Martin Carr reviews the fourth episode of Mr. Mercedes…
There are no blood and guts, nothing particularly thrilling or even risky this week in Mr. Mercedes. Instead the episode is riddled with backstory, character expansion and a little white supremacist laptop baiting. Dennis Lehane of Shutter Island fame wrote the teleplay for ‘Gods Who Fall’ and its continued slow burn tactic fails to set the world on fire. This is perfectly entertaining stuff but the issue remains that not a lot happens. Sinister looks and hijacking home appliances does not a proper mad person make. Flashbacks are used to open up Hodge’s preoccupations, Brady quietly targets customers while buying items straight out of the arsonists hand book in his leisure time and his mother sits in her backyard.
Gleeson and Mary Louise Parker are perfectly fine in their respective roles but there is simply not a lot happening. If anything Brady’s mother seems the most interesting character right now with her lost opportunities, faded looks and serious drinking problem. Add to that the inherent guilt of losing a child so young and Kelly Lynch definitely has the most dramatic role within this series. Hallucinations, graveside vigils and flashbacks to moments of hope and opportunity are juxtaposed with her existing situation, both sadly mundane and illustrative of a misspent youth. Unfortunately Brady is given more attention and the titbits we do get about her are not enough to salvage the programme.
With Mr. Mercedes the fact remains that this is all about character study not action adventure and fisticuffs. Benefits include a full immersion in this world with all the nuances you expect from King, while the downside is the flipside of that coin. Everyday life is simply not exciting and killers whether they look like us or not lack any panache or flair. So far Treadaway’s millennial villain has done very little to even convince us he is capable of these crimes. He is a down at heel, deceptively intelligent twenty something with guilt by the pound, neurosis in spades and Oedipus issues which are probably worth a whole episode to themselves. There is darkness on the surface but this adaptation has yet to bring out the bag of frogs psycho which you suspect is lurking underneath.
In a similar fashion Hodges has not really progressed beyond his opening scenes. He is drinking less, seems an unfeasible hit with the ladies, while alarm bells are already ringing about the sister of his Mercedes owner. That woman is definitely hiding something underneath all the cooing and soft words of encouragement currently being lavished on him. Flashbacks to an interview with her sister have played at least twice now while this romance feels fast tracked to say the least. Something is simmering on the back burner and whatever that something is you best be prepared for nasty revelations.
It came to light yesterday that Stephen King has taken back copyright on some of his earlier works. Considering the long running trend of adaptations and his executive producer role on Mr. Mercedes this can only be seen as prudent forward planning. This book to screen transfer might be a touch lacklustre but at least it has a solid cast, decent writing and high production values. Other works from his back catalogue have not been so lucky and I am not naming names. At present Mr. Mercedes has more issues with pacing than anything else, exposition is necessary but too much for too long will kill this where it stands and no one wants that especially David E Kelley. As next week marks the midpoint I am hoping something dynamic changes the landscape and this programme comes into its own before people lose interest.