Wednesday, August 22, 2018

REVIEW: 'Mr. Mercedes' - Hodges Attempts to Move On With His Life But Is Still Haunted by Brady in 'Missed You'

Audience's Mr. Mercedes - Episode 2.01 "Missed You"

With Brady hospitalized, Hodges and Holly rebuild, opening private investigative agency Finders Keepers. Brady's care falls to Dr. Babineau, an ambitious neurosurgeon, with input from his brilliant wife, Cora.

The first season of Mr. Mercedes didn't end on a massive cliffhanger. It made sure to deliver a fair amount of resolution to the Brady Hartsfield case. Hodges, Holly and Jerome were able to stop Brady before he carried out his latest attack in a public area. They stopped him before the bomb exploded. Of course, there was also the symmetry of both Hodges and Brady being defeated in this moment due to sudden medical emergencies. For Brady, it was his head being bashed in by Holly. For Hodges, it was a heart attack. The first season didn't end on that note though. It confirmed that both of them survived with Brady remaining in a vegetative state. It said that it was very unlikely that he would ever wake up again. But there was the ominous and sneaking suspicion that he was about to be a medical miracle as well. "Missed You" begins the second season focusing on the medical treatment that Hodges and Brady both received in the aftermath of their final confrontation. They both received excellent care. They both got treatment immediately. Hodges was able to bounce back after surgery and months of physical therapy. He is back to the life he was living before all of this craziness began. In fact, he is probably healthier now because he no longer has the Mercedes case hanging over his head. Meanwhile, Brady was successfully operated on by leading neurosurgeon Dr. Felix Babineau. Despite that though, there was no hope of him ever making a full recovery. So even though a prosecutor shows up wanting someone to charge for mass murder, that case doesn't go forward. This already seems like punishment enough for Brady. He's still alive but has no discernible brain activity. Of course, the hospital keeps footing the bill for the machines keeping him alive. So, there was bound to be some twist that further complicated this story. And that's exactly what happens.

The majority of this premiere establishes how it is medically possible for Brady to survive everything that happened to him. The show told the audience that he could never make a recovery. And now, that seems like exactly what has happened thanks to a miraculous drug experiment. Brady finds himself a guinea pig for a new experimental treatment. It wasn't his decision to make. It wasn't approved by whomever has custody over him and makes his medical decisions. It was instead something that his doctor was doing in secret. He was persuaded into doing so by his wife, Cora. She is a very compelling and commanding performance right away. Yes, she appears whenever Felix summons her. But she's the one coercing him into bending his ethics in the hopes it leads to a medical breakthrough. Sure, the hospital is aware that Felix is doing something that may not be totally legal. After a year with no progress whatsoever, they are ready to send Brady away to a different facility that houses people in the same condition who are never going to make any improvement. They are kept alive for the families instead of for the people hooked to the machines. They are already essentially dead. The machines are keeping their organs working. The nurses are providing care. The hospital only kept Brady for so long because of Felix. He wanted to overlook the treatment of his patient. With no progress though, he can't justify the hospital keeping him. As such, that makes him very susceptible to his wife's suggestions. She pushed for him to try this new drug. She believes her company and a Chinese manufacturer have products that will compliment each other. They are experimenting on Brady in secret in the hopes of avoiding any of the bureaucratic red tape that prevents them from experimenting on humans until the results on animals prove promising.

Felix is hesitant to give this drug to Brady especially in its full dosage. He believes that a little bit over time will allow meaningful progress to be made. He is encouraged by Cora who continues to provide the drugs. After time though, she wants to increase the dose despite a lack of evidence that that will do anything but kill him. She is able to taunt her husband with ideas of them being the brilliant individuals who found a cure to diseases such as depression and Alzheimer's. They see this experimentation as the first step to medical breakthroughs that could define their legacies. Felix worries that this could be the end of his career. If Brady dies because of the drugs given to him, that would mean Felix losing his license. For the longest time, that's a risk that he doesn't want to take. He believes slow and steady is the way to go with this trial. He only reverses that decision because he only has a week before Brady is shipped to a different facility. As such, he has to prove results now. He needs Brady to start showing progress. Of course, it also helps that Cora is so suggestive and controlling. She is so confident around her husband. She is able to tease him with the reveal that she is pregnant. She allows that to motivate his actions as well. He is willing to do whatever she says because he wants to be a happy, little family with her. It's a turn on for her to have sex while pregnant. But she still uses that as a bargaining chip. She encourages Felix to have sex with her now because there's no guarantee that she will still be pregnant a day from now. So, today is the day to rejoice and take risks. Even if it doesn't work out, they will still respect each other and have a family.

All of this makes it inevitable that Brady will stage a full recovery. There is the mystery of when he is going to wake up and interact with the world around him in the hospital room. For the longest time, he is just in the vegetative state as people talk to him. Meanwhile, Hodges is able to just move forward with his life. He has started his second career as a private investigator working with Holly. That relationship has really blossomed into something meaningful for both of them. Yes, Holly is still incredibly quirky and obsessive. But she also steps up for Hodges in a huge way when tragedy strikes. Pete dies here. That's the major death of the new season so far. The show has always been defined by death. It never comes for either Hodges or Brady despite their best efforts. Hodges was going to die because of his hard drinking while Brady wanted to die in a blaze of glory while killing a crowd full of people. Neither of them died. The people around them continue to do so though. When Hodges visits the cemetery, Pete isn't the only friend he has bullied there. He mourns Janey as well. She was also taken from the world too soon. Of course, there's nothing too suspicious about Pete's death either. He died because of a heart condition he didn't disclose to his partner on the force. Hodges and Pete would risk anything for each other. They tip each other off to jobs that would be beneficial for their respective jobs. They have respect for each other and the work that they do. And then, Pete just collapses in Hodges' kitchen. Hodges is unable to revive his friend. Instead, he is giving a eulogy at his funeral. All of this could mark the beginning of a new spree of deaths around Hodges. It's certainly enough to get him to start drinking again even though he mixes the alcohol in with frozen yogurt. But the show will have to be very careful with that because it can't just be repeating the same patterns as the first season. It needs to tell stories differently this year.

Of course, that new sense of style immediately presents itself through fantasy sequences. When Hodges visits Pete's grave, there is an instant sense that things aren't right because Brady shows up wearing an all-white suit. The show explains right away that this isn't real through a variety of visual clues. Sure, Hodges still experiences it all as such. He believes he is still being haunted by Brady even though he hasn't visited the hospital in a long time. There is no longer a police presence outside of Brady's room. In the year since his capture, no progress has been made. But Hodges has this dream that teases that Brady is truly at the bottom of Pete's grave. It's actually just a tunnel back to the hospital and an empty room with Brady truly being free. He's able to do whatever he wants once more. That's such an ominous and sinister twist. Of course, it seems impossible. If he were to wake up, then the hospital would be monitoring his condition very closely with the police being notified as well. The systems would be in place to ensure that Brady could never leave because he is still a mass murderer. He can just now face the justice for his crimes. But when Hodges visits the hospital the next day, none of this is true. Brady is the same as he has always been. He still hasn't awoken out of his vegetative state. He is still kept alive by machines. If they were to stop, then he would die. That's a serious temptation for Hodges in this moment. In the immediate aftermath of his heart attack, Hodges never felt the urge to kill Brady. He thought it was karmic that Brady would lead to all of this death and destruction but not be able to leave this world at the end of his life. This is the reality that he deserves. He's forever stuck in this limbo. But Hodges is trapped as well. He has moved on with his life. But there is still that sneaking suspicion that Brady could return and cause chaos. That is confirmed in the final moments of the hour as well with Brady waking up and imagining himself in his basement once more. Now, the audience knows his lair has been destroyed. And yet, it's still absolutely chilling to see Brady in that environment knowing the damage he could cause once more. As such, it's a very precarious future for the characters as the drama is just getting started all over again.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Missed You" was written by Dennis Lehane and directed by Jack Bender.
  • Maximiliano Hernandez plays the prosecutor questioning Felix immediately following the surgery on Brady's brain to learn the prognosis. Him being credited as a series regular ensures that the legal ramifications of Brady's actions are bound to have a huge focus throughout this season. He's not seen following the year-long time jump though. So, it should be fascinating to see what has happened to him and his opinion on the case.
  • Virginia Kull shows up as one of the nurses caring for Brady in his current condition. It's her responsibility to check all of the machines and ensure that his body is still functioning as it should be. She is providing the day-to-day care. Of course, her introduction also reveals that she stares off into space as well. Another nurse notes that she takes medication. These are probably details that may be important - as is her humor while interacting with Brady.
  • Nancy Travis also returns this season as Hodges' ex-wife. She only appeared briefly in the first season. And yet, she was also available for the new season because of the cancellation of Last Man Standing. She could return as a way to spark more personal emotions for Hodges. She shares that she did visit him in the hospital. She just chose not to stay when he woke up. But that detail could spark more conversations between them.
  • Ida is still providing emotional support for Hodges as well. A tree literally falls down in her backyard and destroys her gazebo. It's a structure that she and her husband built many years ago. Hodges and Pete marvel at the craftsmanship. And yet, it's in cleaning up the mess that Pete dies. Meanwhile, Ida wants to know how Hodges is living his life instead of simply reacting to it. He doesn't have a good answer at the moment though.
  • Holly has moved in with Hodges for the next two weeks. She sees it as the right thing to do to help Hodges through his time of grief. He shouldn't be alone right now. He needs the support of his friends. She isn't able to attend the funeral but she still supports him through this. Of course, she also looks on with concern as soon as he pours the alcohol over the frozen yogurt. So, she will have to be diligent while looking after him.