Mr. Mercedes recap: 'Willow Lake'
After weeks of buildup, things finally start blowing up
Well all right! After weeks of buildup and maneuvering, Mr. Mercedes finally exploded this week, with tragic results for several characters.
As usual, Bill Hodges starts this episode by trying to make up for whatever he messed up last week. This time, it’s his relationship with Jerome. Bill approaches his young friend in the middle of lawn-mowing duties in order to explain his behavior. He knows the Mercedes killer is dangerous so he wants to keep Jerome away as much as possible, but he also really needs help with all the computer stuff. Once again, it’s hard for Jerome to turn down the excitement of working on this high-stakes investigation, so he agrees to help Bill hack into Olivia Trelawney’s laptop.
When he gets to the diner, he meets the newest member of the team: Holly Gibney. It turns out that Holly, too, has a knack for computers, and saves Jerome’s skin when he first tries to hack the laptop. She points out that his method would lead to the hard drive erasing itself (stupid Apple) and suggests a different, more effective method. Bill, of course, is totally lost, so he goes off to help Janey prepare for her mother’s funeral while the whiz kids get to work. Eventually they are able to hack through her laptop, but all they see on her desktop is an encrypted text file labeled “Sessions.” Holly points out that Olivia didn’t know how to encrypt files (she wasn’t any better at computers than her old nemesis Bill, apparently), so someone else must have put it there. Was it something Brady sent her?
Speaking of Brady, it’s an eventful day at work for him. When he arrives at the shop, Lou informs him that a manager is there, and he’s called a company-wide meeting. Once that meeting actually happens, we get our first real look at one of this world’s major villains. Since the moment Brady murdered all those people waiting in line for a job fair, Mr. Mercedes has been drenched in the miasma of the Great Recession. Bill has driven down streets listening to speeches from President Obama saying the recession is over, even while the dilapidated houses and miserable people he drives by indicate that it has not. A few weeks ago, we got Brady challenging his mother’s nostalgia for her parents’ world of secure jobs and comfortable lifestyles. Where did that world go?
Here’s where it went. To this guy. The electronics executive is about as wicked a caricature of predatory late capitalism as you could find. He separates the world into “winners” and “losers.” By that ideology, he labels Frobisher (a spineless ladder-climber) and Brady (a merciless serial killer) as “winners” because they give him profits, but Lou (a sensitive soul who cares about people and is offended by prejudice) is a “loser.” Since the company made 1 percent less profit than expected, Lou gets fired to make up the difference. Obviously that difference would never come out of this besuited executive’s own massive salary, and obviously Frobisher and Brady do absolutely nothing to stick up for her. (Recap continues on page 2)
Later, Frobisher finds Brady outside the shop. He notes how just yesterday he was expecting a promotion, and Lou was expecting continued employment. Instead, she’s out in the cold, and he’s stuck in his same old middle-management position. And yet Brady, whose performance at the job interview presumably inspired this corporate crackdown, is himself untouched. He even got a few rare compliments form the heartless executive — there is honor among sociopaths, it seems. Brady even relates a story to Frobisher about shopping for a pepperoni Hot Pocket, finding them sold out…until suddenly a stock girl arrived with dozens in tow. It’s a good lesson in how a shameless psychopath can do well in a world of branding and profits, because that world doesn’t care whether you’re a good person or not. In disgust, Frobisher repeats a self-improvement mantra to himself and declares that he’ll still come out on top in a year or two. But Brady will still be himself, “and what could be lamer than that?”
Shortly after, we get to see Brady’s invulnerability in action. While he’s at work, his mother starts looking through his things. Even though Brady got Deb to start drinking again after her attempt at sobriety, something has definitely changed with her. She’s suspicious of him and starts investigating. She can’t get into his basement workshop because there’s a childproof barrier blocking the stairs (the same stairs Brady once pushed his brother down). But she can get into his room, and she starts sifting through his stuff. Most of his room is covered in the detritus of an average twentysomething guy: video games, Halo posters, clothes everywhere. But there are sinister things hiding within, such as the fateful clown mask that practically hisses when Deb touches it.
When Brady gets home, Deb attempts to confront him with these incriminating objects — in addition to the clown mask, there’s also a lot of wire that couldn’t possibly be used for computer pieces, and best of all, there’s a journal Brady kept years ago, in which he constantly wrote DMFD (“Die Motherf—ers, Die”) and seemed to have marked some pages with blood. At the time, apparently, she was advised to admit him. Brady says she didn’t because she couldn’t afford it (and even gives a nod to the still-ongoing health care debate in this country), but Deb says it was because she believed he could change. She asks if he has changed. Brady responds, “from the soles of my shoes to the crown of my head.”
This seems like a good time to deploy of Ron Howard’s Arrested Development voice: He didn’t.
Elsewhere, it’s time for Elizabeth’s funeral. After stressing out for days about her eulogy, Janey tells Bill she’s moving to L.A. If she stays, she knows she’ll fall in love with him, and she can’t handle being that vulnerable again.
Tragically, she won’t even get the chance. Brady is there on site, and he watches as Janey goes to pick up her car after the ceremony’s over. He promptly activates the car bomb he planted after hacking her fob at the hospital. As Bill screams wordlessly at the flaming wreckage, time flashes back to Janey’s eulogy for Elizabeth, where Janey explained life like this: “It’s our dream and God’s dream, and then we wake up. My mother’s awake now.” Now Janey is, too.