Wednesday, September 27, 2017

REVIEW: 'Mr. Mercedes' - Death Strikes Once More as Brady Formulates a New Plan in 'From the Ashes'

Audience's Mr. Mercedes - Episode 1.08 "From the Ashes"

A critical error puts Brady in the center of a crisis of his own making. Holly and Jerome make a pivotal discovery. After a tragedy sends Hodges reeling, he goes to visit his daughter, Allie.

Mr. Mercedes is a story of death. That's a statement that the show has made numerous times throughout this season. It's a story of traumatic death as well. People die in the most brutal ways possible. None of them are natural. At the center of it all is the demented mind of one serial killer. Most of the time he kills with a purpose. It's a delight for him to play this game and give into these darkest impulses. He's been doing this since he was a young boy. His entire life has been defined by death. Last week's episode ended on such a pivotal and shocking death. Brady killed Janey just because she happened to be driving Hodges' car. The situation that demanded her be in the car driving was a little too manufactured. But it was a solid moment that kept the focus solely on Janey and how this is a tragedy for her. And now, "From the Ashes" has yet another brutal death. This time though it's a complete accident. Brady has fantasized about killing his mother for a long time. It's the thought that is constantly at the back of his head. He's in this really twisted and codependent relationship with her. She's the only person who comes close to understanding him. But even then, she's completely in the dark about so much that's actually going on in his life. Some of that is because of the physical obstacles Brady has put in the way. He's put a gate on the stairs going down to the basement. She physically can't go down there and see what he's working on. He has to actually let her into his world. Even then, it's a carefully calculated version of reality. It's never the complete truth even though the two of them did seemingly conspire to kill his younger brother. And now, Brady can't even take the full pleasure out of finally killing his mother. It has finally happened for him. But it's still a moment defined by the complexity of his reaction. He wants this but was surprised with the circumstances of how it happened. He may genuinely be trying to save her as well. But he does make that crucial decision to save her himself which is the moment that basically seals her fate.

It's such a traumatic way to start the episode as well. Big character deaths like this typically happen at the end of episodes in order to fuel the anticipation for the next one. Janey died at the end of last week's episode and that was the last moment of the story for the week. And now, Deb has died. It's an inciting incident for much of Brady's story as well. It's both a freeing experience for him and a traumatizing one. The people around him can noticeably see a difference within him. Lou is still able to take him at his word that everything is fine. Meanwhile, Robi just wants him out of his life as quickly as possible because he continues not to be worth all of the hassle. But this is a moment that violently shifts something within Brady. He was already feeling confident with what he is able to do in this world. He killed Janey and the police have no viable leads to actually capture him. He continues to torment and torture Hodges. When Hodges calls to talk with him again, he's high on life because he managed to hurt Hodges while still keeping him alive. Now, the game can continue. He's so happy about that. But throughout all of that, the audience is aware that something tragic is about to happen to Deb. Brady just casually left the poison meat he wanted to feed to Jerome's dog in the freezer. She doesn't question what it is because it looks perfectly fine. But throughout that entire sequence, it's clear that tragedy is about to strike in this world once more.

In many ways, Deb's death is one of the more brutal and gruesome moments of the season so far. It carries with it the same amount of dread and narrative weight as the other deaths. But it's so elongated as well. The opening deaths of the series were full of tension and a looming threat. The show was slow to reveal the true stakes of that scene. But once it did, it was incredibly quick with the violence. The same is also true of Janey's death. As soon as she got in the car, it was clear what was going to happen. The audience got a few beats of dread and despair as we could see what was about to occur. But with Deb, it lingers a bit more. There is the uncertainty over whether Brady will actually walk upstairs to see the horror that is happening to his mother. He's too busy taunting Hodges to know that his mother is upstairs cooking the meat and already eating it. He's too busy on his computer to hear that she is violently throwing up. This is a fast-acting poison the quickly destroys her body. At first, it seems like the show won't actually show the stuff coming out of her. But then, she turns around and pukes up white substance and then blood. It's disgusting and horrifying to watch. And Brady is there to witness it. He is there to see the light go out of his mother's eyes. It's his fault that she is in this position. But it's also his fault that she dies without quick treatment. He could have called 911. They probably would have showed up quickly despite all of the previous false alarms. But he chooses not to because he believes he can handle this himself. He can't. And perhaps that's a part of his plan as well. He sees the situation for what it is and wants to enjoy the torture for as brief as it actually is. That's demented but also makes sense given everything that has happened with Brady.

Brady is still visibly shaken because of this incident. But it also creates a poetic picture in his head. His entire family has died. His father left because of an accident on the job. But his brother and mother were killed because of him. He now sees it as his duty to reunite the entire family. For this entire season, he's been very careful to hide his tracks so that nothing can be traced back to him. He's powerful because of the anonymity. He's just a simple tech support employee. No one would question the terrors he's actually capable of doing. Even when Hodges and the police get a promising lead because they're able to successfully break into Olivia's computer, their first guesses for suspects don't include him. It's clear that the investigation is starting to intensify in a way that will eventually lead to a confrontation between Brady and Hodges. But right now, Brady is still high on life. It just includes a sick and depraved twist that involves him keeping his mother's body in her bed. That's a very creepy sight largely because Deb's eyes refuse to close. They are forced open and are incredibly bloodshot. Brady has done enough to make his house look presentable and normal again. But there's still dried on body on Deb's mouth. Her eyes are still open. Plus, the decay of her body is going to infect that entire house. He can only keep up this ruse for so long. But he's no longer planning on it being a permanent thing. He's now planning on reuniting with his entire family after he is killed following his attack at the forthcoming gala Robi is so excited about.

So, it's now fascinating to see how certain characters are dead even though they are still alive. Brady is planning his suicide mission now. He sees it as narrative poetry that will serve as his grand masterpiece. It started with the Mercedes killings. He tortured Olivia and Hodges. And now, he'll bring everything to a big conclusion at the gala. That's the fate he envisions for himself. Hodges sees a similar fate. He believes he is dead now as well because Janey was killed right in front of him. He's doing his best to protect the people around him. He continues to tell Holly, Jerome and Ida that they aren't safe as long as they want to be close with him. He trusts the police more which is a solid improvement. More importantly, the police are actually willing to listen to him again. That means things will start moving more quickly as the season accelerates to its finale. But now, Hodges is motivated by the desire to actually kill the Mercedes killer. Up to this point, he just wanted closure with this case. It drove him mad. That only continued in retirement after Brady increased his efforts to make him paranoid and suicidal. And now, Hodges is broken. He's reflective enough to admit that he doesn't know if he was in love with Janey or in love with the idea of her or what she could represent. To Ida, that shows he still has humanity worth saving. But he's in a dark headspace. He's acting purely out of self-interest. He'll do whatever it takes to catch and kill the Mercedes killer. He's not planning for anything beyond that. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "From the Ashes" was written by Bryan Goluboff and directed by Laura Innes.
  • Hodges has been trying to reach out and have a relationship with his daughter again for awhile. It's something he did because of Janey. She was pushing him for it. And now, it's only happening because he forces it to. He storms the rehab demanding to see her. To him, it is a matter of life-or-death. He doesn't care for the procedure of it at all. He just needs to see her to warn her.
  • Of course, things are incredibly sad and depressing when Hodges and Allie sit down. They haven't actually spoken in years. Allie seems better and is going to be released in a month. But now, he's come into her life once more with grand proclamations and the need to control everything. That could compromise her in a surprising way. He may actually kill himself if something happened to her though.
  • Allie wonders if her mother is in danger as well. Hodges doesn't think so. That's a little random. Brady has proven just how far his scope and influence is. He knows exactly where Allie is and could probably get to her if he wanted to. But the show doesn't really do a great job at explaining how Allie's mother is out of his reach. Perhaps it's because Nancy Travis was only available for one episode.
  • I was right to suspect that the victim of car theft Hodges spoke to previously is also a neighbor of Brady and Deb's. That was easy to predict because he spoke of the drunk woman and her son in that interaction. But now, it seems like his relationship with Deb was more than that. They apparently had lunch plans. That makes it appear like Deb had a life outside of this house even though that's where she was mostly limited to.
  • Robi had his moments of standing up for Lou when customers were rude to her about being gay. But now, he's just as homophobic as they were. In fact, he's even more angry now because he believes Lou and Brady to be so ungrateful. He only focuses on the future of the store. Brady is probably only targeting the gala because he knows Robi is going to be there and he deserves to be punished.