Mr. Mercedes season 2 episode 6 review: We finally know how Brady has been controlling minds
Episode 6 of the new season tries to desperately bridge the gap between sci-fi and the supernatural before we set off on all the thrills and chills of the soon-to-come climax.
[Spoiler Alert: The following review discusses key plot details from episode 6 of the second season of Mr. Mercedes. Proceed at your own risk!]
We're just past the half-way mark of season 2 of Audience Network's 'Mr. Mercedes' and the thrills and chills have started to pile up in the Stephen King screen adaptation. While the show still manages to keep returning fans from the previous season interested, it does seem at times that the writers and showrunners are clutching for straws when it comes to explaining Brady's newfound bodysnatching powers.
The sixth episode, titled 'Proximity', brings us another inch closer to the soon-to-come climax that will be the second face-off between Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) and Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway). The episode opens with a dream sequence - actually a dream within a dream - in which Brady for some odd reason has Hodges' "procreational digit" tied to a string.
The scene adopts a bit of a meta-narrative to try and convince audiences why it's possible for Brady to stay alive. Brady's analogy is that if Hodges is capable of having a dream within a dream where Brady seems to be in complete control, it's not too farfetched for him to be a mind-controlling vegetative, comatose serial killer!
"If while asleep, the machinations of the mind are complex enough for you to be having a dream within a dream, all the while factoring actual conscious obsessions, is it any wonder the line between reality and fantasy sometimes gets a little blur," Brady says to Hodges in the dream. But it seems as though the line is really coming from the writers to the audience, another ultra-complicated attempt to explain Brady's seemingly supernatural powers.
The previous episode also spent a fair amount of time trying to explain this leap, trying to close the gap between wild supernatural conjecture and palatable sci-fi in the second season of the show, which did a hard left turn from the hard-boiled detective fiction of season 1, which was pretty grounded in gritty reality. Explanations involving quantum theory and 'entanglement' were offered up in the previous episode, along with the shaky theory that the boundaries of the mind are yet to be determined by the medical community and that "anything is possible".
This almost desperate attempt to convince the audience does not ease into the plot, but glaringly stands out as a repeated reminder to viewers that we must somehow internalize the fact that nothing is operating within the limits of the ordinary in the show anymore. The scene where Hodges warns Lou (Breeda Wool) about science failing to find an explanation is a particularly good example of this forceful attempt. And Lou's reaction sums up what impatient viewers are thinking - "F**ck," she says in disbelief!
The episode does have a lot packed into it otherwise too. Montez (Maximiliano Hernandez) is now fully convinced by Bill that Brady is definitely sentient. After Hodges tracks down Montez's dog's killer to be Al from the hospital (who did what he did under Brady's influence), he starts to see a definite connection between nurse Sadie's suicide, his dog's murder and Brady's frequent spikes in brain activity.
Meanwhile, Dr. Felix Babineau (Jack Huston) and his wife Cora (Tessa Ferrer) are finally in the thick of things after being on the sidelines throughout the season and they're not in a happy place by any stretch. The pressure is definitely on for them to wake Brady up as soon as possible as Hodges finally pieces together that the duo is directly responsible for Brady's body-snatching abilities. They're left helpless after Hodges confronts them in his typical maverick fashion, leaving them with no choice but to finish what they started. Again, the motives for Babineau messing with Brady's brain seems pretty week. If indeed the aim was to attain fame as the pioneer of a medical breakthrough, why choose a mass murdering maniac as your guinea pig? Somehow, both characters feel flat and undercooked, even this far into the season.
Under the pressure of the circumstances, Cora reveals a secret about the brain regenerating experimental drug that Dr. Babineau injected into Brady. Cora reveals to Felix there was a “test group” in an Asian prison drug trial and the “control group” somehow committed suicide after the former mind-controlled them into it. Babineau is outraged that Cora held the vital information from him and is now stuck in a Catch-22 situation.
The character drama is still delightfully well executed - one of the stronger aspects of the show. We see Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) finally pour his heart out about the disillusionment of his Ivy League education. Holly (Justine Lupe) is still having a roller coaster of a relationship with her co-worker and friend Hodges, but she's embraced her independence and has found new purpose as a private detective. But Breeda Wool's exploration of her character Lou's conflicts and mental struggles is what really takes the cake in the episode.
Towards the end of the episode, we are reminded of the classic theme of good vs. evil, which has been at the very core of the show since season 1.
This reminder comes thanks to Ida's (Holland Taylor) unsolicited psychoanalysis of Bill. "You are an addict," she tells Hodges, "and Brady is your drug." She proposes the theory that in some twisted sense, Brady gave Hodges a new purpose in life and pulled him out of his alcoholic, disheveled state. Hodges is our flawed Byronic hero, and Brady is the personification of chaos. It's a Batman vs. Joker kind of situation, but with a Stephen King twist to it all!
The episode ends with Hodges receiving a text from an unknown number that reads “olly olly oxen free,” the very phrase Hodges uses to try and bait Brady out from his vegetative state. Did Hartsfield just hijack another poor soul and get them to taunt Hodges with the text? We'll find out in the next episode of 'Mr. Mercedes', titled 'Fell On Black Days', which premieres next Wednesday, October 3 on the Audience Network. Stay tuned.