Now that the criminally underrated Kingdom has had its last episode, AT&T's Audience Network needs another show to try to expand their viewers. I don't know if Mr. Mercedes can fill that void. Based on the 2014 Stephen King book, Mr. Mercedes has been adapted for television by David E. Kelley, who is sitting pretty coming off just adapting Big Little Lies for HBO and Executive Producer Jack Bender (Lost, Under the Dome).
The Pilot opens in 2009 Ohio where several people have lined up for an upcoming job fair. The scene plays on for a few minutes with the focus being on a couple of characters talking about their struggles and one woman, in particular, trying to take care of her two-month-old baby. A random silver Mercedes Benz pulls up outside the line with its lights on and just sits there idling. While all the people stare at it puzzled, the driver puts on a clown mask (we never see the face) and then suddenly slams on the gas and rams the car right through the crowd of pedestrians killing sixteen of them including the couple we had been focused on. And yes, the baby as well. This sequence is not for the squeamish.
The show has properly got my attention. Now the struggle would become keeping it. Flash Forward two years later and we're in the home of now retired detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) whom we were introduced to briefly earlier as he surveyed the crime scene after the tragic incident. He has now become the typical stereotype of a man who falls asleep in his chair over his bed and just getting up in the morning for lunch with his old partner Pete (Scott Lawrence) is a laborious chore. Now here's where Mr. Mercedes unfortunately falls to P.S.S. (Pilot Setup Syndrome).
Don't get me wrong I am all for character development, but when the pace of a show slows down to a crawl resembling Hodges' pet tortoise, it's a problem. We're taken through Hodges' life as he grumbles about with Pete, yells at the local kids for tennis balls in his shrubs, and has dinner with his over attentive neighbor Ida (Holland Taylor) who propositions him to have sex with her since she's the best "option you won't have to pay for." While this isn't bad writing by any means, I expect more of King & Kelley and something from a first episode that is supposed to be unique and hold my attention.
As if they somehow could sense my brain emitting fatigue the next scene Hodges opens up his email and gets an erratic, disturbing video from the man behind the Mercedes massacre. The video consists of pictures of the deceased in cartoony fashion mocking him for not solving the case and also shows clips of Hodges proclaiming how he would catch the killer. It ends with the messenger laughing at Hodges and saying they'll talk later. This sets Hodges' mind on fire and he starts asking Pete about any updates on the case and if they are still working on it while claiming he's just plain curious. After he stumbles upon an additional video on his computer that shows camera footage from the killer's viewpoint as he ran over all the people at the job fair, his detective mind has him going to buy surveillance cameras for his home. This criminal has already got him properly spooked.
The other storyline that was introduced is a character named Brady Hartsfield (Penny Dreadful's Harry Treadaway) a tech wiz who works at an electronic store, who has one of the most annoying retail bosses ever put in a show Robi (Robert Stanton). Coming from a retail world myself the speeches and "can do" attitudes that he forces on Brady to "accept his role in society", are easily all the motivation someone would need to get pushed to act out.
And if that's a giveaway I'm sorry but the writing puts in no effort to shy away from this truth that Brady is our villain and I don't think it ruins anything by doing so. Not only does he have a shit job that makes him one step away from joining the hackers in Mr. Robot but he goes home to a drunken mother (Kelly Lynch) whose affection for her son crosses more lines then I'm sure any of us were interested in seeing.
Mr. Mercedes does a fantastic job of giving a brutal enough crime that automatically makes us want to not only see who the villain is but root for our blue collar former Detective Hodges in catching him with this Stephen King adaptation. The only problem is while understandably it's not the easiest genre to present something new, this show feels like nothing we haven't already seen on any primetime cop drama of the past.
With the dozens of unique and imaginative shows in this golden age of television, I have a hard time even trying to convince myself where I'll find time for this one. The only thing that will probably get me to give this one at least a couple of more episodes is my long time dedication to David E. Kelley but even he has swung and missed a couple of times. Remember "The Crazy Ones" or have you tried to forget like I have?