Mr. Mercedes – Season 1, Episode 4: “Gods Who Fall”

AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Season 1, Episode 4: “Gods Who Fall”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by Dennis Lehane

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Cloudy, With a Chance of Mayhem” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Suicide Hour” – click here
Pic 1I love how Mr. Mercedes opens almost every episode with Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) waking to his house in shambles, liquor bottles and dirty dishes and open peanut packages, he’s a mess himself. And it’s so similar to EVERY OTHER OPENING that you actually question if you’re watching the correct episode. Genius, as we’re literally put in the shoes of Bill, retired, semi-washed up, and unsure of what day it is ultimately. Really excellent, simple technique that works wonders.
Just seeing Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) in his basement lair is eerie, watching as he plays with a toy fire truck, imitating the siren, surrounded by computers.
We also get a look at a white supremacist, whose interests lie in America, the KKK, and all the other typical dog whistles. His name is Ryan Springhill (David A. MacDonald). Today, he’s being served with a subpoena, papers for a restraining order. Really upstanding type of guy. And Brady, he’s keeping an eye on him. Playing games with his laptop. This is the guy who got in Lou’s (Breeda Wool) face recently, not impressed with her sexual orientation, muttering “incompetent dyke” to himself getting frustrated. Hmm. Wonder what Mr. Mercedes is setting in motion.
Pic 1AFlashback to Pete Dixon (Scott Lawrence) and Bill interviewing Olivia after the Mercedes massacre. Of course the police believe she was involved, at least Pete. She feels terrible for what happened, though it isn’t HER fault some psychopath stole the car. Sure, her keys were left in the ignition, supposedly. Doesn’t mean she’s culpable. Plus, knowing Brady’s computer expertise? He likely hacked the vehicle, using Olivia as a scapegoat, another way to fulfil his sick fantasies.
So now the Nazi has gone down to Supreme Electronics, calling Lou “twat“in front of everybody. He gets very personal, calling her down to the dirt openly. We see more and more how Robi (Robert Stanton) doesn’t care about his employees, a corporate suck-up, passing off personal, sexist, homophobic insults for business. Fuck you, Robi. Eat a dick.
Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) is still kicking about, even if Bill said he doesn’t want him involved. The young guy only wants to help, offering to “step back if it gets too sketchy.” I mean, it’d be hard for me if I were his age to just give up helping a former detective investigate a psychopath murderer. Just saying. Finally, Jerome drops the idea that Olivia didn’t leave her keys in the Mercedes, that it might’ve just been left in the glove box. Piquing Bill’s interest, a tiny bit.
The poor retired detective is having his mind assaulted on the daily. His TV flickers, showing bits of the Mercedes Killer’s dashcam from the night of the massacre, then the smiley face logo mocking him. Afterwards, we see Brady go to a local diner, he runs into Jerome who knows him from the ice cream truck. Yikes. Too close for comfort. Scares me that this maniac might do something to Jerome.
Pic 2Our poisons are our pleasures
Deborah (Kelly Lynch) watches the kids on her street playing, remembering the better parts of her life. Long ago, before she had Brady. She was on the cheerleading squad, the cutest boy in school was into her. Now she lives with her son in a forcibly incestuous household, wasting away.
Later on Jerome calls Bill with talk of people breaking into cars with no trace. He explains bits and pieces about how the lock works, transmitting a signal. Meaning someone could intercept the signal. Unlocking the car. As I said: hacker shit.
The Hartsfields go to the cemetery, to visit dad, the dead brother. Brady’s not exactly thrilled to be there, though it’s clear Deborah still holds onto their memory tight. Definitely the death of Brady’s brother disturbs him, he was partly responsible. He resists thinking of it, as much as possible. But he wears the ugly tragedy on his face.
Sad that Ida (Holland Taylor) gets hurt after finding Bill at a bar with Janey (Mary-Louise Parker), looking very friendly. I feel that his gravitating towards Janey is more indicative of his obsession with the case. He can’t be interested by anything else, even if it means romantic involvement. Sure, the younger of the two women is pretty, but Ida’s a babe, too. Firmly believe Bill’s entire life is dictated by the Mercedes Killer case.
Bill: “People make mistakes when theyre angry
Janey: “People make corpses when theyre angry, too.”
Pic 3At home, Deb is having flashbacks. She sees her dead son, crawling around the fire truck; the one Brady plays with nowadays. She sees the cut in his throat for the attempted tracheotomy. And this pushes her to the freezer, for a bottle of vodka.
Brady listens to the Pixies playing “Here Comes Your Man” while shopping at a hardware store. For a few essential tools, like a watering can, lawn fertiliser, a spade, and other things. Though he isn’t happy to be served by one of his high school teachers, Mr. Mundy (Keith Flippen), working his second job. Neither is he happy to be seen near a camera; he decides on dropping the gopher poison before checking in. After that he literally beats himself up over not doing “recon” where he planned to buy poison.
The Nazi is picking up his laptop, not satisfied with things already. Robi again ignores sexist bullshit in lieu of business. So the angry white man leaves, but he’s followed by Brady who’s talking to himself about the “big bro” ahead of him. That’s when he uses his universal remote contraption to start changing intersection lights, until the Nazi’s smashed to bits by a large truck in the road. Behind him, Mr. Mercedes revels in the destruction, the death of a horrible man. Looking in his eyes, Brady remarks: “Ive seen that look before.”
And this is when we flash to his brother at the bottom of the basement steps, cracked and broken, bleeding, mouth wide open… dead… little fire truck’s lights and noises going off.
Pic 4Another fantastic episode. One of my favourites yet, because we’re seeing more of Brady, his psychopathy expanding and becoming all-encompassing. There’s growth to Bill, as well. He and Janey closer and closer all the time.
“The Suicide Hour” comes next week.

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Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 6: “No Mo’ Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 6: “No Mo’ Mojo”
Directed by Tim Southam
Written by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Pie a la Mojo” – click here
Pic 1The finale of Season 2 opens, years ago, as a boy – little BB with the red shoes – is chased into the old church, past that familiar gate. Someone grabs him and smashes a rock into his head. The man removes the gate, takes the kid, then at the lake tosses him in tied to the thing. Others watch on, then they leave, disappearing into the mist. Are they spirits? Watching on as history is repeated and repeated?
I have a feeling we’re soon going to learn more in this last episode.
Pic 1AHap and Leonard (James Purefoy & Michael K. Williams) reminisce on religion’s “strong medicine” v. its “strong poison” in relation to Rev. Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood), his insane murders. A devastating thing for their East Texas town to wallow in, as the church holds a ceremony for all the boys lost. Everybody’s there, from Sheriff Valentine Otis (Brian Dennehy) to Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack), Dt. Hanson (Cranston Johnson), and many more. The greasy, insincere Sheriff takes the pulpit, shelling out verbal sympathy for the families. Blah, blah, blah. And certainly our heroic pair get no thanks or recognition for their role in, essentially, solving the case on their own. Best of all, in this scene we get to watch Hap and Leonard do their BEST buddy comedy routine, with a lot of pitch perfect dialogue.
Hap: “I aint never been more proud to be an atheist than I am today
Leonard: “Amen to that
Stella and the other mothers who lost their boys do know the truth, that the eponymous duo are the ones who actually figured out what happened, giving them all closure.  Sadly, Hap still has one worry – that Hanson and Ms. Grange are getting together. Likewise, Leonard comes home to find Raoul, who’s tracked down Ivan’s (Olaniyan Thurmon) father; the kid is going home. And much as our man tries to pretend like he’s hard, Leonard is going to miss him; their bonding over Huck Finn and his adventures was sweet. Also, I’d love to see Raoul and Leonard get back together. They’re good.
AND POOR MEEMAW! I miss her. In her wake, Florida and others are left reeling with the news of the reverend, a man who pulled the wool over all their eyes. Left without Meemaw’s wisdom to get through it all.
Florida drops a bomb on Hap: “I always saw myself with a black man.” This is a gut punch. Whoa. Poor fella.
Hap’s got other things in mind, though. After seeing a curious number of angel figurines at Meemaw’s place while he and Florida pack everything up. Across the way, Leonard hears Chester speak to him from somewhere else, saying that the work isn’t done. Hap and Leonard now believe that BB was killed by someone other than the reverend. And I’m pretty sure we all know that someone was Sheriff Valentine Otis, who’s receiving a visit from Dt. Hanson about those red shoes and the very same line of questioning as our duo have on their minds.


Hap and Leonard get talking to Hanson’s partner Charlie Blank (Douglas M. Griffin). He’s reluctant to say much, after his trouble from shooting TJ. But they’re further on their journey now. Towards the truth. They’ve got their eye on the big bad sheriff. Only he’s got his eye on them, too. He’s much too craft. Then, at the diner, they notice the waitress Miriam has a chain: it reads BB.
The boys go see Miriam at home. They show her the BB chain, which shocks her. Such a sad thing to watch, especially when she’s been serving that old bastard every day at the diner. All that’s left is what Hap and Leonard will do, while they try to figure out how to handle Valentine, and when’s the best time for that. Not only is the history of BB with them, the history of the deaths of their fathers, covered up and forgotten is at their backs.
Leonard: “Things change, Hap. People dont.”
They lay what they know at Valentine’s feet. They want to know the truth, about everything. He acts nonchalant about the entire thing. A revelation comes: BB was Valentine’s son, he wears the same chain with the initials around his neck. The mystery thickens. “That boy was the most beautiful thing that ever happened to me,” he explains, and how he couldn’t claim the kid because of the “colour of his skin.” Then they reveal that Fitzgerald never killed BB, which disturbs him terribly.


And who killed him? Just as it’s revealed, we see Judge Beau Otis walk in. He’s visibly upset by the talk. We know now, it was the rightful son upset over the illegitimate child his father had with a black woman who killed the boy. WHOA! Holy fuck, did not see this coming. Great suspense and mystery in the writing led to this moment. The father knocks his son into an empty pool nearby, splitting his head open wide. A sort of strange, bittersweet moment as Hap and Leonard watch the man who killed their fathers die at the hands of his own.
In the meantime, Hap his dad’s old repair truck fixed up with the nice, fresh decal on the side for Bud Collins’ business. He and Leonard head out for a drive, where they bring the old gate back to the church and put it in place again. Full circle, as the two put it.
Leonard: “Yknow, in the end, its always me and you.”
Hap: “Just like the Lone Ranger and Tonto
Leonard: “Yeah, wellcmon Tonto.”
And as they leave the church, the spirits of those who died there, the boys, those taken by the KK, and sweet Meemaw, they appear again in their rightful places, able to move on from the darkness.

Pic 4CAn amazing Season 2! With a distressing, dark cap at the end where we see a tree with a noose in it, and in the yard a woman finishes putting KKK linens on the line. OH, baby. Give Joe Lansdale, Nick Damici, Jim Mickle & Co. the greenlight, SundanceTV! We need a Season 3. Pronto. With plenty of mojo.
Pic 4D

Spike Lee’s Malcolm X: Has Anything Really Changed?

Malcolm X. 1992. Directed by Spike Lee. Screenplay by Lee & Arnold Perl.
Starring Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Lonette MCKee, Tommy Hollis, James McDaniel, Ernest Thomas, Jean-Claude La Marre, O.L. Duke, & Larry McCoy. 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks/Largo International N.V./JCV Entertainment Networks/Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13. 202 minutes.
Biography/Drama/History

★★★★1/2
POSTER
Sometimes I’m not a fan of Spike Lee as a public persona, simply because he doesn’t always think before speaking. However, I’m usually a fan of his work as a director. He has a big, wide mind and puts that to work usually tackling issues within the African American community. There are too many of his movies to talk of in an introduction, but suffice to say I do think he is a great director. One of the greatest in his generation, and certainly one of the best African American directors out there, period.
And that’s perhaps why Malcolm X is the film out of his catalogue which resonates most. It isn’t necessarily his greatest. Yet there’s such a poignancy and depth to the work Lee does to portray Malcolm X (played wonderfully by Denzel Washington), not just as a powerful black leader, but also as a human being; one not completely above judgement, one not perfect as some might idealise him. Furthermore, we’re able to get a look at the inside of the Nation of Islam, as far as fiction allows. Many prominent figures in the life of X and circling the NOI, as well as the Civil Rights movement in general, are included, from cameo roles such as Nelson Mandela, Al Sharpton and others, to the portrayals of characters like Elijah Muhammad (Al Freeman Jr.) and Thomas Hagan (Giancarlo Esposito), among more. The nearly three and a half hour runtime of Malcolm X may seem daunting. If you’re sitting down to watch a film, you’ve really got to be prepared for this one, though it’s beyond worth the effort. For me, the 202 minutes rushes by in a beautifully shot and directed, phenomenally acted story that jams a whole man’s life into one screenplay. Not everything gets covered, and there’s also plenty of story to be told after X’s assassination. Above all else, the character of X comes out, as does his struggle. For some this was a stepping stone to learning more about the Civil Rights movements that began raging during the 1960s and 1970s, and onward. I won’t ever forget my first time seeing this one. It’s a classic that stands the test of time, telling an important, crucial story about America during the early latter half of the 20th century, and examining one of the more turbulent times of race relations in the country’s history. Sadly, some of what happened back then is still much too alive and much too well in American society, and if X were still alive he’d likely still be as fiery and determined as ever.
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The best aspect of Malcolm X is the fact Lee doesn’t attempt to make him above reproach. As a person, X was not perfect. Nobody is, so Lee never tries to make him out to be anything else. Some worried that he would include X’s life before he converted to Islam, and that’s exactly part of what makes this story interesting and intriguing. There’s no sense in ignoring that part of his existence. X himself never did ignore it, he always kept himself open and honest and raw. That’s a huge part of why many did, and still do(/always will), admire him. He was not like most other leaders. He didn’t admit every one of his faults – again, he is only human. But on the whole, he never shied away from his once criminal past, as that in a way led him to where he went after and helped him attain the enlightenment of Islam.
One of my favourite moments happens between Malcolm X’s speeches. A young white woman approaches him, admiring his work, and wondering what a white person without prejudice might do to help further his cause: “Nothing,” he says smiling before walking on. This is such a brief, powerful moment. I’m reminded of watching a recent documentary about the KKK, where they also spotlighted the Black Lives Matter movement and the shooting in Charleston; one scene shows a white woman, with a mixed race child, trying to march in solidarity, who’s told by a black woman to go home – she does in fact leave after, though the black lady gives her a hug and seemingly explains this is just not the time or place for her presence. There’s a stand-off element to X and his feelings for white people. Again, that changed once he went to Mecca on his Hajj, and then essentially transformed into a full blown humanitarian. Yet Lee never strays away from that inflammatory perspective X held towards white American society, and makes clear it’s simply about black people gaining back their power, or retaining what they have, not so much about hating white people. So in that scene where X shrugs the white woman off, it represents the idea that white people may want to help, but black people don’t need their help. They sometimes just need white people to stand back, let them do their thing and settle the issues on their own. That’s not always the case. Particularly in the time of X, there were tough things happening (not that there still aren’t in this day and age), so this was a stance he felt black society needed to take in those times of near racial war. Not long after X, once Elijah Muhammad was out of his life, he made clear the black community had to unite first, then they could work more on white-black relations. That scene with the white girl epitomises this concept.
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I love the inclusion of the conk hairstyle at the beginning with Malcolm and his buddy Shorty. Not simply because African American culture at the time saw a lot of young black men styling their hair that way. What’s most interesting is that Malcolm X later spoke about conk and its double edged sword-like effect on the black community. On the one hand, conk – because of its threat of chemical burns and scarring, hair loss, et cetera – was seen as a ritual of manhood, going from a boy to a grown adult. On the other hand, he and other African American scholars came to see conk also as a way of erasing oneself in order to become more white. This latter idea is presented in the screenplay after the conk is put in, washed out, then Malcolm admires his new hair in the mirror and says to the men in the barbershop: “Looks white, dont it?” The whole concept of the conk plays into how we see Malcolm ultimately reject everything white. And yes, he said incredibly inflammatory things about white people. But things can change, people can. He didn’t turn into who he was later because of a hate for white people. Effectively, he hated injustice. The white man, the white culture, the white HAIR, it all comes down to representing the white world that he lived in and found himself subject to at every turn, on a daily, minute-to-minute basis. So the conk is simply one element of the white superstructure that Malcolm came to reject. A great inclusion on Lee’s part to show that. It could’ve been a basic scene that shows us where he came from, his beginnings. Instead the scene represents a microcosm of that influence white culture had (/still has) on black people that are brainwashed into feeling as if ‘white is right’ or any of that other sadness. Later when Malcolm is in jail, the conk becomes a sticking point when he’s confronted by an inmate who tries to help him, out of the life of a gangster and moving towards something better, which is the Nation of Islam; a huge influence in his life during prison, as well as afterwards. It may seem a superficial, brief moment in the 202 minute runtime of this epic biography. And it’s a drop in the pond, really. Although, it is highly significant to the overall themes surrounding the film and X himself as a Civil Rights leader.
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This is one of the best movies of the 1990s, certainly one of Spike Lee’s best, too. Malcolm X is a dissection of a cult of personality. It is a film that attempts to get to the core of what X and his struggle represented. Without all the denial some insist on upholding in regards to X’s personal history, who he was, who he became. The movie is not totally perfect, though it is perfect where it counts. Likewise, Lee concentrates on not inflating X as a leader. Rather he takes an inclusive look at the man, not ignoring the good and the bad alike. He dives into the an era where things were different, and somehow not enough has changed as of this writing in 2016. Watching this movie again now, 24 years after its release and concerning a subject decades older, it’s almost sad to watch and think how hard X would roll over in his grave were he able to witness some of the scary racist madness that’s still going on in the streets of America. Love this movie, love Denzel, and Spike is near his best here. A positively entertaining piece of biography, history, all combining to make a well executed film in every respect.