Wednesday, September 13, 2017

REVIEW: 'Mr. Mercedes' - Brady Spirals as Deb Tries to Pursue a Better Life in 'People in the Rain'

Audience's Mr. Mercedes - Episode 1.06 "People in the Rain"

Hodges struggles with the past as it concerns his daughter, Allie. As Deb attempts to make a change for the better, Brady interferes. Robi continues pressuring Brady to impress their bosses. Hodges connects with Janey's niece, Holly.

"People in the Rain" feels more like a piece-moving episode for the season. Big things still happen that are important for the audience's understanding of its central characters. And yet, it's still just setting things up while not allowing Hodges to make too much progress on his investigation into the Mercedes killer. Moreover, this hour introduces Janey's cousin, Holly, to the story. She's bound to have a huge role in the end game of the season because Justine Lupe is a series regular. It's so odd to wait until the sixth episode of the season to introduce someone who is contracted as a series regular. However, it's easy to understand the hesitance to introduce Holly so soon in this story. She's a very specific and quirky character. It's played as her having an obsessive personality. One that can be off-putting to people who don't want to deal with her. But it's also just an affirmation for the types of characters that David E. Kelley enjoys writing for. Some of his best shows run into problems when he embraces a certain type of narrative quirk with individual characters. It's a noticeable hallmark of his work that can either be tolerable or destructive to an overall show. Kelley didn't write this episode but he is the showrunner for this season. So everything that is happening with Holly is something that he approves of doing. This is the story he is setting out to make. Holly's introduction has the potential to turn everything on its head. But right now, it's just important to see her as a member of this family that just keeps growing more and more complicated with each passing episode.

Holly is going to serve an important plot function as well because she was best friends with Olivia. She knew her better than anyone else. That makes it curious why Janey didn't have Hodges talk with her in order to learn more about what was going on in Olivia's personal life before she died. Instead, it was more important for him to talk with her mother which caused a violent outburst in her. And now, Janey's mother has suffered a stroke. She's on her deathbed. She's in the hospital dying. The family has gathered to deal with this crisis. It's mostly just an excuse for Hodges to see Janey again and interact with her. He's still investigating for her. He still cares about what happens to her. But she's still mad at him and doesn't want to continue their romantic relationship. But he's the only comforting presence she has right now. When her mother dies, he's the one who embraces her. It's a traumatic experience for her. One that makes her question if she did all that she could for her mother following this tragedy. It brings the two of them close once more. And now, Holly is a part of that dynamic. She can share details about Olivia taking medicine in order to control the voices in her head. She stopped taking them before she died and that's what led to her committing suicide. It shows that there was much more going on in Olivia's mind than there initially seemed. Hodges was just completely oblivious to it.

All of this is important information to have moving forward. It also keeps Hodges from investigating the cases of cars being moved around without the use of a key. He meets with one guy and is then called away to the hospital. He gets distracted. Brady is distracted as well. And yet, it doesn't take much for his mind to wander back to Hodges and their twisted game. Brady is growing more and more violent. He hasn't taken any action yet. He hasn't poisoned Jerome's dog. He hasn't rigged a bomb to Hodges' car. He hasn't killed his co-workers or mother. But he's feeling the impulses to do just that. He's having more and more of a psychotic break. The only thing keeping him sane is maintaining the order he deems fit over his life. So, that means keeping his mother in a drunken stupor at the house and meticulously following Hodges around. Brady makes the bomb to kill Hodges. It's an action he deems necessary to take because Hodges isn't succumbing to the same suicidal manipulations as Olivia did. Killing him won't be as easy. He needs to approach things differently. But he's rendered powerless a little bit. He's chasing his mother around all day long. Of course, he still has a miraculous opportunity to follow Hodges back to the hospital. He just randomly passes him on the road. It's a chance encounter that shows how close their lives actually are at this point. However, it also feels like it's just serving a plot function. Brady becomes aware of Janey and Hodges' feelings to her and gets the wireless signal to break into his vehicle. That's an action that's bound to be very destructive in the future.

Of course, Deb stealing the car is a very destructive action as well. It sends Brady spinning because he has no idea what his mother is doing. He rejected her advances the previous night and doesn't know what's happening with her. He doesn't know that she is trying to be sober and get her job back. It's a hopeless venture. Her returning to her old life of friends and a stable job is impossible. Her drinking was always problematic long before she was confined to the house. She got fired because of it. There's no erasing the past. She wants to. She wants to be better. She wants to be sober. And yet, she's continuing to lie to herself. The show is still very manipulative and making us always question if she has fallen off the wagon once more. It gets into the mindset of an alcoholic. She eyes the beer that her friend is drinking at lunch. She walks into the liquor store after she gets some heartbreaking news that things can never be what they once were. But it's much more tense and chilling to watch as Brady encourages his mother to drink again. It's so sick and twisted. He's contributing to his mother's disease. He's doing it in order to control her. He doesn't genuinely care what happens to her. She just has always been a part of his life. She serves a purpose. She's a part of this toxic life that he can't break away from even though he desperately wants to. It's clear that he loves his mother but he hates her as well. He wants to kill her. But right now, it's just as satisfying to him to watch her drink the bottle of expensive vodka he just bought for her. To him, that's putting her in her place again.

It's the kind of mentality that Brady wishes to share with the rest of the world. All of this is happening on the day when he has an interview with corporate regarding a promotion at the store. He could become the manager. He could replace Robi, who believes it's the best possible outcome for Brady's future at the moment. He believes that Brady needs to be doing this because it's the only good thing in his life. It will allow him to climb the corporate ladder and make something of his life. But Brady spends the whole interview talking in vague terms about there being a natural order to the world and people need to follow those rules. The people at the table have no idea what he's talking about. The audience has a much better understanding of the situation. And yet, that only further reveals just how dark and demented Brady's mind truly is. We've already seen him kill. We've seen these dark impulses and just how far he is willing to go to make people suffer. So, it's a little unnecessary to see this peak into Brady's mind and his desire to kill everyone in this restaurant. It's largely just a way to showcase the bloody and dark mood of this overall show. Brady can never be a sympathetic or understood character because he's always contemplating killing people. He has no sympathy for anyone else. He will always manipulate the situation to his benefit. He's able to escape because he tells Robi the truth about her mother being missing and his younger brother dying when he was younger. It's a traumatic story that Brady says mostly to manipulate the world around him. And yet, it's deeply rooted in the truth which only further reveals just how traumatic Brady's entire life has been. Those experiences didn't make him this way though. They are simply the consequences of his demented mind acting out in this world.

Some more thoughts:
  • "People in the Rain" was written by Dennis Lehane and directed by Jack Bender.
  • The bloody fantasy also appears to happen so that Stephen King can make a cameo appearance as one of the dead bodies. The direction really points to that fact as well. It's a moment that essentially plays as fan service. It takes the viewer out of the monstrosity of the moment which is the opposite effect it should be having.
  • Hodges has mentioned his daughter, Allie, several times this season. She inherited his alcoholism and is now in rehab. She's not talking to him anymore. But now, flashbacks occur to show a time in 2007 where she was pulled over for a DUI. Hodges and his wife showed her some tough love by letting her be booked and processed for the crime. It's backstory important to have once she becomes involved in this story as well.
  • Deb tells her friend that she has premonition feelings. She has a sense that the Mercedes killer is about to be caught and brought to justice. It's just ironic that she has no clue that it's actually her son. But this interaction is key because it points out that the main characters know people who were affected by this tragedy. It didn't happen to a group of strangers. It was people in the community.
  • When Hodges interviews the guy who filed a police report about his car being moved around the neighborhood without the keys, he notes that this is a weird and depressing street to live on. And yet, the most important distinction may be the fact that one of his neighbors is a drunk lady. He doesn't say that it's Deb but it seems very likely if Hodges' theory about the Mercedes killer striking close to home first are correct.
  • Things seem to be back to okay between Hodges and Ida. She apologizes that she let her feelings make her undignified. He counters that she is the most dignified person he knows. It's just a quick moment. But it works because these two need each other in their lives right now. Hodges needs that lightness to pull him out of the dark.