Mr. Mercedes – Season 1, Episode 7: “Willow Lake”

AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Season 1, Episode 7: “Willow Lake”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by Dennis Lehane

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “People in the Rain” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “From the Ashes” – click here
Pic 1Again, love the repetition of each morning Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) experiences. Every day is exactly the same. Shows how he’s just going through the motions. His only added change are the bits and pieces of the Mercedes Killer case he works on. Across town and then right into the neighbourhood is Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway), working from afar yet right out in the open, too. A tense situation that’s bound to explode sooner than later.
The glimpses of Brady in his basement are the true views of his life we’re offered, we see him as a real person down there. We see his true self, the one he has to hide even right upstairs with his mother, from his spastic dancing to Radiohead to his bomb making and other eerie behaviour, facilitated by a cabinet full of explosives, discarded cellphones, and other treasures. Plus, he’s watching Bill. There’s nothing the old detective can do that’s out of view of Mr. Mercedes.
Another interesting note: Brady and Bill are each haunted by their past; for the former it’s his dead brother, the latter his estranged, alcoholic daughter. So to watch their parallel paths in life – one a serial killer, the other a cop, though equally damaged – is very compelling.
Pic 1ABill has to “eat shit” because he needs computer help, which means he needs young Jerome (Jharrel Jerome). He feels bad, but isn’t willing to totally eat that shit. However, he does well enough to fix things between them. He needs to dig through Olivia Trelawney’s laptop. He’s getting Holly (Justine Lupe) to help them out, too. Turns out the girl’s got computer game, she knows just about as much as Jerome. She’s both quirky AND smart.
Scary stuff now, as we see Deb (Kelly Lynch) at home, drinking, where she starts picking through her son’s things. Curious about his life. She finds one of his hats. And then finds his clown mask. Oh. Shit. Afterwards, she also digs under his mattress to find a journal with terrifying, sexual drawings on the front. A veritable horrorshow, his mind.
At work, Brady hears from Lou (Breeda Wool) there’s a shake up in the store. They’re all brought into a meeting where one of those douchey corporate guys Brady met at the restaurant gives them a verbal lashing. He berates them brutally, going “fullon fucking Mayan.” So, he decides on firing Lou randomly. Security even comes to escort her out of the building. Spineless Robi (Robert Stanton) looking on shocked. The guy’s lucky Brady didn’t slaughter them all.
Then there’s a semi-awkward situation over at the funeral parlour, Silver’s – yes, Ida (Holland Taylor). That puts Bill, Ida, and Janey (Mary-Louise Parker) in a room together awhile. Slightly uncomfortable.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 11.44.00 PMDeb, along with the old journal she apparently stashed away, found a length of rubber hose. She wonders what Brady does with it, asking him face to face. She likewise shows him the clown mask, asking why he’s got it hidden in the closet. He goes on a rant about running away with the circus. She keeps on prodding, looking through the journal, lamenting not having him “committed” years ago. Deb wants her son to have changed, from the budding psychopath that clearly existed long ago. Problem is, he budded. Fully bloomed.
The next morning, Bill and Janey have a difficult discussion. She’s headed back to California after the funeral, which doesn’t sit well with him. He does his best to act normal. Clearly he’s wounded, believing their relationship to have been more meaningful. “If I stay Ill fall in love,” she says. Not something she’s prepared to do after having been deeply wounded herself once upon a time. Sad on both sides.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 11.51.13 PMJust outside the funeral procession, Brady watches on. Janey gets up to do the eulogy. A really sick moment, Mr. Mercedes right there, watching the family of the woman he drove to suicide grieve over another family member. So twisty and turny and unsettling.
Scarier still? Brady has planted another bomb. In Janey’s car. As she drives out of the parking lot he sets it off, the car exploding while Bill and Holly sit not far off. The killer drives away, leaving the wreckage behind, as well as Bill, left there with the burning remnants of the woman he’d started to love on the street, in the car’s twisted metal.
Wow. Absolutely devastating.
This episode finally ratcheted the tension up, high as possible, before just drilling us, hard. I’m fascinated by this series. I expected an event like this, though didn’t see it coming here. Devilish, tragic. I wonder how Bill will ultimately deal with this, I know he’s going to feel responsible partly. He’ll blame himself for Janey being around him, he’ll be paranoid of everyone near him winding up dead.
“From the Ashes” comes next week. Be prepared.

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Mr. Mercedes – Season 1, Episode 6: “People in the Rain”

AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Season 1, Episode 6: “People in the Rain”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by Dennis Lehane

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Suicide Hour” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Willow Lake” – click here
Pic 1Again, the day starts the same for Bill (Brendan Gleeson). The same old mess, his tortoise his only real friend. More videos of Mr. Mercedes, as Brady (Harry Treadaway) still lurks in the neighbourhood driving the ice cream truck, manipulating the former detective from just outside.
At home the killer flicks through pictures of Bill, Jerome (Jharrel Jerome, the dog. Then he makes what looks like an explosive device and hides it in his car. One thing that’s always creeped me out is how he just mutters “darkness” to shut down the lights in his basement lair. An eerie little touch that Treadaway nails every single time.
We see that Ida (Holland Taylor) continues to have at least a modicum of sentiment for Bill, though the old lad is too concerned with other things to have ever noticed. It’s funny to that I’ve never noticed there’s also a parallel between Brady and Bill, in the sense that the latter’s a guy at the end of his career, effectively nearing the end of his life, as the former’s really beginning his adult life, job opportunities, as well as dealing with his childhood traumas, so on.
Pic 1AAND NO FUCKING WAY – Brady can’t find mom, then discovers his car gone. Oh yes, Deb (Kelly Lynch) is out cruising the streets, dropping her lit cigarette next to what she doesn’t realise is a bomb. The son has to take a bus to work, on his big day meeting the corporate bosses, while mommy drives around on the verge of exploding. Perfectly devilish.
Bill goes to see a man named Kenneth Brock (Tom Nowicki) who had his car moved several times, technically stolen but just parked in different places each time. He asks the guy a few questions, if there were any weirdos around his neighbourhood that may seem suspicious. Nothing stands out. At the same time, Janey (Mary-Louise Parker) calls: her mother’s had a stroke.
Corporate suck up Robi (Robert Stanton) is coaching Brady on how to deal with the bosses, how to act, all the good stuff. But the young man can’t stop worrying about his mother, out there with the bomb under the seat. And saddest of all, she’s trying desperately to clean her life up, too. Brutish irony. Deb winds up running into a guy she used to know, Chaz Chapman (Terry Serpico); he now owns a bar they all used to frequent, right next to the old salon where she worked, where she’s hoping to get a job again. He invites her out to lunch, and at least she’s away from that bomb. For now.
At the hospital, Janey’s aunt Charlotte (Laila Robins) is convinced the stroke is due to Bill’s questioning. So he’s not entirely welcome there. Janey is pissed, as well, but is glad to have his company. What’s curious is watching Charlotte’s daughter Holly (Justine Lupe) with Bill, who goes to check on her while the rest of the family is bickering. We know he’s estranged from his daughter, so it’s really a beautiful bit of character development to watch them together. She is a unique, if not strange girl. Then again, Bill’s a weirdo. One subtle gesture that speaks volumes shows us that he’s one of the few adults willing to indulge her.
Briefly we flashback to 2005, as he sees a man carrying his small daughter. In the interrogation room, Pete Dixon (Scott Lawrence) and Bill have a girl behind the glass. She was picked up on a DUI. This seems to be a problem for Dt. Hodges. Why? Because that’s his daughter, Allie (Maddie Hasson).
Pic 2At a restaurant, Robi and Brady meet with corporate dudes Josh (David Furr) and Jacob (Drew Matthews). They’re the typical types we’d expect. They want Brady to “open the kimono” and tell them about himself, his management philosophy. As he tells them, he also daydreams of murdering the three douche bags at the table with him. Likewise, he dreams of killing the kitchen staff; including line cook Stephen King. He sees his mother, whom he guts, pulling a bloody firetruck from her stomach.
Most of all he’s worried about mom and the bomb, naturally. He sort of weirds the corporate guys out, throwing Robi into a rage. This prompts Brady to lay his life bare, somewhat, to his boss. Using that psychopath sympathy card, which makes Robi turn human for once and give the bullshit a rest.
Irony of Chaz meeting with Deb is that he’s now married to a woman whose sister died at the hands of Mr. Mercedes, her own son, unbeknownst to her. Scary and tragic. They talk over the case, the fact the killer was never caught. Although Deb says she sometimes gets premonitory feelings, believing that soon the cops will catch him. Well, Chaz isn’t just there for a reunion. He has other, more sexual things on his mind. She refuses, making him angry, and this could push her back into the bottle.
In the meantime, Brady’s going all over town in the company vehicle looking for mom. He checks the liquor store, the cashier claims she was in and only bought a bottle of water. So Brady, he buys vodka. Hmm, curious. He then stops by the hospital, where he sees Bill with Janey outside. When Bill locks his car, he notices a second beep. Not realising the code has been copied.
At home Brady finds mom, drinking tea like nothing ever happened. He isn’t thrilled. He fakes concern, welling up the tears. Everything a normal boy would do. And I don’t doubt he does care for mom: “I dont love anyone else. No one else loves me.” But I’m pretty sure his chief worry was getting caught due to his alcoholic mother in the car with a homemade explosive device.
Pic 3Pic 3AFlashback to 2005 again, Bill and his wife Donna (Nancy Travis) are at odds. Because their daughter’s now in custody, booked. Nothing he can do from here to get his daughter out of trouble, or else be under another cop’s thumb forever. He won’t do it anymore, while his wife wants to just excuse it all over again. So we see that dad is being vilified for trying to help his daughter, the only way that’s left. Sure, it’s shit. But Bill has used his privilege as far as he’s willing to go. His daughter hates him, until she tries using emotion against him one last time.
He thinks of her so much because it’s her birthday today.
Brady bought the vodka to “wean” his mother off the booze, so she doesn’t have the DTs hard. He wants to help. Or, does he want to keep his mother drunk so he can, to an extent, control her? Seeing as how he has cameras to watch her, I’d bet on the latter. Then he watches as she has one drink, leading to another, and surely more…


Loved this episode. Love the whole series! Lehane is a particularly excellent addition, having written the episode before last, as well. His writing is fantastic, coupled with King’s wonderfully disturbed story it’s just great to watch. Then there’s the King cameo, which was a whole lot of fun. “Willow Lake” is next week.

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.