Martin Carr reviews the seventh episode of Mr. Mercedes…
Harry Treadaway lurks under the bed of your collective unconscious hacking into those thoughts we prefer people keep to themselves. Brady Hartsfield is the culmination of sexual congress, incestuous transgressions and borderline foster care upbringing. Blessed with a high IQ, limited social skills and a psychotic nature, he is high functioning, low rung and purposely off the radar. Lording it over everyone from his own Cape Canaveral Brady is the architect of your undoing, monitoring everything, accessing anything and pulling those marionette strings to make people dance. Through a combination of characterisation and interpretation this lo-fi cybernetic psycho has become the driving force behind Mr. Mercedes.
Whether through colleague manipulation, parental conditioning or explosive intervention all others revolve around that dark little vortex. Hodges and Janey play happy couples, make breakfast, arrange funeral services and cuddle in a clandestine fashion, while Holly and Jerome have a meeting of minds. There is semantic banter about apologises, one Glengarry Glen Ross homage with a lower end salary sort of vibe and one moment guaranteed to blindside those unfamiliar with the book. Some low-level cyber hacking sits at the heart of a signposted romance in the making while Robey and Brady drift further apart. However Brady and his mother Deborah remain at the heart of ‘Willow Lake’.
One scene which builds slowly, is filled with silence and ends on a simple wordless admission says more than numerous other rants could have achieved. Not only is this done through the words of veteran novelist Dennis LaHane, but more noticeably through the actors themselves. For all the talking it is these moments in between which hollow you out from inside. Lingering looks of silent denial and self-satisfied arrogance are shared while their intimacy takes on a chilling undertone.
Director Jack Bender hangs on these moments to breaking point challenging you to look away or man up, while his greatest achievement happens in the final minutes. Cross cutting between a life changing event and counterpointing that with a solemn voice over, brings home the influence of our modern-day basement Svengali. Only then in that second is the title for this episode realised, only then is the enormity driven home like a wedge between the ribs. In the aftermath there is nothing but emotional wreckage, smouldering remnants and memories of what might have been. Broadsided and reeling there are no words, no soundtrack and no silver lining left to convey hope or salvation.