‘Mr. Mercedes’ Season 1 Episodes 9 & 10: Slip Into Idle

On the last two episodes of “Mr. Mercedes,” things finally came to a head, as the ultimate master plan of Brady (Harry Treadaway) presented itself, just as Brady himself seemed down for the count for good. But was he really? Retired detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) was determined to find out and stop him, by any means necessary, even if it meant taking the law into his own hands.

As book readers know, the show went a bit off the rails here and there, in terms of following the narrative of the book, but never so much as it did towards the end. Granted, as Stephen King fans know, he can sometimes have a tendency not to stick the landing, as it were, but I didn’t mind the ending he concocted for this particular book, so I was a little miffed that they changed so much here.

Granted, they’ve changed quite a bit over the course of the show in general, but most of it wasn’t so bad, save the show’s tendency to make Brady so overtly and obviously crazy that one can’t help but wonder why no one suspected him of stuff sooner. In the book, he’s much more subtle and able to hide his true nature from everyone, making it a genuine shock to all those who knew him when his true nature was revealed, notably his fellow employees, like Lou (Breeda Wool).

Here, they kept Lou in the dark about it, as in the book, but to most everyone else, Brady comes off as a total loon, particularly his boss, Anthony Frobisher (Robert Stanton) and his mother, Deborah (Kelly Lynch). In addition, the way actor Treadaway plays him, he’s so clearly off his rocker, you have to wonder how he got away with anything, really. Not saying it’s a bad performance- quite the opposite, really, as the character is nothing if not creepy as hell- but it’s definitely quite different from the one in the book.

However, I could have lived with what were mostly minor changes if they kept the ending relatively intact, but aside from, thankfully, the very ending of the book and the way things go down, more or less, a whole lot was changed and most of it not for the better.

For instance, they have Brady kill his boss, deposit his body into his own bed, record a fake suicide video and rig up both his ice cream truck and a house fire, so that both are waiting for the cops when they arrive to take him down.

Further, when said cops arrive, they come complete with a SWAT team, and Hodges in tow, allowing him to take a dubious front seat to the action, even going so far as to give him a bulletproof vest and a gun and enter the premises during the initial siege. Literally none of this happens in the book whatsoever.

For those who want to know, in the book, it’s a much more grass roots effort from start to finish. Hodges, realizing early on that the cops are basically not going to be any help, does most of the legwork himself, with the help of Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) and Holly (Justine Lupe), all of whom crack the case on their own, down to breaking into Brady’s house and discovering his dead mother and his basement lair.

They then figure out that Brady’s going to bomb a local concert, where Jerome’s own mother and sister are in attendance, with the concert taking place that very evening. The three rush to the concert and talk their way inside, where Hodges does indeed have a heart attack, forcing Jerome and Holly to stop Brady themselves, which they do, with Holly delivering the blows to Brady’s head that render him a vegetable- but not completely dead- in the end.

Thankfully, the show keeps this final bit, with my favorite character from the books, Holly, remaining the hero, and Hodges downed by a heart attack in the clutch, but they change almost everything else there, as well, including the venue being an art gala in the open air, and having Brady attempt to kill Lou. Thankfully, she survives her ordeal and is able to clue Hodges in on Brady being there and his disguise as a handicapped man in a wheelchair.

As in the book, Brady does indeed don this disguise to sneak in, planting a bomb inside his wheelchair, so they did keep that, at least. TBH, I kind of get why they changed the venue part of it, given what happened at both the Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris and the Ariana Grande concert in England. One of the more effective things about the book was how eerily prescient it was about both these events and the opening bit, with Brady running down people in the Mercedes, a variation of which happened IRL not long ago as well.

I’m certainly not implying that King’s book inspired these people to do what they did- crazy doesn’t need a reason, or as they put it in “Scream”: “Motives are incidental.” Also, “Movies don’t create psychos- movies make psychos more creative.” As we all know, these are crazy times, we’re living in- Stephen King ain’t got nothing on real life these days. But I get the tweak the show made on the venue, nonetheless.

Still, I also miss the fact that it was ultimately a tale of three people against the world, as it were- three misfits that the world had judged inconsequential rising up and taking matters into their own hands and defeating the bad guy, with next to no help from anyone else. Okay, less so in the case of Jerome, who was Harvard bound at least, but certainly so in the case of Ret. Det. Hodges and the socially awkward Holly.

By involving the police so heavily, the show largely robs them of all of this, even though Holly still saves the day, thank God, and the show still ends with Brady down but not out. Gotta leave the door open for that sequel, right? Actually, there are technically two more books in the series- and counting, as rumor has it King might do yet another at some point.

I don’t want to get too far into the plots of those last two books, but suffice it to say that all of our fave characters are involved, though less so in book two, “Finders Keepers,” than in “End of Watch,” where Hodges and Holly, in particular, are front and center. Hodges, Jerome and Holly don’t show up until about halfway through the second book, which centers on the son of one of Brady’s victims from the Mercedes killings who was injured, but didn’t die, and Brady only has a cameo at best, his still being in a comatose state and all.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: books are books and movies are movies, so of course they’re going to change so things, especially if it makes things that much more exciting. I get that. I did enjoy the bit with the rigged ice cream truck, as that creepy music played as the SWAT team approached, expecting a bomb to go off at any moment. But I didn’t care for the way our real heroes were sidelined as a direct result of all these changes.

I did, however, like that Hodges got credit where credit was due in the show, whereas in the book, he is roundly condemned for his actions and the law enforcement basically takes away his ability to become an official private detective, because of his unlawful meddling, which includes breaking and entering and potentially endangering the life of a minor in Jerome. Of course, that doesn’t stop him from basically doing it anyway, albeit under the auspices of being a “skip tracer” instead, so nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Like I said, in making all these changes, it might have allowed for more action, but it also robs the show of the whole “Us vs. Them”/”David vs. Goliath” aspect of the novel that helped make it so winning and one of King’s more endearing efforts- and endings, IMHO. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In addition, all these changes make for a whole lot more plot holes than the original book, where King kept things relatively simple by focusing in on only a few characters.

I grant you, there are some plot holes in the novel as well, but not half as much as the can of worms opened up by changing as much as they did here. I get that it makes the proceedings more action-packed, and we get more killings and Brady being evil moments, but it’s also at the expense of logic at times.

That said, I’ve no doubt some will disagree, and say that all of this stuff actually added to the proceedings, and enhanced what might have been a more low-key effort in last two episodes otherwise. To each their own, I guess. I mean, I didn’t hate it, really- overall, I quite enjoyed the adaptation, and it was infinitely better than, say, the summer’s earlier King effort, “The Mist,” which was cancelled after one lackluster season.

It was also perfectly cast, thanks to a fine performance from Gleeson, in particular, and strong supporting turns from Treadaway, Lynch, Jerome and especially Lupe. The direction and cinematography were also top-notch, and the writing was pretty solid, more often than not, even if it occasionally traded action for logic, a trademark that “Mr. Mercedes” hardly owns the copyright on, TV-or-movie-wise. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.

So, yeah, overall, I quite enjoyed it, even if it occasionally rankled the literature purist in me. I suppose that’s to be expected, in most any adaptation. One good thing about all this, though, is that, between this, “IT” and the more recent “Gerald’s Game” and upcoming Netflix adaptation of “1922” and the promising new TV series, “Castle Rock,” King is definitely back, and then some. (Pay no attention to the bumps in the road that were “The Mist” and “The Dark Tower,” lol.)

As a longtime King fan- I’ve been reading his stuff since I was a kid and have read nearly every one of his books to date- that’s great news, not in the least given that he seemed to have fallen out of favor for a while there, at least in terms of being adapted for TV and movies. As much as I hate how they dropped the ball on “The Dark Tower” in particular- which really should have been a “Game of Thrones”-style TV adaptation, TBH- at least they’re starting to make up for it with the more recent ones.

I also can’t wait for some of the announced ones, like the long-awaited adaptation of “The Talisman,” a proposed remake of King’s opus, “The Stand,” the second “chapter” of “IT,” and especially “Castle Rock,” which looks great. Granted, viewers may suffer burnout after a certain point, but, for now, at least, everything’s coming up King, and I like that he’s getting more involved with things as well, even if they sometimes get away from him, a la “The Dark Tower.”

All in all, “Mr. Mercedes” was a fine effort, and the good outweighed the bad for me, even if I bristled at some of the major changes. That’s probably just the writer and book lover in me, I suppose. Either way, I genuinely hope that the showrunners here, including David E. Kelley, follow-through on the other books, though I could live with them skipping “Finders Keepers” and going straight to “End of Watch,” if need be, in order to keep the current cast more prominent.

(Edit: The Audience Network just announced that a Season 2 will indeed be forthcoming next year, with Kelley and company already attached. You can read more about it here.)

What did you think of “Mr. Mercedes” on the whole? I’d especially like to hear from the book readers among you- did you appreciate the changes they made, or hate them? Or did you like some of them and hate others? For those who didn’t read the book, how did it play for you? Did you like the outcome, or did it leave something to be desired? From my description, do you think you would have preferred the original one? Sound off on this and more down below, and thanks for reading!