Mr. Mercedes, premiering this week on the AT&T Audience network, is the latest TV adaptation from Stephen King and based on what I have seen so far, this series will not disappoint. The first few minutes of Episode 1 set the tone of the series with a grisly event that left me almost speechless.
Set in Ohio, the series focuses on Bill Hodges (played by Brendan Gleeson), a retired detective who is being taunted by a serial killer who ran down and killed many innocent people in a grisly attack in 2009. The series picks up in 2011, two years after the event, with occasional flashbacks. The premise of the novel and series, as a ‘whodunit’, is a departure from the horror genre typically associated with Stephen King.
We are then introduced to Bill Hodges as he is called in to investigate the event. There is a time jump forward and we find Hodges retired and in a position where he is not taking care of himself as well as he should. He is a little cranky, burly, and imposing but he does crack the odd smile.
While discussing the series with Jack Bender, he mentioned that the audience sees the killer the whole way throughout the series. In this case, Brady Hartsfield (played by Harry Treadaway), is Hodges’s tormentor and the villain hiding in plain sight. He is working at the local electronics store and also on an ice cream truck.
Treadway described Brady as “a psychopath and he has no empathy for anyone in the world. He wants to cause pain. That’s his vibe.” There is an interesting ‘dance’ between Brady’s interactions on his jobs, to his home life, and then his dark side. Brady is a genius and he is also methodical. Treadway also stated that the series filmed in Charleston a year after the Dylan Roof massacre and it was a scary sense of reality which helped in his research to understand Brady more.
The supporting cast of Mr. Mercedes shine in their scenes. For me, the characters of Ida Silver (played by Holland Taylor) and Lou Linklatter (Breeda Wool) are the most notable from the outset of the series. Ida’s role was written specifically for the series and does not exist in the novel. She is Hodges’s sometimes nosy neighbor who is trying to reach out to him and build a relationship. She is a straight shooter and tells him candidly what is on her mind.
Wool mentioned during my interview that she did not know a lot about the role but found out that David E. Kelley (Creator & Writer) and Jack Bender (Executive Producer & Director) liked her audition tape. Her character of Lou lets a lot of hatred directed at her roll off of her back. I found Wool’s portrayal to be subtle, however her playful sarcasm in response to the people with whom she interacts makes her a standout. This intrigued me enough to want to know more about her character and what makes her tick.
Hodges former partner, Pete Dixon (played by Scott Lawrence), tries to help him transition to retirement but at the same time he signifies the law enforcement life Hodges misses and is casually drawn back to to figure out his unsolved cases.
Brady’s mother, Deborah Hartsfield (Kelly Lynch), is an out-of- work alcoholic. Lynch characterizes Deborah as a bad person with a bad kid. She the filming her scenes as “organic” and felt there was good chemistry between her and Treadway.
Jerome Robinson (Jharrel Jerome) is a local kid to whom Hodges reaches out for odd jobs and other sorts of help. Jerome is driven to get the job done and this motivation lends itself to his response to Hodges requests for help. Jerome describes his character as ‘intelligent person but is also naive.’
While talking with Jack Bender, who owns the rights to the books, he stated that he was immediately drawn into the detective genre upon which the novel is based and Stephen King writes about the monster in the people as opposed to the monsters around the people. There are some scenes that may be shocking and raw and he is appreciative of AT&T’s support of the series.
This first season will be a 10-episode run. Bender’s plan for the next season is to delve into the ripple effect of the series. Overall, he hopes for and is planning for three seasons of the series.
After speaking with the actors in the press room at San Diego Comic Con, I had a whole new appreciation for the series and the characters as they came to life in front me while watching the first few episodes. I will also say that the series delves further under the surface to put you into the minds and lives of those involved in the lives of Hodges and his tormentor. The focus on characters is an appealing aspect of the series.
Overall, I enjoyed watching the opening episodes of Mr. Mercedes and look forward to seeing the events play out over the course of the season. More importantly, I am curious as to how the characters develop along the way.
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