Friday 6 December 2019

Mr Mercedes bows out with a scorcher of a season three finale

5 stars

Sleeper hit: Brendan Gleeson as retired detective Bill in Mr Mercedes
Sleeper hit: Brendan Gleeson as retired detective Bill in Mr Mercedes
Memorable characters: Justine Lupe, Jharrel Jerome and Brendan Gleeson in Mr Mercedes

Pat Stacey

There were ominous signs of imminent disaster plastered all over last night’s terrific season three finale of Mr Mercedes like spots on a Dalmatian.

One of the best things about the series — but also the thing that makes every single episode such a knuckle-gnawingly tense experience — is that you simply never know who’s going to cop it next.

The first season alone featured the shock deaths of Brady Hartsfield’s mother Deborah (Kelly Lynch), who ate poisoned meat, and Bill Hodges’ girlfriend Janey (Mary-Louise Parker), blown up by a bomb Hartsfield had planted on Bill’s car.

Of course, Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) finally got his at the very end of season two, which also claimed Bill’s detective pal Pete (Scott Lawrence) — although in his case, it was a banal heart attack that did for him.

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In this year’s run, which has arguably been the most violent and gory yet, the body count has gone through the roof. The monstrous Alma Lane (a wonderful addition to the canon of great screen villains, brilliantly essayed by Kate Mulgrew) killed people like murder was going out of fashion, her weapon of choice — and she packed a vast choice — being an ice pick.

Alma was herself murdered by her increasingly deranged lover/accomplice/unwitting sap Morris Bellamy (Gabriel Ebert) at the end of last week’s instalment.

At every point during the three seasons, any member of the little Scooby Gang-cum-surrogate family that Bill (the magnificent Brendan Gleeson) has gathered around him — Holly (Justine Lupe), Jerome (Jharrel Jerome), Lou (Breeda Wool), Ida (Holland Taylor) — could have been fair game. In this series, nobody is ever truly safe.

Given all this, the sudden reappearance in the finale of Bill’s daughter Allie (Maddie Hasson) set the alarm bells ringing, especially when she and her dad started talking about dreams and death.

She confessed that she’d been having nightmares about Bill being in danger, and burning, like he was in “the fires of hell”.

He, too, had been dreaming that he was a burning man. The episode was even called ‘The Burning Man’, dammit! How more ominous can you get?

Then again, anyone who’s read Stephen King’s trilogy of source novels might have copped that various lines of dialogue scattered throughout season three have subtly hinted at tragic developments in the books that haven’t yet transpired in the series. That’s not to say they never will, mind you.

In the end, there was a conflagration, but neither Bill nor any of his beloved entourage suffered so much as a singe on the eyebrows.

Not so Morris, who burned alive along with the Rothstein manuscripts he’d spent the 10 episodes desperately trying to get his hands on. Having the ghost of Rothstein (the great Bruce Dern) disappear into the flames with the last things he’d ever written was a particularly clever touch.

In a way, the finale felt like a special moment for Mr Mercedes. All the people you wanted to survive, survived. Holly finally did the sensible thing and got together with lawyer Finklestein (Fleabag’s Brett Gelman, showing he can do decent every bit as convincingly as despicable).

Allie told Bill he was going to be a grandfather, a prospect that delighted him. Incidentally, the scenes here between Gleeson and Hasson were beautifully written and played, a testament to the vast talent involved in every aspect of this superb series.

You could go as far as calling it a happy ending for all concerned... except for a gut-punch final scene showing Lou, who announced she’d found a job in “catering”, showing up in Bill’s neighbourhood in the same ice-cream van Hartsfield once used as a cover.

It brought up a question that’s been buzzing around in the background: when Lou said Brady was “inside her head”, was she being delusional, or has he not quite loosened his grip on this world?

Mr Mercedes (RTE2)

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