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[TV REVIEW] “Mr. Mercedes” is Sadly More Like a Busted Up Corolla

The adaptation of Stephen King’s thrilling cat-and-mouse detective narrative sadly misses the point and is left spinning its wheels

“Retirement, you hate it. Don’t you?”
“It’s an adjustment…”

This is a review of the television adaptation of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, but after watching these episodes, now more than ever, does it feel necessary to push King’s “Bill Hodges Trilogy.” Go out and buy Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch and treat yourself to some of the most enjoyable, addicting writing that Stephen King has turned out in decades.

This Mr. Mercedes is unfortunately not that Mr. Mercedes.

This year has oddly found itself turning into a King Renaissance of sorts, with a wealth of his material hitting the screen with more purpose and originality than ever before. That’s why it’s such a bummer that Mr. Mercedes falls into the same camp as Spike’s The Mist, rather than Andy Muschietti’s IT. Mr. Mercedes was a property of King’s that I was extremely excited to see being adapted, and even more so when it was revealed that it was going to be turned into a television series. This, however, is the definition of a paint-by-numbers detective show that’s not left with much of a heart and soul. It’s a messy and disorganized affair, sort of like a Cadillac running over a bunch of bodies at a job fair.

Mr. Mercedes tells the story of a retired police officer, Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson), getting targeted by a sadistic serial killer that’s hungry to cause more carnage in the most twisted way possible. King’s novel is about the monsters that are hiding inside of people, rather than the physical monsters out there in the world that so many of King’s other texts explore. Mr. Mercedes is interested in learning about the psychopaths that lurk everywhere underneath society and have such unlimited access to resources due to the ways of the modern world. King’s work makes you feel in danger and that someone like Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) can not only hurt you but that they might even be borderline invincible. Then, King slowly strips power away from Brady as Hodges begins to experience an epiphany. It’s a great balancing act to watch unfold but here in the television show it’s mostly all reduced to, “Psycho is angry so cop better catch him!”

This adaptation of Mr. Mercedes’ biggest drawback is how mean-spirited it chooses to be. In King’s novel, Brady is clearly deranged, but it’s almost in more of a broken supervillain sort of way. Executive producers David E. Kelley and Jack Bender never really crack the code of who Brady is. This is such a frustrating prospect because Brady is one of King’s most terrifying antagonists and he’s so much more than just some clichéd terrorist. This series reduces him into some sort of angsty millennial. It’s exactly the sort of interpretation of his character that would make the Brady from King’s novels all the more irate and hungry for revenge.

On the positive side of things, Treadaway’s performance as Brady is probably the highlight of the series. There are moments where Treadaway manages to tap into Brady’s truly psychotic side and they are a delight (although it’s hard to not wonder what Anton Yelchin would have brought to the role, before his untimely passing). Watching Brady masquerading in his human costume as the ice cream man is genuinely unnerving and the exhilaration that he feels when he achieves his first “traffic light kill” is very real. The messed up material between Brady and his mother (Kelly Lynch) is also on point. The show doesn’t hold back at all in this regard, leaning into the uncomfortable area hard. That being said, the show gets across the hate that Brady feels for his mother, but never the love that he feels towards her. It simplifies Brady’s relationship with his dead brother in the same sort of way, which are fundamental building blocks for the character.

In a similar sense on the opposite end of the spectrum, the show effectively illustrates Hodges’ fatigue and the aimless slump that he’s in, but it doesn’t tap into the re-awakening he experiences and how beautiful it is to see that this old dog isn’t actually out of the game just yet. Moments like Hodges getting a silly fedora are cute and character building in King’s novel but in this show they read like jokes at Hodges’ expense. “Look at how out of touch he’s become! “ The audience needs to be rooting with Hodges, not laughing at him. These two crucial points of view are instrumental to Mr. Mercedes working, with it otherwise just being some sort of crime story with a tech background. What’s exciting about that? The audience should be pumped to see Hodges getting out of his rut and kicking some ass and that’s not what’s happening in this show.

While broad takes on the central cast is certainly an issue, characters like Hodges’ elderly, lonely neighbor, Ida Silver (Holland Taylor) or Brady’s boss, Anthony Frobisher (Robert Stanton) are given far too much screen time. They’re turned into bigger presences than they need to be when more than enough is already going on. In fact, Brady’s place of work, Discount Electronix, is given too much attention in general. The place becomes de-mystified by the time Hodges stumbles across it later with it not feeling like nearly as much of a revelation. This is all particularly confusing when there’s already more than enough story to clip through without adding new material. The series prioritizes its time in frustrating ways, which leaves the interactions between Hodges and Brady not having nearly the same electricity that they do in the novel. Maybe this dynamic will improve in the second half of the season, but cat-and-mouse narratives of this nature thrive on tension and chaos and it’s just not there to the right degree.

In the case of most episodes, it feels like most of Mr. Mercedes’ charm and quirkiness is sucked out in favor of more broody nihilism. This isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, especially for a show that’s delving into the territory that this one is, but as a result, other elements like Hodges and Jerome’s (Jharrel Jerome) relationship are left feeling flat. Their chemistry reads like an out of touch older guy needing a college kid to help him with computers. There’s such a nuanced, respectful relationship that’s created in the books. It’s worth mentioning that a major aspect of this source material is how the quirky Holly Gibney (Justine Lupe) fits into the unusual working relationship that Hodges and Jerome have found themselves in. Holly doesn’t show up until the second half of the season, but hopefully, her presence will manage to kickstart a lot of the book’s heart.

It’s fair to say that having to remove pivotal scenes from the source material is par for the course when adapting a novel into a film, but not when it’s a television show. Sure, a movie needs to be condensed, but 10 hours could actually allow this text to breathe and grow. This could have been expanded in beautiful ways, but in the end, it feels like David E. Kelley is missing all the reasons that this story is so special in the first place. With this show’s strong, addictive storyline being handled so sloppily, I’m almost relieved that the series may not be around long enough to get to the admittedly bonkers supernatural material that King’s trilogy eventually embraces. Mr. Mercedes is full of such rich characters that I was excited to learn that the novel is actually part of a trilogy. King makes you hungry for more adventures involving Bill Hodges and his group of misfit toys. However, none of the characters in this show, let alone Hodges, are people that I’m hungry to spend more time with.

In spite of the series’ many missteps, moments do still connect and Hodges’ hunt for Brady is ultimately still entertaining, it could just be so much more. There’s certainly some enjoyment and surprises to be had here, just don’t expect for it to be appointment television. While it’s entirely possible that Mr. Mercedes turns it around in its final lap, the series is a drunken drive without brakes that need to be immediately taken off the road to be serviced.

Once again, just read the books. Here’s a link.

‘Mr. Mercedes’ premieres on August 9th at 8pm on the Audience Network (DirecTV)

This review is based on the first four episodes of ‘Mr. Mercedes’



  • Darren Kerr

    You say addicting…I say addictive.
    Let’s call the whole thing off.

  • Cheddar Hayes

    Only saving grace is that this show appears to be a Venom origin story.

    • Papa_spoosh

      Maybe im missing the joke, but why is everything being called venom origin story nowadays?

      • Matt Graupman

        When that movie “Life” starring Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal was released earlier this year, Brad wrote an article that had a shaky theory about it being a “10 Cloverfield Lane”-style Marvel tie in that was actually a Venom origin story.

      • Jayson Tomas

        LOL they are trolling Brad.

  • Busted up Corollas are perfectly adequate cars, thank you.

  • Brando

    Didn’t have high hopes for this one anyway.

  • Ocelot006 .

    Busted up Corolla? Sounds more like a Jeep rolling down the driveway only to crush you.

    • Sutter Cane

      Too soon….too soon.

      • Ocelot006 .

        No such thing as such.

    • Jada Maes

      Such a sad little asshole you are. Still humping the same joke.

      • Ocelot006 .

        There’s a new audience every time.

        • Bloodkry

          Bye-bye you sad excuse for a human being. Blocked!

          • Ocelot006 .

            If I’m offending that greatly, sounds like I’m doing my job.

          • Jada Maes

            Ah, your job is being a dick.

            Dude, you post the same goddamn joke EVERY TIME there’s a story on Mr. Mercedes. And every time you hide behind free speech like a pussy and insist you’re allowed to offend people and they’re not allowed to say anything back.

            I get it now. A young man dies in a stupid accident. He was wealthy, talented, handsome, and by all accounts a sweetheart. You, who I presume are none of those things, keep mocking his death to make yourself look edgy or something, because there’s no way you’ll get attention otherwise.

            We get it. Anton Yelchin would’ve started in this show if he hadn’t been crushed by his Jeep Har dee har. Now get a life.

          • Ocelot006 .

            I agree. He was talented. It takes some mighty talent to run yourself over with your own Jeep I must say.

  • Matt Graupman

    I’m not surprised that Harry Treadaway is the standout in this miniseries. He was excellent in “Honeymoon” and “Control” (although, I do give him too much credit sometimes because I keep mixing him up with Scoot McNairy).

  • Gregory Casto

    That article name had me hooked at busted up corolla

  • Bart Crowe

    I remember when good Stephen King adaptations were rare. I blame Rob Reiner and Frank Darabont for getting our hopes up. Now I just got sad because I’m imagining a world where The Dark Tower was directed by Frank Darabont.

    • James

      At least by a big time director with the skill, and the power, to pull off a true adaptation.

  • Aaron Johnson

    I didn’t like Brady as a villain in the book. He annoyed me with his tiresome racism. It just went over the top and I got bored with him. I found him one note. He’s EVIL therefore he’s a huge racist. It just ruined him for me.

  • Trav

    Wow, first the Dark Tower flops, and now this isn’t getting good reviews either. Let’s hope the new IT movie lives up to the hype!

  • jasonlives1986

    Daniel Kurland, have you seen IT? The remake that is.

    If not, you’re whole review is thrown into chaos by even implying so because for all we know it’s junk.

    • Matt Miller

      Right? No one has seen it and there they are saying it’s already a masterpiece.

  • macguffin54

    Funny, the consensus on Metacritic is that it is quite good. Do I trust this “reviewer” or everybody else? Hmm … Maybe it isn’t good, but I think I’ll have to wait and judge for myself.

  • Simon Allen

    I don’t mind The Mist …’s better than Preacher .

    • Aw man I’m LOVING Preacher this season.

      • Simon Allen

        That’s cool Trace …i’m afraid i’m done with it .

  • cattywampus

    I am a Stephen King devotee and I am always…always…disappointed in screen adaptations of his work. With his books, he gets inside my brain and either terrifies me or interests me beyond belief because my imagination can conjure up the characters far better than someone else’s screen version. King is a master of psychological terror and most film producers are not.

  • KSE1977

    Well, I was with you until you called the whole trilogy wonderful. End of Watch took everything that made the first two books great, took a dump on it and then offered it up. Taking a grounded, suspenseful crime thriller and then out of the blue turning it into a lame supernatural thing was a poor end to a good story.

  • aquarius2

    I watched the first episode and doubt I will watch anymore. The whole show moved really slow, had an occasional clip bordering on porn, and showed more people eating rather than talking. Really surprised to see David Kelly attached to this project.

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