AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Season 1, Episode 5: “The Suicide Hour”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by Bryan Goluboff
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Gods Who Fall” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “People in the Rain” – click here
Another day, another hard wake to the world for Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson). Repetition, this is Bill’s life in retirement. He wakes up, washes off the booze of the night before, tries to eat something sensible. Meanwhile, Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) is around the neighbourhood in his ice cream truck, hacking into everything the former detective owns.
Then Brady takes the time to over to where he ran all those people down. He listens to soft music. Afterwards, he decides to have a quick stroke because the memory’s leaving him horny. To the thought of running those people over, the blood, the screams, the cracking of bones, mixed with moments of him and his mother Deborah (Kelly Lynch) in their incestuous relationship, he brings himself to orgasm, and quick. Yuck.
There’s a lot of tension between Bill and Ida (Holland Taylor), now that she’s seen him cosy with Janey (Mary-Louise Parker). And even though he has bigger, more pressing issues on his mind, he could’ve at least talked to her before moving on to Janey. Later when he gets home it’s as if someone has been there. The needle is down on a finished record. A cut up apple with cinnamon sits on the cutting board in the kitchen. Hmm. On his computer he looks at surveillance video, noticing time missing. “In my fucking house,” he mutters. Things are gradually getting more suspenseful. There’s a big, ugly payoff down the road.
Flashback to when Brady came across Olivia Trelawney (Ann Cusack). He was taking items out to her car for her, a good employee. This is when he casually imprinted the codes for the locks using his little universal remote. The meagre beginnings of a vehicular serial killer.
When Brady gets to work Lou (Breeda Wool) shows him the story about Ryan the Nazi being killed on the road by a truck. She also says she had “fantasies that he was dead.” Clearly she didn’t cause it; we know who did. What he’s doing, his murderous impulse, is causing real life anxiety for those around him, let alone the deaths of others. Oh, and Robi (Robert Stanton) wants to groom Brady to be the new manager after he moves on up the corporate ladder. Can you imagine him in a managerial position?
Bill’s trying to figure out his computer troubles with Mr. Mercedes, so naturally he talks with Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) who tells him about all sorts of other technological things. For a guy like former Dt. Hodges, one step away from Luddite, this is all nonsense jargon. But still he does listen. He’s also got his old pay Marlo Everett (Bill Kelly) digging into things, mentioning that whoever’s moving things around at Bill’s place is working similar to Charles Manson, whose favourite pastime was “creepy crawling.”
Back at the Hartsfield home, Deborah laments not getting to see her son more. Like they used to, y’know. He’s busy working so much, and making rat poison burgers for a supposed BBQ. I would not go anywhere he invited me. Fuck that.
Janey’s mother Elizabeth (Katharine Houghton) is having a lucid day, so Bill goes to the home where she lives to speak with her about Olivia, her death. She tells him about her friend “Gerald” who was her pen pal, saying he and Olivia had the “same demons.” Of course mom knows better, she knew Gerald was Mr. Mercedes. Then her daughter went off the deep end, saying she must “go with him.” Only he didn’t go. When Elizabeth figures out it was Bill who hounded Olivia for the police, she drives him out. This also puts him and Janey at odds a bit, as she too believes he was part of her sister’s guilt.
So now we’re figuring out what those rat poison burgers are for: that sweet, sweet Golden Retriever. As Brady prepares to lay it out for the pup, he’s just barely spotted by Jerome before he can take off. That kid is TOO smart not to, eventually, piece things together more. You just wait.
Once Brady gets home he finds firetrucks, smoke billowing out of the place, fire alarms ringing. Things are fucked up. They’ve had a few false calls to their place, resulting in a fine. Or else they go to court. Drunk and likely pilled up Deb didn’t hear anybody knocking, or even the alarm.
The split with Janey has Bill deep in the bottle. Across the way Ida’s still keeping an eye out, occasionally. Jerome got a digital camera for him, though. Something he can mount. He also mentions to Bill about the strange car, the guy who drove away. And just like everyone else Bill pushes away he does the same with the young kid. Sadly, everyone’s only trying to help. He seems intent on self-destruction.
Bill: “What does it look like I‘m doin‘? I‘m drinkin‘ a whiskey, pacin‘ up and down. Reflectin‘ on being a total fuck–up, ‘cause that‘s what fuck–ups do.”
During the evening, having a drink, Bill gets on the Blue Umbrella to chat with Mr. Mercedes. They do chat. Very antagonistic, very venomous on both sides. Although our former detective has a casual, nonchalant disposition. Until the killer begins poking at personal details, such as his daughter, who’s changed her last name to her mother’s maiden name, who is a drinker like him. He wants Bill to kill himself. Except our man battles back with taunts about his sexual abuse, his likely past. This gets further under the killer’s skin than he gets under the cop’s.
“Was it mommy?” asks Bill: “Is it still mommy?” The jabs get harder, deeper. The old detective gets more confidence by the minute, particularly after he discovers how bad it hurts Mr. Mercedes to talk about his mother. I wonder, though… will this provoke Brady one step too far?
Well, the situation at the Hartsfield home isn’t exactly any better. Both mother and son are equally scarred, traumatised by the past, by their relationship. Mom being rejected by her boy sends her into a tailspin.
And neither is Bill’s life a dream. He wakes to the same recurring nightmare every single day, destined to just keep chasing after the killer, unsure if he’ll ever catch him or if he’ll die trying.
Great series, and every single episode finds some new aspect of King’s story to bring out, as well as add to, deepen, expand. So many solid episodes that are building to a wild, unhinged, surely bloody confrontation. Just no telling how many others will suffer first. “People in the Rain” comes to us next week. Vroom, vroom!