not the specific threat at that moment which had gone away once the door was closed.

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    I was practically screaming at the TV whenever Holden did something oblivious and stupid -- these are all convicted murderers!! Now that I can interpret his later panic attack as book-ending all of that, both things make more sense.
    – Tom
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 17:45

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