Film Review

Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes

I had been dimly aware for some time that a Stephen King book called Mr. Mercedes had been adapted into a series, and I was vaguely versed in the plot being about a detective hunting a serial killer who kills people with the titular automobile. What I *didn’t* know was that this is a whole trilogy based deeply around the detective character, a cantankerous old school Irish cop named Bill Hodges played by Brendan Gleeson in what has to be the performance of his career. What I most definitely did not expect is what a deep, dark, psychological sprawl this saga was going to be, it’s much much more than just a cop versus killer thing and goes to places of boundless imagination, starkly nauseating horror, effective humour and the kind of development and dynamics that have me deeply missing these characters now that I’ve finished the whole series run. Hodges is a retired detective in a run down, really sad suburb of Ohio who never caught a demented maniac called Mr. Mercedes, who brutally ran the car through a crowd of people at a Jobs Fair and killed several including a mother and her newborn. That’s the kind of crime that haunts an entire town, with Bill at the epicentre of it all, and when the killer starts to taunt him, send him mocking emails and threaten those around him he loves, the hunt is on again. I’m not sure what I can say about all three seasons without spoiling too much so I’ll keep it vague but I do want to outline some of these wonderful characters. Bill isn’t alone in his fight and as the story unfolds he very organically puts together this team of family, friends and people he cares deeply for that all help in some way to bring this monster down. They include his neighbour, computer genius and lawn mowing guru Jerome (Jharrel Jerome), his other neighbour and longtime high school teacher Ida (Holland Taylor), his former partner on the force Pete (Scott Lawrence), the wonderful, anxiety ridden and cosmically intuitive Holly Gibney (Justine Lupe) and many, many others. The killer himself is a twisted up piece of work named Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) and this isn’t a spoiler as the show starts off showing you exactly who he is and how he operates, a sad little freak with a booze soaked mom (Kelly Lynch at her most disheveled) who likes to bang him, he’s someone you could almost feel sorry for if he wasn’t such a little snot-fuck psychopath. Stemming out from Brady are some equally despicable antagonists including damaged goods asshole Morris (Gabriel Ebert), revered author and mean spirited local legend John Rothstein (Bruce Dern) and many other characters dotting the collective moral compass played by the likes of Mike Starr, Brett Gelman, Nancy Travis, Jack Huston, Glynn Turman, Mary Louise Parker and Star Trek’s Kate Mulgrew as quite possibly one of the most reprehensible villains King ever dreamed up, just the vilest bitch ever. I love a good King story because he often starts off with a concept so simple, so primal, so elemental, and builds from there to places you could never have dreamed: a gunslinger travelling across a desert, a writer caretaking a derelict hotel for the winter, or a cop hunting a vehicular mass murderer. The first season shows us exactly that, and by the time the show ends you’ve travelled worlds both inside and outside the mind, met hundreds of characters of every variety and experienced a story not limited to the bounds of what’s considered narratively traditional but exists outside the box in every sense of the term. He’s also uncanny at creating, devolving and nurturing characters that you care deeply for; his writing and Gleeson’s performance as Bill Hodges is one for the books, just this brittle old Irish goat with a pet tortoise in his backyard, a heart of gold in there somewhere beneath all the whiskey fury and years of hurt and frustration who learns to find himself again and take down some true evil, not only one of the finest characters I’ve seen put to the screen but a true force of good and one of the key lynchpins of light and love in the expansive Stephen King multiverse. Sensational experience from beginning to end.

-Nate Hill

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