We gave it a B
Another day, another limited series based on a Stephen King story. But unlike last year’s 11.22.63, Mr. Mercedes is not set in the romantic, colorful world of ’60s America. It is, rather, set amid the wreckage of modern America. Several shots in the premiere portray the closed-up businesses and abandoned streets that the Great Recession left in its wake. In fact, the show itself starts at the early-morning wait outside a job fair, as tons of recession victims (including a young mother and her baby) line up in the early morning for a shot at some kind of salvation. Instead they get damnation, when a man in a clown mask drives his Mercedes through the crowd, brutally killing them all (yes, even the baby — that was tough to watch). The crime scene is grotesque, but the police’s first assumption is that the driver must have lost control. Detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) knows better as he surveys the damage: “He didn’t lose control.”
Flash forward two years, and it doesn’t seem like things are going great for Hodges. Now retired, we see him wake up one morning in dirty clothes. As we watch him pee and brush his teeth, it becomes clear that old age has gotten to him — as well as the soul-killing inertia that can come with solitary retirement. He meets his old friend Detective Peter Dixon (Scott Lawrence) for lunch at a diner. Towards the end of the meal, the waitress asks Hodges why he keeps staring at his spoon. The retired detective notes, “Everything’s upside down on a spoon” — just as true for Hodges’ own life, and for America writ large.
But this isn’t one of those detective stories where the killer’s identity is a mystery. Not long after we check in on Hodges, we get a look at the Mercedes killer himself: Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway). He’s driving a car with his windows down and (in a nod to another King work) blasting “Pet Sematary” by The Ramones. Brady works as a computer engineer, not only because he’s skilled with technology but also because his boss fancies himself a beacon to wayward youth. It’s safe to say this guy’s mentorship isn’t exactly working.
Hodges, for his part, doesn’t blast loud music as he drives. Instead, he’s listening to a speech by President Obama about how the GDP is up and thus the economy is improving, even as he drives through deserted, broken-down streets. Some of the ruin in Hodges’ life is his own fault, of course. His neighbor Ida (Holland Taylor) chides him for letting his lawn get overgrown. When he pulls a get-off-my-lawn at the kids playing hockey in the street, they note that he creeps them out when he watches them through the window. At least Ida invites him to dinner. (Recap continues on page 2)