'Mr. Mercedes' season 2 finale review: After coming to a stunning end will the Stephen King adaptation return for a third season?
With another chapter of the Bill Hodges trilogy coming to a close, could the showrunners be planning a third season based on 'Finders Keepers'?
[Spoiler Alert: Key plot details from the finale of the second season of Mr. Mercedes (also a few from the books). Proceed at your own risk!]
The penultimate episode of 'Mr. Mercedes' presented an unexpected yet anti-climactic twist, with Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) turning himself in and Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) ending up in the very next jail cell as the serial killer, thanks to two charges of assault and battery against Hartsfield and his doctor, Felix Babineau (Jack Huston). Good and evil were separated by just a few bars of steel as Hodges found himself in an unlikely position and left viewers wondering where exactly things would go from here. The finale of the second season leaves you with the very same feeling in regards to whether the show has scope for a third season, but not before redeeming itself with a massive payload and a breathtaking curtain closer.
The episode opens exactly where we left off, with Hodges and Brady finally face to face. As the tenuous exchange progresses, we quickly learn that the whole ploy to put Hodges in the cell adjacent to Brady's was cooked up by ADA Tony Montez (Maximiliano Hernandez). Looks like Brady didn't plan this one after all. Detective Marks (Fredric Lehne), who interrogated Hodges rather convincingly in the last episode was in on the whole thing at it turns out it was a trap to try and get a confession from Brady that his whole shtick about being a changed person was just, in Hodges' own words: "a load of bullsh**t."
Brave attempt, but ultimately unfruitful because it ends with Hodges nearly choking Brady to death after the killer successfully provokes the easily irritable former detective. A large chunk of the episode is a tense courtroom drama. It's the trial of the century and Hartsfield's defense is that thanks to Babineau messing around in his head with Cerebellin, he is now not the same person as "Mr. Mercedes". Montez is not standing for it and pushing for the death penalty. Everybody invested in the case is in the courtroom. Hodges, Holly, Cora (Babineau's wife and the mastermind behind spinning Brady's story as a leap in medical science) - they're all there and so are the families and wellwishers of Brady's many victims from the Mr. Mercedes killings.
The back and forth between prosecution and defense suddenly spins the show, which started off as a hardboiled detective fiction into the speculative fiction genre as we tackle with issues of pharmaceuticals, the future of the medical industry, the ethics of government approval and the legal implications of all this. The episode successfully makes the entire season cohesive, sticking home the landing while flitting between genres in order to adapt the Stephen King series faithfully on screen.
Montez and Hodges are at their wit's end and can't believe that Hartsfield actually has a chance to go Scott free. As they discuss the situation in the local bar over beers (which Montez highly suggests that they must imbibe), Hodges offers himself as a witness who can testify that Brady is indeed the same person and that he's faking the whole thing. After Montez tears the idea apart with a slew of loopholes, Hodges suddenly remembers Lou Linklater (Breeda Wool) who can actually gauge if Brady is indeed the same person and also take the stand as a suitable witness. The episode suddenly gains steam with Lou's addition and Breeda Wool's performance is definitely one of the biggest highlights. Lou is terrified of being in the same room as an alive and kicking Hartsfield. But after successful coaxing from the duo, the fear of knowing that she is the last chance to put Brady away for good helps Lou make her decision.
Lou's interaction with Brady is one of the best moments of the season so far. Treadaway brings his A-game as he keeps us guessing if his character is indeed a changed man with a conscience and not the home-grown serial killer that we saw in season one. Brady admits that he remembers stabbing Lou, but claims that he "felt" something at the moment of the crime, unlike the night of the Mercedes killings. He also seeks Lou's forgiveness and recollects fond memories of their time as colleagues, and Lou breaks down into tears. Lou finally makes her appearance in court and asserts that Brady is indeed the same person that stabbed her and that although he seems to have sprouted a conscience, is very much the same as Mr. Mercedes and also "the most intelligent person I have ever known." She holds her own during the cross-examination too.
But in a twist that practically nobody sees coming, as Lou walks past Brady after she steps down from the stand, she looks him dead in the eye and says, "I do not forgive you. I do not," before suddenly pulling a gun and shooting Brady Hartsfield at point blank range and promptly throwing up. As Brady slumps onto the table with a pool of blood forming around the ripped socket where his right eye used to be, we're left wondering: What in the world just happened? Is that the end of the Mr. Mercedes saga? There's a sense of poetic justice to it all. Brady was Lou's best friend and he changed her life forever after stabbing her at the art gala. In Brady's final moments, his mouth curls into the familiar psychotic smile, perhaps hinting that he wasn't the changed man he claimed to be. But we can't know for sure. Lou, as we learn from the cutaway to local news reports, used a 3D printed gun with a ceramic bullet to kill Brady - one that could not be detected by the metal detectors in the courthouse. And the clincher? It was Brady who taught her how to make the weapon.
The last few minutes of the show wrap up with Hodges merrily sitting in his backyard and painting his pet tortoise Fred. He looks positively elated and has found new outlets to spend his retired life now that his obsession with Hartsfield has come to an end. We are left with memories of season one as an ice-cream truck pulls up outside Hodges' house - similar to the one Brady used to drive. A tennis ball from the kids' street hockey game lands in Hodges' backyard. He adds a nice touch to his painting by turning the yellow sun in the corner into an evil yellow smiley face, (a reference to Brady's calling card in season 1) which might suggest that perhaps the obsession does live on. It's a neat ending but it leaves you wondering - now that the Mr. Mercedes saga is done, will the show return for a third season?
AT&T still hasn't confirmed if it will, but judging by the overwhelming response to the new season and the sustained popularity of the show, it very well might. The TV show did take a slight detour from King's trilogy in the new season. The show skipped the middle book 'Finder Keepers' and instead based the season on the final book of the trilogy 'End of Watch'. Showrunners David E. Kelley and Jack Bender rightly identified Hodges and Hartsfield as the main propellers of the show and evidently decided to take the step to keep the flow in the storyline going. Now that Hartsfield is dead (surely they are not going to pull a ridiculous stunt and reveal that he's still alive), the prospective third season might go back to 'Finders Keepers', which finds Hodges trying to get to the bottom of the murder of reclusive writer John Rothstein. It is a trilogy after all and it would be apt to end the show with three high flying seasons and quit while ahead. That being said, it could also be that the show pulls something completely new from its sleeve and goes completely off track from the books. Only time will tell and an official word about the third season should arrive soon.