Mr. Mercedes – “The Pilot” – TV Review

Stephen King seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance in TV and film these days. Whether its The Dark Tower or the impending IT remake in theaters or Under the Dome, 11/22/63, The Mist, or the mysterious Castle Rock on TV, King’s works are being mined for screens both big and small.  Which brings us to the most recent of those works to make the jump from page to screen – Mr. Mercedes. 

Unlike a lot of King’s works, this particular story is unknown to me.  For about two years, I read almost nothing but Stephen King books and, if I’m being honest, I burned myself out on them.  Not that his writing is bad or unenjoyable, just that I lived in that world for a bit too long and haven’t quite made it back yet. Mr. Mercedes may change that.

Mr. Mercedes follows the story of retired detective Bill Hodges as he tries to track down the man who plowed his Mercedes into a crowd of people years prior, a man who has resurfaced and is taunting Bill. Only knowing the very high level plot points of this show, I was really looking to the first episode to grab me and show me what I’m in for for the next 10 weeks.  Pilot episodes don’t have to blow me away or show me everything, but they do have to introduce me to the characters and the world they live in, make me care about those characters, and give me a reason to keep watching.  I can safely say that the Mr. Mercedes pilot did just that.

The first 8 or 9 minutes of this show let you know right up front exactly how far this show is going to push the limits of television.  In those opening minutes we get to meet several characters only to see them viciously murdered in the incident that sets off the rest of the story.  Knowing what is going to happen will usually spoil the tension of the moment but that is absolutely not the case here.  Knowing what is going to happen to those people just elevated the experience as you’re rooting for the people to get out of the way, wishing to yourself that what you know is coming won’t come, but of course it does and it is raw and violent.

After that we flash forward a few years and meet both Ret. Detective Hodges, who drinks away his days in an empty house, yelling at the neighborhood kids, and feeding his pet tortoise, and Mr. Mercedes himself, Brady Hartsfield, who spends his days working at a small town mix of Best Buy and RadioShack as a salesman/tech support worker. Throughout the episode we get a glimpse into the lives of these two men and what they go through on a daily basis. For Hodges, you can clearly tell he misses the police work that used to fill his days and for Brady, he has this nervous energy, like he always want’s to be somewhere else and doing something else.  Later on we find out what the something else really is.

Brendan Gleeson does a great job of playing the surly retired cop. He’s got no patience for anything and while he may not be in the game anymore, he hasn’t really lost a step.  I have to say I really enjoyed his arc in this episode, as he goes from being the guy who falls asleep half-drunk in his easy chair to showing that spark of life again, after his cop instincts get all riled up again. Harry Treadaway also seems well cast as Brady Hartsfield.  We spend more time with Hodges than we do with Hartsfield but what we do get to see of Hartsfield (and his supremely fucked up home life) left me wanting more. Always a sign of a good character.

I really dug this pilot episode, the characters are interesting, the story looks good (I mean it’s Stephen King, come on), and it’s really well put together.  I will definitely be tuning in for the rest of this shows 10 episode run.

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*Full disclosure – I am an employee of AT&T however I do not work in content creation and have no pre-existing knowledge of this show or any other content produced by AT&T.