Mr. Mercedes: Episode 1 Recap and Review

Sometimes, I think the Chinese New Year needs an update.

Sure, the animals are cute and all, but why limit yourself to animals?

There are plenty of other interesting things we can use and rotate out for each year.

I mean, horror movie stuff and horror movie icons would work, right?

Like 1979 could be the year of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, in honor of my ex husband!

So, what would 2017 be?

I know, I know…

The year of…

Stephen King!

Yeah, I know…

*insert quizzical look of surprise right about here*

2017 has been the year of the Stephen King revival, although to Constant Constant Readers like me, he has always been appreciated, even (or especially) when we wake up in the middle of the night, with the sheets covered in sweat, the dogs expressing their terror for you (of you…)

Well, maybe that last part is just me.

But one thing is for certain:  Stephen King has never really gone away.  The obsession, along with the books being published, may ebb and flow.  But King is, and will continue to be, a huge part of our culture.

He may write “scary” stories, but he is also our literary Everyman, and someone who actually makes America great.  Actually, he has been making America great for the past 40 years or so, minus the tacky red baseball cap.

But 2017 has seen a great resurgence.  And who am I to complain?  Like potato chips and bad 80’s horror movies, there is no such thing as too much Stephen King!

The Dark Tower movie made its long awaited debut.

Gwendy’s Button Box, a beautiful collaboration with Richard Chizmar, was published this spring.

Sleeping Beauties, another collaboration with Owen King (kid needs to earn his Master chops), will be published this fall.

Next month, Pennywise the Clown will terrorize those meddling kids on the big screen.

The small screen has also gotten its share of The Master.

Mr. Mercedes is another creation of King that has made its debut in 2017.

Mr. Mercedes is unique in that it may be a detective crime drama, something that one would NEVER associate with King, the creator of homicidal clowns, rabid St. Bernards and possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury vehicles.

However, despite the different format, Mercedes still has King’s finger prints all over it, from the Easter eggs (within the first 15 minutes or so of the pilot we find one of those) to the themes, aka human monsters who are far more capable of horrific acts than any homicidal clown or rabbit St. Bernard.

I watched the pilot this week, and my skin crawled.  That is a good thing, in case you can’t tell.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of the pilot episode of Mr. Mercedes.

And, as always:

Synopsis

The episode opens at a job fair in an unnamed Midwestern City.  Despite the fact that it is early, the line to the job fair is long, as the city has been hit hard by the recession.  A young mother is in line with her baby, along with two younger men.  The mother chats with one of the men, who is sympathic to her plight, and offers his sleeping bag to her so that she can keep her baby warm.

A Mercedes Benz pulls up to the job fair, but most people are unconcerned about the car, as the colder temperatures and long lines are on their minds.

However, the crowd is forced to take notice of the vehicle and its driver, a man in a clown mask, as the vehicle begins to plow through the crowd haphazardly.  Several people are killed by the vehicle, and many more are injured.

The local police arrive at the scene.  One of the police is a man named Bill Hodges, and his partner Pete.  Bill surveys the damage, which now includes several corpses, and comments that he believes that this was not an accident and that the driver of the vehicle premeditated this act.

Two years later, Hodges has retired.  His life has taken a downward plunge, as Hodges has succumbed to depression, feeling that he has nothing to live for, now that he is no longer working.  His only interactions are with Pete, his former partner, and Ida, a nosy neighbor who expresses her concern for Hodges by spying on him.

We also meet a young man named Brady Hartsfield, who works as a computer technician.  Brady also drives an ice cream truck when he is not working as a computer technician.  Brady lives with his mother, who has an unhealthy fixation on her son.

One night, Ida invites Hodges to dinner.  She propositions Hodges, showing him nude pictures of herself.  This makes Hodges uncomfortable.  Ida reminds Hodges that he needs something to live for, or he may die an early death.

Later that night, Hodges receives a message on his computer from an unknown source.  The sender claims to be the Mercedes killer from two years before, and taunts Hodges with lewd words and graphics.

Disturbed by the messages, Hodges enlists the help of Jerome, a high school student who lives in the neighborhood and who makes extra money mowing lawns.  Jerome tells Hodges that the sender of the message is an expert on computers, as he was able to remotely access Hodges’ computer.  Jerome asks Hodges about the content of the messages, but Hodges refuses to divulge any information.

The messages revive Hodges interest in the unsolved case, and he convinces a former coworker to allow him to look at the vehicle used in the killing.  This brings up images of the victims in Hodges’ mind, and he becomes determined to solve the case.

At the end of the episode, Hodges comes close to meeting Brady Hartsfield, when Brady drives through Hodges’ neighborhood in his ice cream truck. Hodges finds a tennis ball on his lawn, and thinks that it is from one of the neighborhood kids.  However, the tennis ball has a smiley drawn on it, and Hodges realizes that the same person who sent him the messages also left him the tennis ball.

My Thoughts

Well, they went there.

Whenever I make the above statement when watching something, that is usually a good sign.

A double good sign if I am watching something based on a story written by Stephen King.  It is a well known fact that many King works are lost in translation when someone ambitious attempts to translate said story on to screen.

It does not appear that Mr. Mercedes will be lost in translation though.

In other words, the pilot of Mr. Mercedes left me very, very impressed.  And I cannot say that about too many pilots.

First of all, the casting.  I know it’s only a pilot, but the casting!

The casting appears to be spot on, especially for Hodges.  Brendan Gleeson has struck a balance between crusty old detective, retiree who does not know what to do with himself other than be forced to look at nude pics of his nosy neighbor and general neighborhood grouch (all I could hear was “Get off my lawn,” aka Clint Eastwood with an Irish brogue.)

In fact, Gleeson has made Hodges a bit more sympathetic than his written counterpart.  This is a good thing, since I am sure that the writers and the producers and everyone else involved with the show would like viewers to keep watching.

I am also loving Holland Taylor as the nosy neighbor.  Sure, she is not essential to the story, but her presence gives us something that is much needed:  humor.

I do consider the source material to actually be one of King’s darker works.  In fact, Mr. Mercedes is almost closer to something the late, great Dickie Bachman would have penned, had his career not been so tragically cut short by cancer of the pseudonym.  Cancer sucks, yo!

So, Holland Taylor and her humor are needed, as this is a pretty grim story.

How many TV pilots start with people being mowed down by a lunatic in a clown mask, driving a stolen Mercedes?

And no one is spared, not even wee babies.  In fact, that was pretty tough to watch.

It was not only touch to watch because of the violence, itt was also tough to watch because of the elements of realism present.

Most rational people know (or at least we hope) that we will not be eaten by a homicidal clown, or chased by a decaying corpse lady who resides in a certain infamous room at even more infamous hotel (infamous does mean more than famous, after all.)

However, being mowed down by a lunatic in a stolen vehicle is tragically plausible.  In fact, vehicles have been used many times over the past several years to attack large crowds of people.  So there is that.

Again, King’s major strength as a writer is his ability to include real people with real problems.  The few minutes before the Mercedes killer struck is a prime example of this.

The crowd of people was not lined up for a concert or sporting event.  Instead, they were lined up for a job fair.  People arrived at the job fair hours before any potential employers arrived, in the hopes of securing employment.

There was a sense of quiet desperation in the crowd.  People brought sleeping bags because it was so cold outside.  One woman even brought her baby, because she was not able to find child care.

When the people in the crowd spoke to each other, they reminded me of people that I know, or even of myself.  Honest people looking for a job,  A woman trying to balance work and motherhood.  Just regular people.  Even the guy that was being a jerk about the woman bringing her baby with her was just a regular, everyday blowhard.

So when those people were killed due to no fault of their own, it hurt.  It was a not so gentle reminder of how random and fragile life really is.

Speaking of killing, let us take a moment to talk about our killer, aka Brady Hartsfield.

In case you have been living under a rock, Brady is our killer.  This fact has not been made quite clear by the show yet, but it will be soon, and has been mentioned in most of the trailers and reviews and so forth.

Now, Brady has not had much screen time in the first episode.

However, he has made the relatively little screen time allotted to his character so far count.  And it appears that Harry Treadaway will make this character memorable, in much the same way that someone like Tim Curry has made the previously mentioned homicidal clown memorable.

In other words, Harry Treadaway is owning this character.

He is chewing scenery.  There is no other way to put it.

When I watched, I could tell that Treadaway was taking this role seriously, but having some fun with it as well.  In order to make a memorable villain (or villainess) having fun is essential.

Or else, all work and no play…

Something, something, right?

Brady is one of King’s “human” villains (using the word human here loosely, okay?)

And that is what makes him so frightening: he is completely plausible.

Just your average boy next door…

Who works at the local electronics store.

Has a second job selling ice cream to the kiddos…

Goes home, puts his feet up…

Gets a really hot kiss from mommie dearest?

Nope, the fact that Brady is a mass murderer whose weapon of choice is a luxury vehicle is not bad guy enough!

He also (literally) has a hard on for his mother!

Jamie Lannister: Bro, I got the incest thing down pat!

Brady Hartsfield:  Hold my beer!

So, the cat and mouse game unfolds.

A cold case needs to be solved.

Bill Hodges is the man for the job, and I can’t wait to watch him uncover the mystery, as the clock is ticking!

So, that’s it for the pilot of Mr. Mercedes!

Join me next week for the recap and review of episode 2, titled On Your Mark.

Tune in next week…

Same bat time, same bat channel!

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