Sunday, April 23, 2017

REVIEW: 'Mary Kills People' - Things Don't Go According to Plan for Mary's Latest Client in 'Bloody Mary'

Lifetime's Mary Kills People - Episode 1.01 "Bloody Mary"

When Dr. Mary Harris becomes romantically involved with an attractive patient, it sets off a chain of events that could destroy her life, her family and her career - not to mention her illegal side gig helping terminal clients end their lives.

Well, this was an intriguing but compelling and fascinating premiere. It doesn't take long for "Bloody Mary" to get to the heart of Mary Kills People. It's a show about an ER doctor, Mary Harris, who helps terminally ill patients die. It's a show about physician-assisted suicide. On the surface, that may seem like a grim subject matter that couldn't create an entertaining ongoing drama. And yet, this show seems to defy those expectations by embracing the murky gray areas of this issue. As the show explains, doctors helping their patients die is illegal in the United States. Mary is running this side business to help people who want to die but don't want to travel all the way to Switzerland (where it's legal) to do so. So, Mary walks a fine line between saint and criminal. She sees this as the morally right thing to do. And yet, this hour already showcases how this side business is corrupting and changing her life. It's filled with so many risks. Anything can happen and that's what makes this show so compelling to watch in its first episode.

The show is also aware that death can be very messy and complicated. It does romanticize the subject a little bit in order to fall into some familiar storytelling tropes. But for the most part, the show knows just how difficult this profession can be. Mary is going out of her way to save as many lives as she can in her day job. She is willing to fight for her patients when no one else does. She saves a guy with a stab wound when everyone else wanted to declare him dead. So, she's not just going around killing people because it gives her an incredible high from being alive. She's not a serial killer who takes pleasure out of her victim's pain. She understands the complexity of the situations. But she also truly believes that people should have control over their own deaths. She wants people to have a choice between death and suffering. To her, the issue is as simple as that - even though things can get very complicated very quickly.

The audience is introduced to this world and these characters with a death that goes awry. It shows the precautions that Mary and her partner, Des, go through. They make sure to record the patient saying this is what he or she wants. They mix the cocktail of drugs and champagne. And they give it to the patient to drink. So, they are ultimately making sure that this is the patient's choice. They supply the drugs and the ability to die peacefully and quickly. But it's still ultimately the patient's decision. Of course, it's important that Mary and Des get things right as well. If they mess up with the drugs, things won't go according to plan. That's what happens here. The audience sees Mary and Des do their job. But then things quickly go awry when the patient doesn't die. It forces Mary to become an actual killer as she is forced to improvise by putting a pillow over his face. It still works. The two are able to flee the house before the man's wife discovers what they have done. That's the tension of this opening sequence. But it also highlights how Mary is killing no matter what she may believe.

Mary is a compelling character though. She's strong in her beliefs that she's doing a public service. She's committed to her jobs even though it may be affecting her family life. It's a fantastic and interesting performance from Caroline Dhavernas. She was so terrific on Hannibal. And now, she's found another role that knows how to use her well. This narrative revolves around Mary. It's all about her and the risks she takes to kill people who want to die. She believes she needs to do this. And yet, it doesn't take long for all of this to start affecting her life. It's surprising that her secret stash of drugs is discovered in this opening episode. Usually, premieres set that up for it to be revealed later on. Here, the show wastes no time in showing how dangerous it is to have these drugs around the house. Her daughter's best friend discovers the drugs and takes some right before a big ballet performance. She collapses on stage and needs to be rushed to the hospital. She doesn't die. But it's still a complication that Mary will need to maintain moving forward. This is a girl who knows what these drugs can do. Mary's daughter knows that as well. Mary is able to keep things contained for now by lying her way out of things. She does so very easily as well. It's clear that she's willing to lie in order to cover up or rationalize everything she does. That's a very compelling quality for a lead character.

Of course, Mary's life is only going to get more complicated this season. This premiere also introduces a new patient, Joel, whom Mary and Des start working with. That dynamic gets messy once Des bluntly asks Mary how long it's been since she's had sex. It's a very expositional line of dialogue in order to force things to happen in this premiere. And yet, it seems necessary as well. Because that thought is in her head, she tries to act on it. She tries to give Joel some farewell sex. Of course, it's incredibly awkward as well. At first, it's not clear why he rebuffs her advances. Later on, it's revealed that he's actually an undercover cop trying to arrest Mary for murder. That's an ominous tease for the future. And yet, he does almost sleep with her too. So, that shows that his feelings may ultimately be conflicted about her. He sits and listens to her side of the story. He's posing as a man who wants to die. It's a little manipulative of the show to have the audience see Joel when no one else is around telling himself in a mirror that he's going to die. That sets up a weird expectation. But ultimately, it should be fascinating to see how the show works its way out of this complicated situation it has set up for its lead character. The police are already onto her and have laid their trap. This premiere shows just how brisk the narrative plans on being with story. It's a refreshing quality as well because most shows love to drag things out. Mary Kills People doesn't which makes it very intriguing to see what happens next.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Bloody Mary" was written by Tara Armstrong and directed by Holly Dale.
  • Mary has an ex-husband, Kevin, who is complaining that he doesn't spend enough time with the kids. He also believes Mary isn't spending enough time with them either. And yet, he's also unemployed. And thus, he can't be a good provider or role model for them.
  • However, Kevin still manages to get under Mary's skin. At the ballet recital, he brings his new girlfriend who also happens to be the mother of the girl who eventually passes out after taking the drug. So everything is immediately connected in this family.
  • Des comes across as the comic relief character a little bit. He's funny but also a player. It's clear he has his own problems as well - including drug addiction. But Mary trusts him and actually listens to his advice as well. And yet, she doesn't agree that injection is the right way to end things for their patients.
  • Des is also responsible for getting the drugs as well. He doesn't tell Mary about his contact - likely because that guy is some infamous criminal. Him diluting the drugs had many consequences. So now, Des needs to make sure there isn't some larger problem in this arrangement. There isn't for now at least.
  • That opening scene also showcases how much Mary is willing to do for this job. Yes, she puts a pillow over the patient's face to kill him. She was paid for that and she followed through. But she also jumps off a balcony in order to get away. She does it like it's nothing as well.
  • The premiere also establishes how Mary and Des get their clients in the first place. It would be very suspicious if all of their patients suddenly died in similar ways. But the show makes it clear that there is a nurse, Anne, who singles out potential clients and gives Mary's number to them if they are interested in her services.