Wednesday, August 16, 2017

REVIEW: 'Mr. Mercedes' - Bill Hodges Chooses to Take Part in Brady's Twisted Games in 'On Your Mark'

Audience's Mr. Mercedes - Episode 1.02 "On Your Mark"

As Hodges struggles to maintain his sanity, both Pete and Ida take notice. Deborah worries about Brady, who gives her a window into his latest work. Hodges connects with Olivia Trelawney's sister Janey, who hires him as a private detective.

These opening episodes of Mr. Mercedes have spent a considerable amount of time wallowing in the misery and emptiness of Bill Hodges' life in retirement. It's comprised of a lot of talk about how he no longer has something to fulfill his life. He's falling apart because he's acting erratically and all the alcohol and television may be harming his overall health. The show isn't subtle with these themes either. Multiple characters talk to him about it. They are pushing for him to find purpose in his life again. Something that will fulfill him in a meaningful way. He needs to find a replacement activity instead of more police work. He's becoming more and more dangerous and stubborn. He's refusing to let anyone truly into his life. He has the comfort of the people around him who want him to be around for a long time. Ida, Pete and Jerome all genuinely care about him. They want to protect him and be in his life for awhile. But they also recognize how self-destructive he is being. He's closing himself off from the world. Even when he invites people in, he's awkward and evasive. He doesn't fully reveal his true reality to anyone else. "On Your Mark" is essentially about Bill overcoming this lifestyle and finding purpose once again. Of course, that purpose comes from the Mercedes case. He grew too obsessed with it while on the job. And now, it is once again coming to define his whole life. He's being tormented by the killer. Brady is pushing him into action. That action could either be very good or bad for Bill. It will keep him alive and give him a reason to live his life. But it's a dangerous game between cop and serial killer that could end tragically for either one of them.

However, the show does take its time building to that inevitable moment. Brady is pushing to develop more of a relationship between him and the detective. He seems to care about Bill's well-being. But it's an incredibly slow process. At first, Brady is simply taunting Bill with email messages that disappear after one viewing. That's how he has emerged as an unnerving presence so quickly for Bill. He's made it clear that he can invade his privacy so easily. It's enough to make him afraid of his personal security and the well-being of the people who care about him. That terrifies him so much that he's reluctant to pull anyone too close into his world. But the actual letter Bill gets in the mail can't disappear as easily. It's a physical piece of paper. Bill can read it and then hand it over to someone else to read. It can be used as evidence against Brady should he ever be captured. He seems like a very capable and deliberate psychopath. Here, he clearly needs Bill to engage in a push-and-pull dynamic with him. The game is more fun when it has two active participants. Brady is ensuring that Bill is healthy enough for this game because that's where all of the excitement will come from. He needs this to happen. Everything that has happened so far has been of his own doing. He's controlling the narrative at the moment. Bill is still just slowly entertaining into the game. And yet, he still comes to that decision by the end of the hour.

All of this would seemingly hint at a much more active story for Bill moving forward. He's been a fascinating character to watch so far despite the slow pacing of the narrative. The opening sequence of "On Your Mark" is incredibly intense and mysterious. Bill is right to suspect that someone has been invading his property for nefarious purposes. He's right to be paranoid. That paranoia could be driving him mad though. It's a very effective sequence that knows exactly how much tension to put into it. It would be one thing if it was all psychological. Bill being reminded of this case and seeing the widespread influence the Mercedes killer has could lead his imagination to see and hear things that aren't there. But someone is actually in his backyard. It's not someone who wishes him harm. It's just a neighborhood kid trying to sneak back into his house. To the kid, it's a simple act of rebellion. He's just trying to have fun and test the boundaries of his parents. But to Bill, it's a physical act of war. He feels justified to pick up his gun and run up to the intruder pointing it in his face and willing to kill him. It's a traumatizing experience for all involved. The kid breaks his arm simply because he's trying to escape unnoticed. But Bill sees things that are damaging to his mind and perhaps compromise his judgment. Even when he knows it's just an innocent kid, he sees the Mercedes killer taunting him. This is yet another act of violence that he is powerless to do anything about. Even though he feels justified in every action he did on his property, he's still questioned obsessively first by the officers first on the scene and later by his former partner.

To the outside world, Bill may seem adrift in life and heading towards a very tragic ending. Ida and Pete want to avoid that at all costs. Pete sees Bill staring off into space and is curious about what's going on in his head. Bill gives a very rational response in wanting to actually experience life knowing that he no longer has all of these sensations and memories to fulfill his world. Within Bill though, it's very much an internal struggle for control. He feels powerless in a world that is rapidly changing around him. He doesn't understand what is technologically possible and what isn't. He wants to keep working cases but doesn't have the official capacity to do so. Even something as simple as cleaning his windshield becomes a very challenging and daunting task. Everything feels like an uphill battle for him. And yet, he still needs to choose to fight for it because it revolves around the one case he can't shake. That's why he returns to the memories of interviewing the woman who owned the car. She committed suicide not too long ago. And now, her sister, Janey, tells Bill that she too was receiving messages from the killer which may have ultimately pushed her over the edge. So, it's the pattern repeating once more. Now, the people involved are much more aware of it. Bill actually opens up to Janey in a way that he doesn't with anyone else. He does so because they have this connection of the case being incredibly personal to them. Ida and Jerome are innocent to Bill's dark world while it's just a job to Pete and everyone else at the precinct. Things are different for Bill and Janey. This case changed their entire lives. That will bring them close. But does it also destine them to the same fate? Brady has proven himself to be one step ahead of them all the time. Will teaming up actually change anything? Or will it only further drive them into madness?

Of course, people are worried about Brady as well. They note that he can be a loner and weird. And yet, no one knows how to properly react to him. They all see him as a functional human being with problems. They just can't define what those problems are. Robi has no problem being absolutely blunt about it. Most of his problems with his employees come from Lou being extremely flippant to the customers. She feels she's right to do so because they are being ignorant and abusive to her. Meanwhile, Brady comes across as the quiet guy in the corner simply observing everything. But Robi has his problems with him too because he doesn't act like a normal human being who will gladly take his mentorship. It feels strangely validating to watch Robi's computer literally blow up in his face. He hasn't been a pleasant to guy to watch. But it's also an action done by Brady because he believes that kind of response is what's necessary to make the situation better. He deals with criticism through acts of violence. That's not okay. It will more than likely get worse as well. However, Brady's handling of his mother, Deborah, is incredibly different. She is struggling to connect with him too. She's unnerved by his differences and secrets. He is her entire world. She's just sitting on the couch, drinking and waiting for him to come home. When he's home, he would rather be in the basement working on his secret project than spending time with her. That's not inherently bad or a sign that someone is deeply disturbed. In this case, it is though. He's destroying people's lives through the comfort of his basement because he has the skills to actually do that. He doesn't care about the morality of it all. In fact, he proudly flaunts his inventions to his mother despite the moral questions she has. He paints himself as a visionary who will change the world. His impact has already been felt. It's just more lethal than anyone in his life truly knows right now. He's in control but still keeping to himself.

Some more thoughts:
  • "On Your Mark" was written by David E. Kelley and directed by Jack Bender.
  • Brady also has a coping mechanism in order to control his killer impulses in public. He just simply digs at the nail on his thumb. It's a habit that already seems painful and destructive. A bandage covers up the pain. But soon, he is bound to dig through that as well.
  • Even Bill is startled by how far he almost went with the kid in his backyard. He seemingly has a panic attack after everyone else leaves. Alcohol can only do so much to calm his nerves and forget what has just happened. He didn't see the face of a kid but the maniacal workings of a deranged killer. He needs to get those thoughts out of his head if he's going to be any good for this investigation.
  • Bill is still incredibly curious about why Ida is so attracted to him. She claims it's largely about convenience. They already have a very close relationship as neighbors. She's always checking in on him no matter what the time. It's the kind of relationship she actually aspires to as well. She wants the physical attraction but she also loves sleeping alone and not having to drive at night.
  • Mary-Louise Parker makes her debut this week as Janey. She immediately comes across as a character with huge significance for the overall story. Her debut is delayed until the very end of this episode. And yet, she and Brendan Gleeson already work well together. The partnership between Bill and Janey should be very important because they can be open with each other. Of course, that may also cross into physical intimacy as well.
  • So now, Bill and Brady will be communicating through a chatroom. Will those messages actually stick around and be used as evidence should Brady be captured? Or is it a form of communication that will delete soon after being seen as well? Brady seems aware of how the police could find him. He's done a solid job covering his tracks. But if he opens up too much, it could be the mistake that eventually takes him down.