Monday, March 12, 2018

REVIEW: 'Mary Kills People' - Mary Welcomes Des Back from Prison with a Complicated Case in 'The Means'

Lifetime's Mary Kills People - Episode 2.01 "The Means"

Having worked alone for months, Mary reluctantly lets Des, newly released from prison, back into her death practice. When Des is approached by a woman needing a hit man, their partnership becomes rocky. Naomi grows jealous of Jess' budding relationship with a new girl.

Mary Kills People was such a surprising show when it debuted last year. It found a way to talk about death and its main character killing people without it feeling super grim and depressing. This is a show that respects and honors life. That's a fascinatingly nuanced take on the subject. It's pretty conventional in other ways. It's still fundamentally a story about the protagonist breaking the law and creating a dozen new problems when she is trying to solve her current one. But it was a show with a message and some fantastic performers in the lead roles. Plus, everything worked out for Mary in the end. The finale proved just how calculating she can be. Some of her actions were pretty questionable. She didn't seem all that smart from the various lies she had to tell in order to evade capture despite the audience suppose to be believing her as such. But the conclusion of the main story last year was very thrilling and proved just how capable she actually was. She was able to close out the police investigation of her by framing the man from the criminal world who was also targeting her. It was a thrilling conclusion that left no personal consequences for her. Of course, that finale also set up a number of teases for the second season. Des would be going to jail for being an accomplice to murder. Jess discovered that her mother lied about using the drugs to kill the family cat. Annie was done with the entire arrangement. And Louise discovered that Mary was involved in the investigation that entangled Des. It was a lot of intriguing complications that presented a way forward for the show in its second season. And now, it's fascinating to see which have importance in the narrative and which don't.

There has been a time jump in between seasons. Eight months have gone by. Des has spent all of that time in prison. The premiere opens with him being released on parole for good behavior. He surprises Mary by getting out early. She was using his apartment as a stash house because she didn't think anyone would be using it for awhile. She was still running her business. She was still killing people. She didn't really pause for very long after everything that happened with Ben and Grady. She escaped from all of that in the clear. As such, she may have even more confidence now that she is doing what's right and can manage to avoid any real consequences for it. She is perfectly fine running this business without Des as well. He gets released and wants back in right away. This work kept him motivated while in prison. The promise of returning to this job with Mary was the sole thing that kept him going. Mary doesn't think it's smart for Des to be released early only to immediately return to a life of questionable moral choices. The very first case that they do together this season becomes immediately complicated. It's a husband and wife who wish to die together even though the husband is the only one terminally sick. Des doesn't want to cross the line of killing a healthy person. For him, that goes against the morals of this endeavor. That's a huge issue throughout this premiere that really sets up a strong through-line for the season.

So of course, the act of killing goes awry at the top of the hour. Mary is willing to kill this woman because she has spent time with the couple and understands the feelings involved. Des is completely new to the case and thrown for a loop. He wonders just how much Mary has changed in the months since he last saw her. He worries that she is ready to cross that line into killing people who are simply suicidal. He wonders if she is chasing the high she got from killing and framing Grady. That's what's on his mind. She just wants to help this couple. And in the end, the choice is essentially taken away from them. They aren't able to provide peace for the dying couple. The man dies the way Mary wants. The woman decides to jump off the balcony so that Mary and Des can't stop her from making her decision. It's a traumatizing visual. One that threatens Mary and Des with capture if they don't get out of the apartment quickly. But it's also compelling to see that this woman doesn't die because of her fall. Instead, she survives and shows up in the hospital where Mary works. Now, she is severely injured. Now, she fits the qualifications for Des being willing to help her die. But Des isn't there to ease her suffering or understand what she's thinking. In that moment, it's just Mary and she only asks if this woman ever changed her mind at any point during the process of committing suicide. She didn't. As such, Mary can cope with the idea of killing her too. It's much messier than how it typically is for Mary. And yet, this job is always messy and complicated. That's what the audience has come to expect. And so, she kills this woman in the hospital. That could be an action that is investigated. Or it could not. It mostly signifies just how Mary believes she is right because she is listening to her patients and giving them what they need.

Of course, there are more ongoing complexities that threaten to jeopardize Mary and Des' relationship as well. All of that is tied into Rachelle Lefevre's introduction as Olivia. She's a compelling character right away. She is just introduced as the latest woman whom Des seduces. It proves that he still carries a number of his vices despite the many months in prison. He was ready to act quickly when it came to finding sex in the outside world. He finds that easily through Olivia, a woman who has just decided to leave her husband. There is chemistry and charm between the two of them. It's easy to understand why so many women go to bed with Des. But then, a switch happens. Olivia turns out to be after something much more sinister from Des. She didn't just want sex from him. She wants him to kill her husband. She knows all about his stint in jail and the case that he was a part of. She knows about the deaths associated with Grady. It seems like she confidently knows the truth about the business Mary and Des have been running. As such, it forces Des to act out of the ordinary and actually visit Mary at home. No one is around to see him. But it's clear that Mary will be struggling to continue keeping her family life separate from her secret business. Des is a part of that. She doesn't want anyone in the family knowing who he is. But she also recognizes this new threat and realizes that she has to be the one to put an end to it. Des can't go around walking with the reputation of being a hitman. He struggles with that morality as it relates to this business. He's the one who has a firm line he refuses to cross. Mary hears that while also knowing she has to take care of this problem herself.

That then builds to the second big twist with Olivia. She happens to be Grady's sister. She knows all about his criminal endeavors and his demise. She was willing to leverage that knowledge to get Des to murder her husband. But when Mary visits her, it's clear that Olivia doesn't have full awareness of all that Mary and Des have done. She doesn't know the full operation. She's not spying on Mary and knows that she has killed eighteen people over the past eight months. She has no idea who Mary is at all. But she does recognize that Mary is the true brains behind the operation. She can sense that just by looking into her eyes as she's delivering this threat. Mary quickly becomes aware of the reality of the situation as well. She sees the niece that Grady was playing with once more. She doesn't recognize her at first but she comes to understand the situation for what it really is. She understands that she has the power and control in this situation. She has the strength of knowledge. Olivia doesn't know who she is. She can use that to drive fear into her. She confesses to allowing Grady to die. She corrects Olivia when she says a cop shot her brother. Mary was the one who refused to save him when given the opportunity. She was the cold blooded killer in that moment. She's the one who is willing to compromise her morals when she can find a good way to rationalize it. She's the one driving this story forward. So, she will be the one whom Olivia will have to deal with. This doesn't seem like a complication that will go away all that easily. Mary believes she delivers this threat in a menacing and appropriate way. But she also has to keep her eyes open to Olivia now knowing who she is and the game that she is running. That's a complication that could slowly but surely overwhelm her life.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Means" was written by Tara Armstrong and directed by Kelly Makin.
  • Ben is nowhere to be seen in this premiere. No update is given as to what's been happening with him over the last few months. Of course, he'll appear again at some point. Jay Ryan is still listed as a series regular. It should just be interesting if he returns to build a new case against Mary or if Mary will have to use him once more as a resource to deal with her latest complicated situation.
  • It's still pretty lackluster and boring whenever the show spends a significant amount of time on Mary's daughter, Jess, and her friend, Naomi. They still exist in a story that is thematically connected with the rest of the series. They are chasing death too. It's just not all that appealing. It seems really reckless while also playing as teenage rebellion against Mary for constantly lying.
  • Of course, Mary still has her younger daughter as well who is completely clueless to the world around her. She just immediately accepts that the new cat is different from the old one because her mother told her she had to kill it. Plus, it seems like she is more open to the idea that other cultures view death differently. Of course, she also holds onto the hope that the world will find a cure for death at some point - which would put Mary out of business.
  • Last season Annie made a big point about no longer wanting to refer patients to Mary. She got caught up in Mary's illegal behavior and it almost cost her her job. She never wanted to be compromised like that again. But here, she's right back to working with Mary. She refers the husband and wife to Mary not knowing that the wife wishes to die as well. So, she's just as shocked by the outcome of that case.
  • In between seasons, Kevin and Louise broke up. So now, Kevin is apparently living with Mary once more. That's a complication to be aware of. It mostly seems like these two broke up because of the video that Louise saw of Mary and Des counseling Ben on how to die. And now, she's ensuring that Kevin sees that video without breaking client confidentiality.
  • Has the show ever really established where it is set? It continues to feel like a very Canadian show. That doesn't have to be a bad thing either. It just makes it more of an inconvenience for Mary to go all the way to Mexico to get her drugs. As it is currently played, it seems like it's still an easy trip for her with her only extending it a couple of days so she doesn't catch any suspicion.