Monday, April 9, 2018

REVIEW: 'Mary Kills People' - Mary Doesn't Know Who to Trust with the Truth in 'Come to Jesus' & 'Fatal Flaw'

Lifetime's Mary Kills People - Episode 2.05 "Come to Jesus" and 2.06 "Fatal Flaw"

Mary attempts to reconnect with Jess but is pulled away by Olivia when disaster strikes, making their relationship even more fractured. Ben struggles with his investigation but might find an ally in his ex-lover. Ben and Mary team up against Olivia, but nothing goes to plan. Worried about her own safety, Mary doesn't know what side to pick. Des sets up their "death retreat" with Nicole as they prepare for Brendan's performative suicide.

The first season of Mary Kills People ended with Mary outsmarting everyone and orchestrating Grady's death while ensuring she got away with her crimes. It was an action that completely redefined her as a character. She was no longer a killer of the terminally ill. Now, she was just a killer. She killed a person who wasn't going to die. She did so for her own self-preservation. That informed so much of her story this season. She used that knowledge to intimidate Olivia. She wanted this new threat to take her seriously because her brother didn't. But it also became an action that threatened to rip away everything she cared about in this world. It seemed like the only constant in her life was her illegal activities. She could no longer count on Des in the field. Her sister questioned the nature of this business model and whether or not Mary just enjoyed the thrill of the chase. Jess continued to push away because her mother was never completely honest with her. And now, the season finale has come around that forces Mary to make a significant choice about who she wants to be in this world. She enjoys outsmarting people. She is capable of crafting stories to fool other people that she is a saint doing honest work as a trauma surgeon. But she also has to make the choice not to be a killer again. She is given ample opportunity to eliminate Olivia the same way that she did Grady. It's right there for her to act upon. She chooses not to because she is aware of the consequences of that action. This season needed to provide a different kind of resolution to its story. It couldn't be the same pattern as before because that would be tired and uninspired. And so, the show comes up with a conclusion that wraps everything up while also hinting at some pretty ominous things to come. Mary is able to reunite all of the important things in her life. But now, there's a new threat that she'll have to take very seriously in the future as she aims for more legitimacy in this profession.

Everything really heats up following Ben catching Mary in the act of killing Joshua. He helps cover up that crime for her. He does so because he loves her and admires her beliefs in this work. It's a complicated situation because he's no longer the only officer on the force investigating her. She is caught up in this whole conspiracy with Olivia because she was coerced into killing Travis. That's a crime that Ben cannot prove. The audience knows that it wasn't Mary who killed him. It was Des who decided to obliterate the moral line and join Mary as a killer. That was an action that changed who they were while also bringing them closer together once more. And now, it's fascinating to see them go about this job exactly as they did before. However, things feel differently this time around. There is more emotion and guilt attached to it. They prided themselves on being able to gift the terminally ill with the deaths they wanted. Larissa returns and she's pregnant. Des freaks out for a moment thinking that it's his baby. It's not. She has moved on from him and built a better life for herself. But now, her grandmother is dying and in agony. There is nothing the doctors can do because any surgery comes with too much risk. So, she's content to die in her favorite garden in the city. Mary and Des give her the drugs and it moves just as quickly and peacefully as it always does. It's a nice moment of genuine emotion of Mary and Des connecting with their patients. But there is also an overwhelming sense of dread to the proceedings as well. Mary no longer feels good about the way they do things. As such, that inspires her to take a change in this business.

Of course, Mary isn't afforded that opportunity to change until the very end of the season. Instead, she is called upon by Olivia once more for a significant favor. Olivia's daughter calls Mary in a panic because Olivia has been shot. It's a brutal sight. It's an ominous and scary moment that the audience knew was coming because Ben and the police raided the warehouse as soon as the gunshot was heard. They ultimately don't find anything. So, the employees did a nice job of covering up all suspicion of a crime pretty quickly. It's very convenient. It also presents a situation where Olivia's life is in Mary's hands. It's up to her to decide whether she lives or dies. That's the responsibility she has always had as a doctor. She has the skills and tools to prolong life for as long as the body can withstand it. But she can also allow her bias to decide which lives are worth saving and which aren't. Olivia has caused nothing but problems for Mary this season. She has put the lives of her family in jeopardy. And yet, Mary doesn't want to be a killer. She no longer wants to have that association with herself. As such, she decides to save Olivia's life. Again, this could be a decision that comes back to haunt her. She makes the decision because she doesn't want to leave that little girl an orphan. She is so compassionate in that moment. She effectively does her job. There are no complications from this makeshift surgery in the backyard. Olivia is able to rest comfortably back in her own bed. She's able to make a quick recovery from her wounds as well. With that terrific job, she is willing to give Mary whatever she wants. And Mary mostly just wants to be left alone.

Mary feels great about showing compassion and saving a life. She also feels empowered when she pushes back against the hospital administration and decides to quit. That environment is no longer where she feels passionate or important. Doing her work with Des is what makes her feel vital to the world around her. It's when she's feeling all of these emotions that she comes home to discover Jess watching the tape of her coaching someone through how she'll kill him. It's such a brutal moment. It was always inevitable that Naomi would be the one to ultimately tell Jess the truth about what Mary really does all of the time. That's been such a significant story this season. Mary's lies have only increased and that has caused Jess to feel paranoid and judged at all times. Even when Mary attempts to do something nice, her work interrupts her. She can't enjoy a simple dinner out with her daughter to talk about life and potentially share the truth. She instead needs to run off and save Olivia. It's only through Jess and Heather complaining about Naomi that the truth is finally revealed. Jess has such a surprising reaction to the news as well. The audience has been made to fear how she'll react because Mary has always been afraid to tell her the truth. And yes, Jess is very angry and upset just watching the video over and over again. When Mary finally comes home and is able to offer some glimpse into her world, the emotions shift into a conversation about being true to oneself. Mary explains that this job is who she is. It's her passion. It defines her personality. As such, Jess has the mature reaction of telling her mother she shouldn't be hiding it any longer. She should be open about it because she views death as a celebration and not a crime. That too is very compassionate and such a release.

The finale also features a lot of back and forth regarding who is aligned with whom and which alliances will ultimately be the most beneficial. At first, it seems like Mary and Ben are completely trusting of each other. They are teaming up to take down Olivia. She represents a problem for both of them. Mary sits up a deal to ensure she has enough pentobarbital to last a lifetime. That's her demand for saving her life. And yet, Olivia knows that Mary is wearing a wire when she comes to pick up the drugs. As such, she incriminates Mary on the recording as well. That's enough to infuriate Ben and get him to turn on his lover. He's furious that Mary was the one responsible for Grady's death. She forced him into killing an innocent man. Well, he wasn't completely innocent. He was still a major drug dealer. But Mary led Ben to believe Grady was something he wasn't. That's devastating. And he knows immediately that it was true. As such, that forces Olivia and Mary to team up. They are given the opportunity to work together once more. Olivia drives into a car wash that happens to be a dead spot for this recording. They can speak openly and honestly with one another. They agree to help each other out of this mess. It's a beneficial deal for Mary because it gets Olivia out of her life while supplying her with the drugs she needs to open Des' death retreat. It just creates a new enemy in Ben. He is done with Mary. He's now determined to prove that she killed Travis. Because the audience didn't see how Mary and Des dealt with the body, that should be a very fascinating investigation.

In the end though, the season concludes on a joyous celebration. It was all about Brendan's death and everyone coming to celebrate it with a grand performance just like he wanted. It's a very moving final sequence for the season. It's also a perfectly fine ending for the series should additional episodes not be ordered. It's Mary's world all coming together to celebrate the one thing she values above all else. She cares about her friends and family. But now, she's also showing everyone just how special death can be. It's a miraculous moment for Brendan. The season has been teasing this moment. Mary has formed such a close relationship with him. She diagnosed him and helped him cope with his decision to stop treatment. And now, he is the first patient at the death retreat. It's a camp that will be named in honor of Mary and Nicole's mother. It's a fitting tribute to all of the hard work that Mary and Des have done. They have figured out a way to kill the terminally ill in a way that makes them feel good. There's still so many ways this death retreat posing as a hospice could fail. They are both worried about the number of people attending Brendan's grand performance. And yet, they are more than willing to accommodate his last wish. This is all about him and dying the way he would like. And it is a pretty special moment. It's a final sequence of unity. Mary has pushed so many people away this season. And now, it's inspiring and empowering to see her close the year surrounded by Des, Nicole and Jess. They are there to witness this death as well. It's a joyous occasion that also reveals just how truly unique the show is in dealing with this subject matter.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Come to Jesus" was written by Lara Azzopardi, Tassie Cameron & Marsha Green and directed by David Wellington.
  • "Fatal Flaw" was written by Tara Armstrong & Morwyn Brebner and directed by David Wellington.
  • The first scene between Des and Nicole is completely random. Those two characters have never interacted before. In fact, it needs to be stated to the audience again that Mary and Des know each other because they went to college together. That's a time where Nicole knew Des as well. So, it's not strange that they are interacting. But it's mostly a conversation to convincingly set things up in the end.
  • It's so strange that the show didn't say Mary and Nicole's mother's real name until these final episodes. Her name was Joy. Des gets a good laugh out of that knowing everything he knows about her and the issues she dealt with during Mary and Nicole's childhood. But it also makes it so sweet when Nicole suggests naming the death retreat after her. It's a way for the sisters to keep her close to their hearts.
  • Olivia was shot by her business partners who don't like the fact that a detective was snooping around the warehouse. In fact, that threat was probably only elevated by how quickly the police responded after Olivia was shot. Again, they didn't find anything. Ben can't make any charges stick against Olivia. But Olivia uses this as motivation to sever these business ties and push back - just like Mary has always done.
  • It's certainly ominous that Olivia keeps one box of pentobarbital to herself. The show confirms that she wasn't just lying about that. And so, her being alive is a very important dangling thread. She could just have the drugs on hand so that she never has to call on Mary's services ever again. Or she could use them in order to continue to coerce Mary into working for her.
  • It's fascinating how the show intercuts Brendan's death with Ben returning to his trailer in the woods looking absolutely defeated about the day he has just had. Mary is celebrating and bringing closure to a life. Meanwhile, Ben is drinking his cares away. It's not all that necessary. There isn't some ominous tease about him being struck with inspiration for how to pursue criminal charges with Mary. It's just the show maintaining awareness of what he's doing.
  • Lifetime hasn't renewed Mary Kills People for a third season yet. As far as I can tell, the Canadian station hasn't picked up more episodes either. That's a little disappointing. I know the ratings stateside haven't been that great. It definitely feels like the season just started and is already over a month later. But this season was incredibly strong. This would serve as a fine series finale. But it's also clear that the show still has more story it would like to tell too.