Season 1 Recap
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Kelly Lynch, Jharrel Jerome, Scott Lawrence, Robert Stanton, Breeda Wool, Holland Taylor, Mary-Louise Parker, Ann Cusack, Justine Lupe
Director: Jack Bender (Eps. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10), John David Coles (Ep. 3), Laura Innes (Ep. 8), Kevin Hooks (Ep. 9)
Writers: David E. Kelley (created by), Stephanie Owens Bender, (Eps. 1, 2), A.M. Homes (Ep. 3), Dennis Lehane (Eps. 4, 6, 7, 10), Bryan Golubuff (Eps. 5, 8, 9), Stephen King (based on his novel)
Reviewed by Sidney Morgan
This review CONTAINS SPOILERS. You’ve been advised.
It’s early morning, and the sun hasn’t risen yet. The economy has crashed, and people have lost their jobs. A number of them are standing in line, waiting for the doors to open at a job fair. There are people of all ages, including a woman with her baby. She needs to go to the bathroom, and a kind stranger offers to help with her child. Headlights turn on shining on the crowd, surprising them. Suddenly, without warning and time to react, the car accelerates toward them, hitting the innocent bystanders indiscriminately, killing them all. It’s a brutal scene. The police believe it was an accident, but Detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) believes otherwise. One more thing… this all happens within the first few minutes of the show, but it sets in motion the story for the rest of the series.
Mr. Mercedes is a story that pits Hodges and Brady (Harry Treadaway) against one another. The better part of the action takes place two years after the mass murder. When Hodges’ public promise of finding the culprit doesn’t pan out and being at the end stage of his career, he retires. But it leaves him with a big chip on his shoulder. The unsolved Mercedes case isn’t sitting well with him, and it haunts him. So, it’s not surprising that when the real killer taunts him by sending him an email message, Hodges decides to finish solving the case. What follows is a cat and mouse game between our two main characters.
Hodges is having a hard time with retirement. He’s alone, and he’s grumpy. Both his neighbor Ida (Holland Taylor), whose humour relieves the tension somewhat, and ex-partner Pete (Scott Lawrence) tell him to get a hobby and do something, else he sees his life wither away. His situation is compounded by his excessive drinking and worsening health issues. All this perfectly aligns to increase his frustrations, which is why he’s so easily taunted and angered by Brady. But the icing on the cake is that while Brady is a genius with computers and electronics, Hodges isn’t. At all. This gives Brady the upper hand (at least for a while). So Hodges enlists the help of Jerome (Jharrel Jerome), the boy who mows his lawn, as he’s quite computer literate.
Gleeson delivers on his performance (does he ever not do so? We are talking about Alastor Moody after all…) Being a broken man, (there’s a sad backstory involving his daughter) he understands broken people. It’s why he gets along with Holly (Justine Lupe), and she with him. Their mutual understanding and caring leads her to help him (and Jerome) in the investigation. It’s also why he understands Brady and is able to taunt him back, (even if he doesn’t even know who Brady is until the end).
Brady (Harry Treadaway), aka Mr. Mercedes, is a young man working at an electronics store. He’s very good. Brady’s computer lab in his basement is high-tech and impressive, allowing him to access other people’s computers remotely. His life story is pretty cliché. His dad died when he was young, and his alcoholic mom (Kelly Lynch) started to have many sexual partners. Brady witnesses this, but isn’t phased by it. In fact, an unhealthy Oedipal complex ensues.
There’s no doubt Brady is a psychopath. He kills for fun and without remorse. He’s killed his brother, his boss, his mother (though that was a mistake), and the people at the job fair among others. He’s believed to have pushed Olivia Trewlaney (Ann Cusack) to commit suicide and tried to kill Lou (Breeda Wool), the one person who sticks up for him. And why? He’s always been treated as a nobody and wanted the world to remember him as a somebody. That’s the opponent Hodges’ is dealing with.
Mr. Mercedes is a slow developing show, focusing on character development instead of all-out action. In an interesting twist, Hodges and Brady are quite similar, their lives exhibiting some parallelism. They are both intriguing people, hurt by their past and unable to properly integrate into their immediate community. The juxtaposition of the old-school, traditionalist burnout with a young, eager, arrogant and tech-savvy psychopath is brilliant. There’s a quasi-symbiotic relationship between the two. Brady needs Hodges to make him famous, to make him a somebody, while Hodges needs Brady to give his deteriorating life meaning, at a time when it’s most needed. But the game can’t last, and as they continue to taunt one another, it increases the stakes and how far they’re willing to go.
In the end, Hodges and Holly manage to catch Brady and stop him from carrying out another one of his mass killing plans. But as with other Stephen King stories, the end is rarely final. Mr. Mercedes is the first novel of a trilogy. And of course, Brady features in the subsequent story. That Harry Treadaway is in season two means, Brady has to be back…
Mr. Mercedes Season 2 premieres on August 22nd, on Audience Network and Super Channel Fuse. Check out the first review of episode one here. While you’re at it, be sure to check out Audience Network’s season one recap & the outlook for season two!