END OF SERIES REVIEW – PART III
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Justine Lupe, Jharrel Jerome, Holland Taylor, Nancy Travis, Maximiliano Hernández, Breeda Wool, Jack Huston, Tessa Ferrer, Tammy Arnold, Virginia Kull, Mike Starr
Director: Jack Bender (Episodes 1 – 4, 7 – 10), Peter Weller (Episode 5), Laura Innes (Episode 6)
Writers: Dennis Lehane (Episodes 1, 7, 8, 9), David E. Kelley (Episodes 2, 9, 10), Mike Batistick (Episodes 3, 8), Samantha S. Stratton (Episodes 4, 8), Alexis Deane (Episodes 5, 6), Sophie Owens-Bender (Episode 5), Bryan Golubuff (Episode 6), Jonathan Shapiro (Episode 10)
Based on the novels: Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch by Stephen King
Reviewed by Sidney Morgan
This review CONTAINS A FEW SPOILER SPOILERS.
In this third part of the end of season two review for Mr. Mercedes, the focus turns to the protagonist and antagonist of the series.
Brady still remains the true villain, even if others have shown villainous tendencies. He is a killer, a psychopath. Though Lou calls him a sociopath, Brady doesn’t feel anything when he commits his murders. He feels no remorse, no guilt, he’s calculated in his approach and is only looking for ways to get back to killing. But he’s stuck in his mind. Most of the action is of him in his basement, his man-cave, a representation of his mind. When he does finally come out of his coma, it’s only for the two last episodes. Harry Treadaway performs admirably given these circumstances. He’s either alone in the basement, with the exception of his brother, or comatose in a bed. And therein lies perhaps the only weakness of season two.
What made Brady fearsome in the first season was that he was a normal, or rather seemingly normal, young man who worked at a computer store and as a part-time ice-cream delivery man. He could be present anywhere, anytime, and that made him truly terrifying. In this second season though, his presence was through other actors. He first controlled Sadie (Virginia Kull) and then Al (Mike Starr), and though they performed well, it just wasn’t the same. That he could control people’s minds and have them do his bidding was a frightening proposition. However, when the acts were carried out, it was mostly their faces that we saw, not Brady’s. So the association of villainy with the face of the villain was tenuous at best.
I don’t doubt that in the novel, King would have been able to develop this with some depth. But in a 10-episode arc, it was too difficult a task to do it justice. In the end, Brady wasn’t presented as a fearsome villain, especially when the season had Montez and the Babineau’s engaging in questionable acts as well. Instead, he was a frustrated prisoner of his mind, trying to complete the work started in the first season.
And finally, there’s Bill, played by the wonderful and brilliantly sarcastic Brendan Gleeson. It wasn’t easy for this man, an old-school detective, to face the reality that Brady was using mind control and telekinetic abilities. But that was an easy challenge to overcome compared to his true struggle: retirement. He starts a private investigation agency along with Holly, Finders Keepers, in order to keep himself busy. But the cases frustrate and bore him, as he finds himself investigating mostly normal people who are simply struggling with everyday life. So with nothing to else fill the void from a lack of meaningful work, he obsesses over the Mercedes killer case.
Bill’s determination, wavering at times as he begins to doubt his own sanity, is ultimately the reason Brady’s real condition is exposed. Seen for most of the season as a misplaced, or unhealthy obsession, it turns out to have been exactly what was needed. But an obsession it was, and it did leave Bill damaged. In the end, as we’re led to believe he’s found an inner peace, reconnected with past passions, there are a few clues to suggest he isn’t right after all. Is it possible that Brady’s spirit lives on? Has Bill inadvertently become the thing he so hated and hunted for these past twenty episodes? Questions that address the serious Bill. Far more enjoyable is the sarcastic, funny Bill.
The people around Bill chose to, or rather, dare to show him kindness and caring. It makes him uncomfortable, and with the exception of a couple of scenes, he reacts. But his objections aren’t mean or off-putting. (His sarcasm is simply to die for.) Instead, they highlight his awkwardness with emotions and allow for some hilarious and even touching moments. I especially liked his relationship with Holly. It’s the one that leads to his sincerest reactions and changes. If a third season is in the cards, I would hope it involves Finders Keepers and focuses on these two.
As King is often known to do, the second season of Mr. Mercedes also took its time to make a few social commentaries. The most obvious is the experimental drug testing on Brady, without FDA approval, nor without the hospitals either. But there is some merit to the argument that the progress of the pharmaceutical industry is sometimes slowed due to bureaucracy.
Ironically, only once the government realizes that millions of dollars could be saved, do the doors finally open. But should human health be simply a matter of dollars? Arguably, the second season comments at length about the need to be prepared for retirement as well, using Bill’s story as an example. There’s also a quick comment about the dangers of 3D printers and the ease with which weapons can be made. And finally, Jerome’s soliloquy about the overstated advantages of a Harvard-type education at the expense of skilled trades was interesting, to say the least. Oh, and let’s not forget about social media.
Media is consumed like it was water, (or in some cases, coffee). News, important or not, is now instantly available on television, on the computer, and on our phones. People not only share stories, but they also judge it, providing a thumbs up or down, and going so far as typing out their opinion, often without all the facts. Causes are presented, lines are blurred, and every situation becomes ambiguous.
Heroes become villains and villains become heroes. Oliver Stone showed this with outstanding clarity in Natural Born Killers, in which Mickey and Mallory, mass serial killers, became media sensations, became heroes. And in the second season of Mr. Mercedes, the same thing happens. Brady, who claims to be a new person, is vilified by some, but also idolized and celebrated by others. Heck, people are buying t-shirts in support of him outside the courtroom. But Brady is a cold-blooded killer. A fact that is lost in the noise, just as it often is the case in the news today.
Mr. Mercedes is an outstanding series. From the story to the cast, from the cinematography to the production value, it’s outstanding. There are scary moments, touching ones, angering ones and humorous ones. A perfect mix providing hours of entertainment that feels more like one long movie, rather than 10 (or 20 if you factor in season 1) episodes. It is an absolute must watch, and I hope a third season isn’t far from being announced.