Wednesday, October 11, 2017

REVIEW: 'Mr. Mercedes' - Hodges Races to Stop Brady Before He Carries Out His Final Plan in 'Jibber-Jibber Chicken Dinner'

Audience's Mr. Mercedes - Episode 1.10 "Jibber-Jibber Chicken Dinner"

When another murder victim is discovered, suspicions about Brady are confirmed. As the police prepare for another massacre, Hodges fears for the safety of those he loves.

When Mr. Mercedes first began back in August, I noted that it was one of the best adaptations of Stephen King's work in awhile. This has been a year for King adaptations. And now in the season finale, I still believe that. This has been a very faithful adaptation of the novel. The changes that were made for television made sense and allowed the story to be told in a visually fascinating and engaging way. Any problems one has with the story of the show likely come from the plot twists included in the novel and not what was done with the adaptation. So yes, there are things that were problematic. The big misdirect from the end of the previous episode is very lackluster because it's abundantly clear to the audience what's about to happen. We saw that Brady wasn't confined to his house like the police completely believed. They thought he couldn't escape. That's why they thought the body in the bed with his mother was him. They weren't wrong to suspect that either. It's them simply working with the information that was given to them. And yet, the audience has been given more information. We know that Brady had the opportunity to escape. He did so to kill Robi. He wasn't suicidal like he appears in the video confession he makes. He still just wants to keep messing with Hodges as he plans for his grand masterpiece. So, this finale has to deal with the awkward plotting of the police figuring out that Brady is still alive and racing to stop him before he can commit his final act of terrorism. Those moments of the finale are very lackluster because the audience continues to be right there alongside Brady as he is one step ahead of the police investigation.

Of course, the show still treats it as a big mystery too. It's the expected outcome. After teasing this cat-and-mouse game between Brady and Hodges, it wouldn't just come to its conclusion in the penultimate episode of the season. No, it needed to build to the inevitable confrontation face-to-face between them. It's in that moment where the show can subvert expectations. It does do that and the final outcome in this story is anything but expected. But the first half of this episode plays exactly as one might suspect. Hodges doubts that the body they discovered in the room is actually Brady's. He's still haunted by this case even though it is seemingly over. He now has a literal face to put on this evil that has been tormenting him as well. He can see Brady in his ice cream truck plaguing his dreams. Of course, that moment is once again teased as some big mystery. It could have been real. It would have been a swift confirmation that Brady is still alive. It would make sense that Brady was able to break into Hodges' house to stage a horrifying murder for him to see. It would show that this war between them isn't over yet. It takes a beat for it to be revealed as nothing more than an agonizing nightmare. It's still effective as such. But it also embraces the show's love to highlight the severity of death in this world. That's already apparent through the actions the characters have already taken. Death means less and less if the images of Jerome, Holly and Ida's bodies keep being seen. That lessens the tension a little bit which is the exact opposite of what the show wants.

Death is the reason why the police are able to figure out that Brady is still alive as well. The entire narrative miraculously revolves around Robi and discovering what has happened to him. His superior, James, has never been a great character. He's been one-note in his bullying and condescending attitude. But now, he's actually helpful for the investigation because he knows what Brady was working on in the store, that Robi is strangely missing from work and that a rug is missing in Robi's apartment. All of that is crucial information to have even though it's up to Lou to note that Robi spends his free time with his father. This is all just important to keep the plot moving forward. The early episodes were a little slow moving as they were establishing the stakes and mood of the show. They were still incredibly lethal. But it never felt like things were happening just because the plot needed them too. Of course, the same can't be said for the second half of the season. That's not all that surprising because of the escalation of tension and needing to catch Brady. Things needed to go wrong in ways that connected the characters together. So, Hodges knows that Brady is still alive because the body in the bed is actually Robi's who happens to be taller.

And then, the big question becomes which event Brady is going to target next. The police know he is going to strike soon. They understand that he's just focusing on his legacy right now and will strike back to show how much he is in control. It just seems a little too convenient that the entire police go to one event (a career fair) and leave Hodges, Jerome and Holly at the gala where Brady actually is. It isolates the characters who've been important to this story for the majority of the time. The police have been so inconsequential to the actual story. Pete didn't believe Hodges at first. And now, his captain is struggling to give a good explanation for how the police mishandled this case. That's all perfectly fine. But it's not powerful to watch the police take down Brady. It's important for Hodges to be there for that final moment. He was assisted by the police in last week's episode and they were outsmarted by Brady. And now, his only two allies are Jerome and Holly. They've been so helpful in this investigation. But it doesn't seem like they are good for anything except getting in the way with their lives possibly being compromised as a result. So, Hodges feels the pressure because he sees himself as the only person who can actually stop Brady. That's the mentality he has had this entire season. He's been obsessed with this case because it has been so personal to him. Brady specifically targeted him. He was dealt a personal blow in this war. And now, it's time for his vengeance before any more innocent lives can be.

However, Hodges isn't the one ultimately responsible for taking down the Mercedes killer. Brady would love nothing more than to die during this event. He's fine with it being from his own bomb or the bullet in Hodges' gun. He knows that his legacy will live on long after he's gone while he'll finally be able to reunite with his entire family. That's his end game. He doesn't care who gets hurt in the process. People just need to suffer. He's shown to have no real personal connections to this world anymore. He's even willing to hurt Lou when she gets into his way. That's a somewhat clumsy moment because it first has the appearance of being completely pointless in the narrative. If her death had no meaning, then it would have been a bad moment. Instead, she is able to warn Hodges about Brady's new appearance and what he is planning on doing. Of course, Hodges is looking terrible throughout all of this. He is falling apart just as he's reaching the final confrontation with Brady. That's a little unnecessary. The entire season has focused on how this case may ultimately break or kill Hodges. It has always cared that risk for him. His obsession could bring about his death in any number of ways. Now, it's presenting itself in the form of a heart attack right as he has Brady at gunpoint. That feels like a way to build up the uncertainty of the situation. But it also feels like a sudden and jarring development. Plus, it doesn't really add a whole lot to the situation. If he wasn't on the verge of collapsing, would he have actually pulled the trigger? It's certainly possible for all that Brady has done to him. But he's also a wise enough detective to know that Holly is right behind Brady with her statue and ready to attack. That's a surprising moment. It doesn't take away from the personal war between Hodges and Brady either. That's been the chief focus of the season. But it's also rewarding for Holly to take down the Mercedes killer because she lost even more with this case. That loss is significantly worse for her as well because Olivia and Janey were her actual family and not just people she's known for a little bit of time.

It's a violent conclusion for a violent season of television. The show depicted the brutality on display throughout Brady's various killings this year. It's only appropriate that this moment is brutal and gruesome to watch as well. It makes it seem impossible for Brady to make it out of this situation alive. That seems to be the expectation because it's the world forcibly refusing to give him what he wants. But it also makes sense for these characters to be getting their vengeance on him. And in the end, he's still present in this world. He's just a vegetable where it's highly unlikely that he'll ever wake up again. Hodges believes it is fully possible. He's able to make a full recovery. He's found some semblance of peace in his life. He was able to save many lives. It's a hopeful moment in time because the narrative shows the various futures for all of the characters who have survived this season. They've all been touched by the Mercedes case. They will forever be affected by it. But they have the opportunity to move on with their lives while the killer lies in a bed unable to do anything. Of course, the show is very much inferring that Brady will one day wake up. Hodges is waiting for that to happen because he knows the hatred of this world is helping him cling to life. The final shot of the season is a pan in on Brady's eye. It has the expectation of him waking up. That doesn't happen. The show would rather live in the mystery of the situation. That's a compelling stylistic choice even though it also felt like the inevitable shot to end on as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Jibber-Jibber Chicken Dinner" was written by Dennis Lehane and directed by Jack Bender.
  • I was so surprisingly happy and emotional when it was revealed that Lou survived her injuries. It's again all about that moment serving a purpose. If she was killed by Brady, then that character would have done nothing in the entire show. If she dies right after telling Hodges what she knows, it's a tragedy that also conforms to a stereotype. Her actually surviving is a really uplifting moment that bucks the trend of death in this show.
  • Of course, Ida really doesn't have much to do in the end game of the season. She's just the woman who lives next door to Hodges and is supportive when he really needs it. She knows that he needs to sit in the reality of what has happened. But right now, he just needs her car. That's about it. Brady isn't coming for her at all because she doesn't leave her house at night.
  • Brady's target was always going to be the gala where Jerome was being honored. The audience always knew that. And so, the scene where the police chief and mayor are talking about the likely targets makes them appear very dumb because they are focusing on the wrong event just because it fits the Mercedes killer's past pattern.
  • The happy endings for the various characters are nice to see. Hodges is released from the hospital. Jerome is driving away to Harvard. Holly moves into a house by herself. Ida continues to tend to her garden. Pete continues to work for the police. Lou is surrounded by a loving family. Of course, things are tragic for James because he's been essentially demoted to Robi's position and is struggling to hire anyone new.
  • Audience Network renewed the show for a second season yesterday. This felt like a very self-contained story. So, I didn't know how the show would continue with an additional season. Then, I learned that Stephen King wrote more novels with Bill Hodges as the protagonist. So, the second season will be an adaptation of one of those. That should be fascinating. I wonder which actors will return? Brendan Gleeson seems inevitable. But who else is necessary to bring back for another story?