AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Season 3, Episode 10: “Burning Man”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by David E. Kelley & Jonathan Shapiro
* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Crunch Time” – click here
* Is this the end of the series? Or will we see a Season 4?
Morris is left alone in the world, distraught over his hate and love for Alma, as well as his supposed love for Danielle, whom he was cheating on the entire time. He goes on an ironic rant about being a “good husband” and a father and everything else. He rages about John Rothstein’s books. Then he threatens Marjorie some more before weeping over Alma’s corpse and kissing her dead lips. The scariest part of it all is how, at the core, Morris has done this because of literature. A big piece of why Season 3 has been so compelling in an odd way.
Soundtrack: “Down by the River” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse plays here
The heat is on because Bill’s made the decision to break into Alma’s place, sure that she’s up to shady shit. He has Jerome wait in the vehicle by the road, and he goes inside. Obviously Alma isn’t in bed. We know exactly where she is— the former detective is getting closer to her murdered corpse, though. Well, he’s close, but Morris has already moved things out of the shed, including Marjorie. For the time being, anyway.
Perfect time for Bill to get a call from his daughter Allie, who’s just gotten into town. This has him rushing home. She’s in her room listening to Joni Mitchell (“The Circle Game“). An interesting reunion. Allie “needed to get away,” so she came back. He doesn’t care why she’s here right now, really. Only that she’s there with him.
But he knows something isn’t right, too.
At Finders Keepers, the gang hear about Lou’s upcoming job interview. Holly and Jerome think it’s a good thing, whereas Bill doesn’t seem overly thrilled to see her go— he probably wants to keep an eye on her. Lou is getting advice from her psychiatrist to take space for herself, considering Bill, Holly, and Jerome essentially represent “the nexus” for everything surrounding Brady. Again, Bill worries something’s “not right.”
He likewise grapples with why Holly would want to keep the Mercedes after everything. She’s thrown a coat of yellow paint on it. Jerome attempts speaking some truths to his pal. There IS truth to the idea that the whole Mr. Mercedes debacle brought good things to Bill, in a roundabout, ultimately unfortunate way. But the bottom line is, the vehicle was used in a mass murder, and that’s horrific. Meanwhile, Bill reaches out to Montez about Morris and Alma being “completely obsessed with Rothstein.”
Bill goes to talk with Pete’s dad. Tom believes his son is doing his “own Jimmy Gold thing” because he doesn’t trust the police, after filling his head with Rothstein’s anti-establishment shtick. The dad is burnt out, so Bill thinks he ought to take point on the hostage negotiations with Morris. The private detective convinces Tom after a while, just as long as he promises no cops will get involved. Pete’s busy dealing with Morris, setting up a drop point for the books in exchange for his mother’s safety.
Allie gets a visit. She meets Holly, who once stayed in that same bedroom. It’s slightly awkward. Holly does tell her about how much Bill did for her. That’s, of course, not the impression Allie has of her father. They both know he’s “not the best communicator” when it comes to his emotions. Holly does her best to tell Allie that Bill does love her. Not the same impact when it doesn’t come right from him.
More awkward is Lou trying to come back to the same electronics shops where she used to work with Brady. She talks a good game and has the right qualifications. The manager doesn’t want to hire Brady’s “former best friend” and “killer” when the place already has trouble shaking the macabre past. However, Lou pitches herself as a selling point for the store: “I‘m a freak show. People love a freak show.”
At home, Bill talks to his daughter about why she came home. Allie says she’s been having nightmares of him “in danger.” She sees him burning in a fire, in Hell. She worries she might be putting him through a version of Hell. So dad explains his own dreams about Rothstein and his a “burning man.” Coincidence, no? Oh, and Allie’s pregnant. Bill’s thrilled at the prospect of a grandchild. It goes back to the idea that Rothstein was getting at in the dreams— Bill hopes for legacy.
Bill gets a call from Morris on Marjorie’s phone, along with Ida by his side. He uses what he knows about Morris, from the sexual abuse to the jobs fair massacre, to try and get through to him. Then Ida gets on the phone, but Morris is too far gone. Bill levels with Morris about the way Rothstein’s writing infected them in a similar sense, helping to legitimise the rage and other toxic feelings they felt privately.
Except none of it works with Morris. The situation’s going to get much worse before it gets any better. And Pete has no idea what’s been going on in the meantime. Bill intercepts a call from Pete when the kid calls his father, only for the kid to hang up. Jerome’s back at Finders Keepers now with a trace on Marjorie’s phone, giving him and Bill an idea of where Morris might be headed.
Morris is headed to the rundown club, where Pete waits with his gun drawn. It’s a nasty situation, and Bill’s racing against time trying to get there. Morris demands the Rothstein manuscripts, threatening to cut Marjorie’s throat open in front of her son. He talks about bleeding a pig, frightening the kid. When Marjorie gets a chance she elbows Morris, and she allows her boy the chance to rush him. But Morris fights him off. Marjorie gets her hands on the gun, shooting the tip of Morris’s nose off— he’s also got another guy on him. This leaves mother and son in a terrible predicament.
Outside, Bill arrives. He slowly approaches while Pete’s threatening to light the manuscripts on fire. Bill gets a shot off, disarming Morris, but Pete accidentally sets the books ablaze. Morris goes up in flames trying to read anything he can from his idol’s unpublished works. Bill watches the terrifying scene unfold. He witnesses the real burning man, the fires of obsession curling around his corpse, and he sees the ghost of Rothstein standing over it all, as if the overseer, the one who started the fire itself. This is an image of what obsession does: it consumes.
In the aftermath, Bill and Allie are relaxing.
Around the corner comes an ice cream truck.
And guess who’s driving it? Lou. Father Gore’s pitch for a Season 4: Lou goes totally off her rocker, believing she’s been possessed by Brady, and becomes a killer in her own right, forcing Bill and the Finders Keepers crew to try and stop her. We could see more of Allie, a bit of a time jump so she has her baby, and this could turn the stakes up MANY NOTCHES for Hodges should things turn bad. GIVE IT TO US!
“It all leads back to Rothstein”
One of the best seasons of TV. Ever. You heard it here.
And the poetics of this season finale, tying together all the poetic material that followed in the previous nine episode, is just—
— and it’d be wonderful to see Season 4.
Although if Mr. Mercedes ends here, it’s a beautiful, slightly twisted way to say goodbye.