Family & Friends
Deborah "Debbie" Mitford
Holden's girlfriend, a post-grad student at University of Virginia. She triggers Holden's interest in exploring criminal behaviors through a broader psychological framework.
- Black Bra and Panties: After finishing her cold and exams, she dons some as part of her reunion with Holden. It ends badly because of his Moment Killer.
- Brainy Brunette: A postgraduate student with an impressive knowledge of sociology. Holden (who otherwise isn't the most humble person) happily admits that she's smarter than him.
- Casual Kink: Engages in some mild knifeplay with Holden, with Holden on the receiving end.
- Deadpan Snarker: Constantly trades barbs with Holden.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Lampshaded in-universe. Her advice to Holden on how to charm his interviewees is clearly a description of flirtation, something Debbie as an analytical and sexually experienced type knows plenty about but Holden is surprised to find can be boiled down to recognizable mannerisms and body language.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: An unusually abrasive example, but she still serves as something of an awakening for Holden despite seemingly getting nothing out of the relationship due to him being such a stuff-shirt with little interest in her life.
- Mythology Gag: She drives the same car model as Ted Bundy, and at one point says that her father always reminded her to change the oil. The day before he was arrested, BTK called his daughter to remind her to change the oil.
- Opposites Attract: She's instantly drawn to Holden when she meets him in a bar, despite them having nothing in common outside of a shared interest in psychology.
- Put on a Bus: She disappears after her relationship with Holden ends.
- Women Are Wiser: She may not work for the FBI but she's clearly the more grounded of the two.
- Your Cheating Heart: May have a fling with another student although it's not completely confirmed. Holden is not happy about the possibility.
Bill Tench's wife.
- '80s Hair: Downplayed. Season 2 ends in 1981, after all.
- Awful Wedded Life: Nancy and Bill quite clearly love each other and have been together for years, but Bill's work with the BSU and their adopted son's possible autism puts an enormous strain on their marriage.
- Bait-and-Switch: She is visited by the grieving mother of a baby that Brian put on a cross after some older children killed him. She expects the mother to be angry at her somehow, but she tells her that she has forgiven her and Brian already.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: She encourages Bill to forget about work and socialize with the neighbors at a barbecue. He does, and they turn out to be very interested in his line of work.
- The Everyman: She just wants to live a common life and has no interest whatsoever in crime and deviancy. Unfortunately, crime and deviancy seem to have an interest in coming near her.
- First Day from Hell: She becomes a realtor in Season 2. The first property she tries to sell becomes the scene of a murder.
- Housewife: Her main occupation is raising the kid and taking care of the house.
- Little "No": Says this when the mother of the dead baby asks to meet Brian so she can forgive him in person.
- Promoted to Opening Titles: For Season 2, after recurring through Season 1.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: Devolves into this by the end of Season 2, as a result of the Brian plotline.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: While she doesn't generally enjoy her husband's line of work, she has a special aversion to Richard Speck, who committed his murders while she was studying to become a nurse. So guess what killer are the neighbors more interested in asking Bill about during a barbecue...
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Her onscreen occupation is housewife, but she receives offscreen jobs according to the needs of plot. Her being trained as a nurse only has relevance in order to give her an atavic fear of Speck and a dislike for Bill bringing him up in conversation (because he killed other student nurses when she began her studies). She then decides to become a realtor between seasons, only for a body to be found in the very first house she's selling and bring her family subsequent angst.
Bill and Nancy's young adopted son. They got him at age three, and his life before the adoption is a mystery. It becomes quickly apparent that he is not a regular child, and his unusual behavior worries his parents.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Brian is quiet, withdrawn and shies away from affection in a way that strongly implies he may be autistic. Of course, considering the time period, autism is a few years away from being placed in the DSM.
- Ambiguously Evil: A subtle but recurring question in the second season is how much he was involved in a neighbor toddler's death, if he enjoyed it, and if tying him to a cross - which was his idea - was a misguided attempt to help the kid or was to please Brian in some way.
- Creepy Child: He never talks in Season 1, wordlessly avoiding his parents' attempts at affection. In Season 2, he talks in the beginning but becomes mute again after he is involved in the death of a toddler. All other creepy behaviors leap up: He goes from quiet to never responding to anyone, stares at a young girl for several minutes, shows zero emotion and the only time he seems to perk up is during a fishing story Bill shares with him, and even then his only interest is if the fish died. Good God, just look at that picture. He's terrifying.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Bill and Nancy have no idea of what his life was before he was adopted, and fear that he was abused in some way.
- Evil Orphan: A possible explanation, at least.
- The Speechless: He has selective mutism.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: He stole a murder scene photo from Bill's office and kept it under his pillow. His possible Ambiguous Disorder further adds to this trope: Brian alternates between staring at other children to avoiding eye contact with adults, has no friends and talks very little. And while he is witnessing a toddler being suffocated by his friends, he does not leave the scene or call for help.
Dr. Annaliese Stillman
The head of Boston University's Psychology Department and Wendy Carr's former girlfriend.
- Bastard Girlfriend: Downplayed, but Carr tells Henley that Annaliese was controlling and took advantage of her position as a teacher.Wendy: She used her status to control and subjugate me. I never saw it that way until I was no longer with her.
- Beware the Nice Ones: She seems nice when we see her, but it becomes clear she has little respect for Wendy as a partner. She's entirely dismissive of Wendy's own career and interests, seeming to view them as a joke.
- Control Freak: Wendy eventually admits it, but it's hinted at while they're at dinner with colleagues: at one point, Annaliese grabs Wendy's wrist like she's grabbing a toy she doesn't want anyone else to play with.
- Hypocrite: Wendy accuses her of being this after she says that Wendy having to hide her sexuality from the FBI means that she has to keep half of her life secret. Wendy points that she has to hide the other half while in Boston, her collaboration with the FBI, because it wouldn't be well received by the academia and Annaliese's friends.
- Lipstick Lesbian: She is even more conventionally feminine than Wendy.
- Manipulative Bastard: While chatting with Wendy about her work with the FBI, she puts them down as having reached their intellectual level. Later on, she brings that sentence again, but while misleading Wendy to think that she was the one who said it, not Annaliese. However, Wendy caught on.
- The Mentor: To Wendy, in addition to being her lover.
- Teacher/Student Romance: Their relationship started while she was Wendy's college teacher.
- Put on a Bus: Not seen after Wendy leaves Boston for Virginia, and presumably ends their relationship.
A local bartender that begins a relationship with Wendy after she starts working in Quantico.
- The Bartender: She tends a mildly divey bar with a regular clientele.
- Butch Lesbian: Averted. Despite being less of a Lipstick Lesbian than Wendy, she is still feminine.
- Hypocrite: Wendy accuses her of this for encouraging her to be committed about their relationship while she puts on a façade with her son and ex-husband. Of course, Wendy may have been overreacting a little: Kay is out in her personal and work life, and considering the time period she has every reason to tread lightly when it comes to her ex-husband and son.
- Love Interest: For Wendy, come Season 2.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted. She comes across this at first, but Wendy eventually learns that she is not always as carefree as she seems.
- The Missus and the Ex: She has a rocky relation with her ex-husband, who has custody of their son. He almost runs into Wendy while she is in Kay's apartment and it is clear that it would have not been nice if they met.
- One of the Boys: She jokes and talks openly about her sexuality with the Marines who visit her bar.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Wendy calls her out as a hypocritical "bartender who takes advice from bus stop magazines" when she breaks up with her.
- Transparent Closet: After first noticing her in the corner of her eye, Wendy immediately starts to pursue her as a potential love interest.
A hotel worker who brings Holden's attention to the Atlanta Child Murders.
- Acceptable Targets: In-universe. Like most members of the African-American community, she's convinced that the perpetrator of the murders is white despite no evidence of it.
- Bait-and-Switch: Initially, it seems like she's really into Holden and wants to take him on a date. He certainly thinks that's the case, only to find out that she's taking him out to meet the mothers of the dead children because he is an FBI agent specialized on serial murder.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Justified. She cannot bring herself to tell Holden the real reason she's taking him to the Atlanta diner because she's afraid that he will refuse to hear the mothers otherwise.
- Funny Afro: Her hair grows several sizes when she puts on street clothes.
- Meet Cute: Subverted. Her initial intention is not to have a date with Holden, and despite their good chemistry they grow apart due to Holden's insistence that the killer is a black man and her refusal to admit it.
- Mysterious Woman: She's a mysterious local who approaches the main character before entrusting him with the season's (initially secret) quest.
- Quest Giver: She asks Holden to look into the murders of African-American children in Atlanta, which are being ignored or downplayed by local authorities.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Turns out the hotel uniform and tied hairdo are quite unfavoring and she looks completely different in streets clothes.
- Will They or Won't They?: With Holden in Season 2. They won't.
The grieving mother of the fourth child abducted and murdered in Atlanta, and an organizer of the Committee to Stop Children's Murders organization.
- Acceptable Targets: In-universe. Like other black Atlanta citizens, she's convinced that the killer is one or more white men.
- Almighty Mom: She even gets to hijack a Mayor's speech at one point.
- Conspiracy Theorist: She is convinced that the perpetrators are many and white, and that the local authorities are covering for her. When Williams is arrested for the murders, she immediately assumes that he is being framed for being black.
- Freudian Excuse: Her abrasive personality is obviously a reaction to her son's murder, and her unflinching belief that he was murdered by the KKK (or similar) and the local authorities are hiding it is obviously derived from her living in the pre-Civil Rights South as a black woman most of her life.
- Historical Domain Character: She existed in real life, as did her son.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She's a stern, intimidating woman who doesn't suffer fools lightly, but she's still an unambiguous force for good. She's a grieving mother and a relentless crusader for justice.
- Outliving One's Offspring: He nine-year-old son Yusuf was abducted and murdered by the killer.
- Real After All: Turns out there is a real conspiracy of local authorities and law enforcement to downplay the crimes and misdirect the investigation (or more accurately, several small conspiracies), but it's not as simple and clear-cut as the one she believes. The mayor wants to keep the murders down to not scare away investors, the police commissioner refuses to look for a black suspect because it will sit down bad with the black vote, and many cops mishandle the investigation because they don't care about the victims (rather than caring about the perpetrators) or are stopped by overtly complicated bureaucracy, lack of funds, and poor training in investigative skills. There is also someone who either failed to record or "lost" several dozen photos of black children among the stash of a local pedophile, but it is never revealed if this was out of malice or incompetence.
- Team Mom: Serves as the supporting pillar and leader for the mothers of the murdered and missing children.
Mayor Maynard Jackson
The Mayor of Atlanta at the time of the Murders.
- But Not Too White: In contrast to the otherwise minute attention to detail in the casting and characerization of actors portraying historical characters, the brown-skinned Davis was cast as Maynard Jackson, who had barely a visible trace of African ancestry if at all. This was probably done deliberately so the show wouldn't have to include a plot-irrelevant Info Dump to explain viewers unfamiliar with the One Drop Rule why Jackson would be unironically seen as Atlanta's first black mayor by white and black Atlantans alike.
- Historical Domain Character: Also a real character.
- Jackie Robinson Story: The first black mayor of a large city in the Deep South.