Bill Hodges' life starts to get weird as a neurosurgeon tries an experimental drug treatment on the catatonic Brady Hartsfield
Well, here we are again — though already it’s obvious that season 2 of Mr. Mercedes will be significantly different from the first. Last season began explosively when Brady Hartsfield ran over a dozen people at a post-recession job fair. The crime went unsolved for years but turned into an object of obsession for retired detective Bill Hodges. The cat-and-mouse game between the cop and the killer ended climatically at an art gala, where Bill suffered a heart attack and Brady was beaten within an inch of his life by Bill’s young friend Holly.
Season 2 picks up right after that, with the two men being ushered into a hospital. Bill is revived from his heart attack, while Brady undergoes brain surgery. The operation is enough to keep him alive, but not enough to bring him back to consciousness — for now, that is. We’re soon introduced to two new characters who want to change his condition: Felix Babineau (Jack Huston), a renowned neurosurgeon, and his beautiful wife Cora (Tessa Ferrer). Cora has access to an experimental new drug cocktail that she urges Felix to use on Brady. After all, successfully bringing a patient back from such a catatonic state would make history. The downside, of course, is that they’d be resurrecting a psychopathic genius who loves nothing more than destroying people’s lives, but Cora doesn’t seem too concerned about that.
For a while, Bill makes it a habit to regularly visit Brady in the hospital. Seasons come and go outside, but the Mercedes killer doesn’t leave his bed. Eventually, some life changes begin to distract Bill from this routine.
He’s started a new private detective agency, for one. Holly works as his receptionist fielding calls, which gets her away from her toxic mother. As an example of the work they’re doing, we see Bill track down a man who used a false ID and a fake check to steal a private plane, but when airport security intervenes in their confrontation the man gets away.
Later, after a fallen tree destroys Ida’s yard, Bill recruits Pete to help him rebuild. The two old friends share some laughs, and Pete says it’ll soon be his turn to retire and live a more relaxed life. Alas, anyone who’s ever seen a cop show before knows where that kind of line leads. Pete runs into the house to get some more beer and doesn’t come back. When Bill goes in to check on him, he finds his old partner laying on the kitchen floor. Bill recovered from his heart attack, but Pete will never get the chance.
And that’s when things really start getting weird.
In the wake of Pete’s death, Holly decides to move in with Bill for a time, so he doesn’t have to be alone after the loss of his friend.
Fortunately, it seems like Bill has started to build healthy relationships in his life. Aside from his friendship with Ida, he keeps in regular contact with his formerly estranged daughter Allie — they now talk over the phone at least twice a week, and he even gave her a ride to the airport when she moved to Seattle. He tells all this to his ex-wife at Pete’s funeral. When she explains she couldn’t stay with him because she never got used to the possibility of him dying, he refuses to accept the excuse but doesn’t fly off the rails or throw a pity party. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her.
Alas, Bill’s unhealthiest relationship remains in full force. In the wake of Pete’s funeral, Bill finds himself sitting beside his friend’s freshly-dug grave when suddenly Brady appears next to him in a white suit. Brady declares “I’m what keeps you alive,” and it’s hard to disagree. Nothing motivates you like a nemesis. Brady then turns up the taunts even more. As Bill looks around the cemetery, he sees the Mercedes killer dancing, playing instruments, and generally frolicking, without notice.
Of course, this was all a vision… or was it?
Bill wakes up and blames it all on eating frozen yogurt before bed. He immediately calls the hospital so he can see Brady — who remains a catatonic patient. Enraged by the injustice of Pete being dead while Brady still lives, Bill comes this close to pulling the plug on his foe’s breathing machine. But at the last moment, he decides not to go through with it.
All things considered, that was probably his last chance. It won’t ever be that easy again.
Unbeknownst to Bill, Cora has gone into full Lady Macbeth mode, inspiring her husband to up Brady’s drug dosage. It works! We see Brady open his eyes and look around the room, though the next sequence — featuring him returning to his old, burnt-out basement lair with inexplicable “Welcome Home” balloons — feels just as unreal as his white suit shenanigans.
One thing’s for sure so far: This season will be a lot more surreal than the first. It will take a few more episodes to see how this all works, but color me interested.