Brady starts to crack, while Bill makes inroads with Janey Patterson

By Christian Holub
August 23, 2017 at 09:00 PM EDT

Well, if you thought Mr. Mercedes could use more creepy incest and cranky drunk rambling, this was certainly the episode for you!

We begin with a classic staple of the serial killer genre: a flashback to Brady’s childhood when he accidentally walked in on his mom having sex. It’s what Freud described as the “primal scene,” and the incident certainly seems to have had long-standing effects on Brady’s psyche. Comic readers out there will remember that Rorschach went through something similar in Watchmen and, like Brady, grew up to be a weird loner dedicated to violence. Unlike Rorschach, though, Brady stayed and watched.

In the present, Brady is once again getting chewed out by Frobisher – not only because he’s upset Brady and Lou never visited him in the hospital, but also because he strongly suspects Brady was the one who rigged his computer to explode (good guess). Frobisher stays on Brady’s case all day, later bursting into the company locker room to lambast him for using his break time to perform his second job as an ice cream truck driver. When he accuses Brady of using that job as a cover to deal drugs — which I guess is a thing, since it’s referenced multiple times in this episode, though I’ve never heard of it before — it makes the killer snap. He screams at his boss to “SHUT UP!” Lou encourages him to take the rest of the day off. Wonder what we’ll learn about his relationship to drugs — was that a drug dealer he saw his mom having sex with? Or does his mom’s alcoholism make him hate all things drug-related? Guess we’ll find out at some point.

After his own flashback to discovering the trashed Mercedes, Bill Hodges meets with Janey Patterson in a restaurant. Janey has brought the letters that Mr. Mercedes wrote to her sister (Olivia Trelawney, the car’s owner) that Janey believes drove her to commit suicide. In one of the letters, Brady shares some of his own story: He was often humiliated as a kid and yearned to do something that would show everyone else he’s alive. From there, the killer went on to taunt Olivia, saying that she was just as guilty for the deaths as he was, since she left her car’s key in the ignition and made it possible for him to drive it.

Bill wants to take these letters to the police immediately. Janey is a little more hesitant, claiming that the police don’t care about the case anymore and will treat even new evidence with indifference. Bill has certainly seen such indifference in person, but he still insists on bringing the letters to the police — not least since withholding evidence counts as a felony.

Of course, when he gets there, he finds that Janey was right. The police are consumed with their latest catch, a killer named Donnie Davis, and they throw the letters right to the bottom of their queue. Pete brings up some reasonable points, reminding Bill that back in the day they got hundreds of letters from people claiming to be Mr. Mercedes and that analyzing the authenticity of these would take effort and time. That’s not good enough for Bill, who storms out and immediately picks a fight with a couple of random cops in the parking lot. “When did I get so easy to ignore?” he wonders. (Recap continues on page 2)

There’s another Brady flashback at the midway mark — this time, it’s flashing back to when he and another small kid named Jerry (possibly his brother?) were eating snacks and watching TV. After Brady loads up the apple slices with cinnamon, Jerry starts choking on them. Consumed with TV and drawing, Brady doesn’t notice the other boy choking until it’s too late, and he nonchalantly brushes off his desperate grabs for help.

Both our villain and our hero are in pretty weird headspaces this week. After his disappointment at police headquarters, Bill is now holed up at a bar. It’s grumpy-old-man hour over here, as Bill lays into the bartender for saying “no problem” and rants about how in his day, “we said, ‘Yes sir,’ or, ‘No ma’am,’ or, ‘You’re welcome.’ We opened doors for women, we didn’t think everything was f—ing relative. We thought principles and manners mattered.” Monologues like this abound in the “prestige TV” genre, usually as some combination of showing off the skills of the writers’ room, proving that the protagonist can spit hard truths, and playing into the show’s greater themes of societal decay. Here, though, the balance is off, perhaps intentionally. Bill just comes off like any obnoxious drunk guy you’ve ever encountered in a bar or subway, and it’s a relief when Pete shows up to escort him outside. He does make one good point about the ills of modern society, though: “They’re building their hills higher and their walls higher and leaving us all to drown.”

Bill comes up with a pretty good message for Brady. He claims that Donnie Davis, the recently arrested killer, confessed to being the real Mr. Mercedes and calls Brady “fraud, pretender, nothing.” This really upsets Brady — for the first time, he’s the one being manipulated. He trashes some of the photos in the Bill Hodges shrine he built and almost starts crying.

Bill and Janey finally go to visit the latter’s mom, but unfortunately she’s sedated. She’s so sedated, in fact, that she resembles a dead body enough to trigger Bill’s trauma from the night of the Mercedes killings, when he witnessed bodies splayed everywhere. They retire to the waiting room, where they soon restart an old debate about whether Olivia left her keys in the ignition or not. Janey insists that her sister was too meticulous to ever do something like that, while Bill notes that there were no signs of forced entry into the car. When they start fighting about it, Bill confesses that he never really liked Olivia. To his surprise, Janey agrees. Love? Yes. Like? Much more difficult.

Bill mentions to Janey that he hasn’t had any contact from the Mercedes killer since he sent the message about Donnie Davis. It turns out that Brady is ghosting him in real life, as well. When Jerome stops by Bill’s place, Bill tells him to stay away — Jerome’s father came to him, warning the drunk neighbor who recently pointed a gun at a kid to stay away from his son. Bill agrees to buy him an ice cream, but when they try to flag Brady down, he just drives away. Jerome muses that he was probably just a drug dealer — giving that trope its second callout in this episode.

The episode ends with a strange parallel. While Bill and Janey go out for drinks and eventually start dancing to the jukebox, Brady comes home reeling from headaches and bad flashbacks. His mom tells him to come lie in bed with her. She promises to “make it better” and unbuttons his pants to give him a hand job.

Let’s just say I think I see how Brady got so psychosexually screwed up…