Mr. Mercedes – Episode 2: “On Your Mark”

 

AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Episode 2: “On Your Mark”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by David E. Kelley

* For a recap & review of the Pilot, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 3, “Cloudy, With a Chance of Mayhem” – click here
Pic 1Ole Dt. Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) doesn’t have much else going on other than the occasional puzzle, lots of beer, and feeding his tortoise Fred in the yard. Oh, and the Mr. Mercedes case, which he obsesses over at night. Watching videos of the victims, the woman and her baby which turns to eerie pictures with blood pouring out of the eyes.
The killer, he’s still haunting, still taunting. Now that we know Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway), Mr. Mercedes himself, is also an ice cream man, slipping in and out of the neighbourhood undetected with relative ease, there’s no telling the amount of mind games the detective will find himself up against.
A kid winds up breaking his arm while snooping in Bill’s backyard, so he and Ida Silver (Holland Taylor) call an ambulance. But things don’t look so good, with him stinking “like a saloon.” So the ever crafty Ida brings a whiskey bottle. She comes up with a story, that he was verging on a panic attack. He took a drink to calm his nerves.
Slick mama, that Ida. Always looking out for him, even if he doesn’t want her to do it. Painful to watch. Not because of her, because of how desperately he seems to insist on being alone, isolated, alienated. Once Ida leaves he nearly does have a panic attack, too.
Pic 1ABrady’s co-worker Lou (Breeda Wool) gets in more hot water at work. A guy gives her lip, then calls her out for being a lesbian, even though he’s got nothing to go on other than his stupid conception of who she is after a single conversation. Again, their boss Anthony aka Robi (Robert Stanton) acts like a dick. Apparently customers can “gay bash” as long as they’re paying.
At home, Bill’s got his neighbourhood buddy Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) helping with the latest e-mail from the killer, the disturbing video he’s been sent. He’s got bigger worries, though. Former partner Pete Dixon (Scott Lawrence) calls on behalf of the police, asking him to come down and talk about what happened with the kid in his backyard.
So Bill gets down there, facing question after question from Pete who’s not convinced with his story, wanting his retired friend to find some kind of drive, a purpose, a hobby.
Bill: “Whats wrong with you, did ya never see an old guy talkinto himself before? Youre new to the planet, are ya? Fuck off while youre at it.”
The Hartsfield house is a weird one, indeed. Downstairs, Brady plays around with his computers, doing… other things, as well. Things his mother Deborah (Kelly Lynch) wants to see, though he’s not inclined to let her. So she presses him, wanting to know what he does down there all the time. He keeps his secrets, and his mother blames him for the pain she says it causes; keep in mind, she does sexually prey on her son, so I don’t think she’s entirely worried properly about his psychological well being.
Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 11.23.45 PMOver at the electronics store, Robi chats with Brady and Lou about the most recent incident, as well as their “underlying contempt” for customers, or so he says. He calls Brady strange, definitely a step over the line. And more than before I’m starting to wonder how long this guy will live, a psychopath working in their midst, right under his nose.
Ole Bill has already got a purpose. He’s poking around through the still warm bits of the Mercedes Killer case. Yet even the warm bits are cooling fast. Meanwhile, he and Ida are still sniffing around one another, at least she’s been sniffing. He’s interested, he just doesn’t totally understand why she’s into him. She claims he’s “convenient” and also he has some charm left in the tank. More than that she is concerned for him, as a friend.
But, oh, no… another communication, a letter from Mr. Mercedes. He taunts about the cop’s retirement, gloating in his subtle way. Upping poor Bill’s paranoia even further. Now he’s also left a way to communicate online, a digital tin can telephone on a string just for the two of them. All the while Brady’s still driving through the neighbourhood hawking ice cream to kids.
At home, Brady shows his mom a “super remote” he’s been working on, he calls it Thing B. It controls all sorts of stuff, he can program it to activate or deactivate relatively anything. He tells his mom he’ll sell it to the Pentagon someday. Delusions of grandeur? Almost a diabolical speech, convincing his mother he’s headed for big things.
Bill goes to meet, unofficially, with a woman named Janey Patterson (Mary-Louise Parker). She’d like to help catch the Mercedes Killer. They speak of the e-mail he got. Janey’s sister – the one who owned the stolen Mercedes – also got letters. The killer encouraged her to commit suicide. Until she did.
Pic 4After Lou closes up shop and heads out for the night, Robi’s left by himself. To work, he claims. He’s actually getting ready for a jerk off session, has the towel ready and everything. Only when he starts a video, it shuts down. Then his laptop all but explodes in a burst of flame.
Bill goes home and logs on to the site where Mr. Mercedes has their little two-way conversation setup. He sends a message: I’M HERE FUCKHEAD. LET’S PLAY. And this is the ignition Brady needs to really start his games. I’m worried about what that means.
Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 11.32.37 PMChrist, an awesome follow-up to the Pilot! Great, great stuff. I’m excited now. The first episode was truly creepy, unnerving. This one started to get into true thriller territory. Gleeson is fascinating, hilarious, perfect. Treadaway terrifies me, particularly that final look he gives, looking at the glow of his computer screen.
“Cloudy, With a Chance of Mayhem” is next week. Stay tuned.

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Mr. Mercedes – Episode 1: “Pilot”

AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by David E. Kelley

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, “On Your Mark” – click here
Pic 1We start in 2009, in Ohio. Extremely early in the morning at a City Jobs Fair. People are lined up outside through a roped walkway. Everyone waits patiently, some introducing themselves to one another. Others aren’t entirely happy to be there, not into the socialising. Regardless, everyone there’s starved for work, from the older folk to a young mother with her baby and every sort in between.
Suddenly, a Mercedes pulls up. Lights beaming onto the crowd. The driver slides on a clown mask, breathing heavy. Then he drives directly through the people, barrelling forward at top speed. People scream, running away fast as they can.
But some don’t escape. The driver ploughs over them, including the young mom and her child, a man helping her. Tons and tons of bodies lie bloody, crunched, smashed to bits in his wreckage. Holy christ, what a brutal sequence! When the smoke clears, Detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) turns up on the scene to survey the carnage and begin an investigation along with fellow lawman Pete Dixon (Scott Lawrence). The senselessness isn’t immediately evident. Pete thinks the driver “lost control” of his vehicle. Hodges knows better.
Pic 1AWe jump ahead, two years later. Looks as if Dt. Hodges is a bit rough around the edges, lying in his own wreckage now. Mostly consisting of beer cans, cigarettes, and peanuts. Bit of a mess, in more ways than one. He’s got a lot of time to himself these days. Him and his friend Fred, the tortoise in the backyard. Seems they’re sort of at the same pace. He still has dinner with Pete, keeping in touch after his retirement.
One thing’s clear, though – Bill’s got unfinished business. Like many cops who’ve retired with unsolved cases. He doesn’t even feel like himself. While Pete and a local waitress named Sheila (Tuesday Beebe) try keeping him on track, as does nosy neighbour Ida Silver (the incomparable Holland Taylor), there’ll always be something not right with him. He just slides further into the bottle.
Bill: “Ever notice everythings upside down on a spoon?”
Sheila: “Maybe thats how life is, hon. Spoons just got it figured out.”
Perfectly with The Ramones playing “Pet Sematary” on the radio, we’re introduced to Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway). He works at a store dealing in electronics, computers, all that sort of thing. He’s got a regular life, he and co-worker dealing with shitty customers and a corporate cut-out boss. And his boss, oh, man: a piece of work! He’s basically jealous of Brady’s talent with computers, cutting him down a peg at any corner possible.
We see that Ida’s nosy because she’s looking for a companion, at least a sexual one. But underneath all that – she’s a proud lady, after all – there’s a genuine concern about Bill. She doesn’t want to see him waste away, she’s seen it before. She doesn’t want him to have “retreated from the living” just because of retirement. So, despite her sort of snooty attitude at first, she’s genuinely worried the man doesn’t have any purpose. And without purpose, without telos, what IS a man?
Pic 2Well, there’s still a purpose. Deep down there somewhere.
Particularly after he gets an e-mail addressed from Mr. M. Subject line: Long Time. We see a clown mask briefly. Then the screen switches to a smiley face, speaking to him with an electronically disguised voice. Taunting about his retirement, his weight gain, and the fact he never solved his case. Up come a bunch of pictures of the victims driven down outside the City Jobs Fair. He even tells the former detective he wore a condom that night, for fear he’d ejaculate and leave evidence. The whole video is wildly disturbing, and totally terrifying.
So if there wasn’t purpose before, if he didn’t consciously care about it already, now Bill is paying attention. Now, he has something he must do. If not, he’ll likely suffer the rest of retirement in a haze of insanity.
We also cut back to Brady, his mother Deborah (Kelly Lynch) worrying he’s working too many hours. That he’s “all work and no play” – sound familiar, Stephen King fans? Similar to another fella named Jack. She worries more about him, that he’s never had a girlfriend, that he’s withdrawn, even if he’s a smart guy. Oh, and it turns out mommy has other things on her mind. Things no mother ought to be doing with her son, y’know, like incest. Yikes. Although Brady leaves before things go too far. Instead he spends time alone stroking one out rather than go all the way. Man, that’s unsettling.
If you didn’t know already, Brady is Mr. Mercedes.
Pic 3Pic 3AThe fun will-they won’t-they between Ida and Bill continues. She’s not happy she showed him a nude on her phone and he wouldn’t look at it. She insists he looks. He does, if not a bit reluctantly. I hope they continue this relationship, on any level, because Gleeson and Taylor together’s like some kind of sweet magic.
When Bill clicks a link on his computer with a smiley face, it goes to a short few clips of Mr. Mercedes driving through the people in the crowd that day, the clown mask, his distorted laughter. A fucking evil thing to witness.
Bill: “Now personally I think closure is overfuckingrated, but the nightmares, the panic attacks I could do without.”
So he’s poking around more, asking Pete questions about the case. His friend doesn’t want him to obsess anymore, like he did at the end of his career. Later, he ends up at the electronics store where Brady works. He’s looking for a surveillance camera, though he doesn’t come in contact with the young man. A slick moment of near chance.
Afterwards he heads to a towing lot. A place he’s evidently been quite a few times. There lies the bloody, beat up Mercedes kept in storage. Just seeing it leaves the retired cop in agony, imagining all the people being run over in those seconds of brutality. He sits in the driver’s seat, as if imagining himself driving.
Pic 5At home he gets the camera installed with help from a neighbour kid who does stuff around the house for him regularly, including with the latest e-mail business. And who else is rolling around the neighbourhood? It’s Brady. One of his other jobs is as a Mr. Friendly’s ice cream truck driver, serving up scoops for the kids, and fucking with Hodges, tossing a tennis ball with a smiley face into the yard for him to find.
Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 5.15.26 PMMan, oh, man! I did not expect the first episode to be so damn good. Much as I love King, I’m always sceptical going into a film or television adaptation of his work. Which is a bonus when it’s actually fucking great. So much to love here, and not least is the use of punk rock in the soundtrack. Love it!
“On Your Mark” is next week, so stay tuned. We’re going to get deeper into this creepy little world of Mr. King’s together.