Mr. Mercedes S03E01 “No Good Deed”

Ira and Bill sit having tea in her kitchen at the dining room table, looking at a photo frame

So here we are, at the start of Season 3 of Mr. Mercedes. Last season ended with the exceptionally brave and unexpected move of killing off the title character, Brady Hartsfield, aka Mr. Mercedes. So now it seems we will have a Mr. Mercedes show without a Mr. Mercedes character. The promos for Season 3 talk about how this season will show that his presence is still being felt and having an impact on the community of Bridgton, Ohio. But of course, there are also hints that there could be more. We’ll see.

A lot of fans of the novels are bent out of shape that they have been taken out of order, with Season 2 following the 3rd book, End of Watch, and now Season 3 following the 2nd book, Finders Keepers. Not too much of a mystery there to me. They didn’t know if they would be picked up for a 3rd season, so they went with the content that featured Mr. Mercedes. In Finders Keepers, Brady is out of commission for mostly the entire story.

Other fans, those who most likely did not read the novels, were taken aback by the left turn into the supernatural last season. On Rotten Tomatoes, the Critics Rating and Audience Ratings reversed themselves, with Season 1 getting 86% / 92% and Season 2 getting 100% / 76% respectively. Critics loved it, but we lost some viewers along the way. Maybe this season’s much more conventional protagonist can reel them back in.

John Rothstein sits up in bed, a look of concern on his face
Famous author John Rothstein (played by Bruce Dern) is confronted in bed.

Home Invasion

We start on a dark and stormy night. Two young hooligans, Carl and Morris, are driving deep into the woods to engage in a little home invasion. Their target is the famous writer, John Rothstein (kind of a cross between J. D. Salinger and Stephen King himself, I suspect). Reminiscent of Paul Sheldon in Misery, Rothstein did not kill off his most popular character, Jimmy Gold, per se, but rather relegated him to a suburban hell, complete with a wife, two kids, and a job in advertising. The horror. He’s since retired to Bridgton and become a bit of a “crazy-ass recluse living out in the woods.” Carl has misgivings about the plan, a definite step up from their usual petty car thievery, but Morris is convinced the old man has to have a lot of money stashed at the place. Plus, worst case, they get to meet the greatest American author that ever lived.

They wake up Rothstein only to find that he’s more than a little cantankerous. He eggs on Morris to shoot him and give him a “proper ending” to his life. While those two trade barbs, Carl finds a safe full of money and manuscripts. Morris posits that these might be more Jimmy Gold stories. At this, Rothstein changes his tune and tries to encourage them to just take the money and go. As the two would-be burglars are distracted by their respective treasures, Rothstein pulls a gun and shoots Carl. Morris reflexively shoots back and kills the author.

Now we confirm that Morris really is a super fan. Rather than checking on his friend, he goes to Rothstein first. “No, no, no,” he keeps repeating to himself. Realizing what he has done, he even briefly puts his gun into his own mouth, but can’t pull the trigger. Giving up on that, he digs out a suitcase from the closet, packs up the money and manuscripts, and drives off. Distraught with grief, he nearly runs another car off the road and ends up rolling his own down a hill.

Judge Raines, in robes and a blue bowtie, sits behind the bench, with the Seal of the State of Ohio hanging on the wall behind him.
Judge Raines is not satisfied.

“I’m Not Satisfied”

The first “good deed” of the episode’s title would be Lou Linklatter ridding the planet of the horror show that was Brady Hartsfield. Lou has been in jail in the intervening period, and is now up for her arraignment hearing. Bill Hodges arrives to a scene outside the courthouse that is both familiar and inverted. Chants of “set him free!” (Brady) have been replaced with “set her free!” (Lou), as the civic-minded citizens of Bridgton apparently love to express their first amendment rights.

The judge in her case is not happy with either side, because the prosecution is not offering any deals, and the defense is not pleading insanity. Putting him in the unenviable position of potentially having to convict the local folk hero and put her away for life. Later in the episode, Bill leans on DA Tony Montez (from Season 2) to exert some influence over the prosecutor, pointing out that they are largely responsible for putting Lou on the path to killing Brady. He agrees, but when the offer comes in, it’s for 15 years, which is untenable to Lou. She chooses to go to trial.

Pete stands on the side of the wreckage of a car in the woods, looking around.
Pete looks around to see if anyone is watching him.

Pete Finds a Suitcase

Morris wakes up the next morning laying sideways in his demolished car, extremely beaten and battered. He manages to free himself, but he just can’t to get at the suitcase in back and has to leave it behind. Here is one of those moments that highlights what I love about this show. This scene could have taken a few seconds, but instead they take their time with it. Lingering on him struggling to get out of the car, barely standing upright as he leans heavily against it, inching his way towards the back, and then struggling again to reach in for that suitcase. Two and a half minutes of his exhaustion, his pain, and his frustration. No dialogue except for one exasperated cry when he finally gives up. It’s magnificent.

Morris makes his way up to the main road and collapses just as a truck passes him. The truck stops and a man gets out and runs to him. Later we cut to Morris waking up in the hospital, banged up but not too bad off it turns out. The nurses identify him as Michael Lee, from an apparently fake ID he had on him. He gives them a story that he was hit at night while hitchhiking, and then as soon as he gets a chance, he vanishes from the ER.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Pete and his dad. In a perfect “show, don’t tell” moment, we can size up what’s happening in Pete’s family pretty quickly. Dad is out of work, with some sort of leg injury. Mom is the one bringing home the bacon, a further insult to his injuries. Pete is a little worried about him, maybe even missing his old dad, who wasn’t that bad of a guy.

Pete takes the dog out for a walk in the woods, and they stumble across the wreckage of Morris’ car. Spotting a loose bill, he traces it back to the suitcase and manages to get it free. Stunned by the contents, he takes the suitcase back home, sneaks it past his dad, and hides it in his bedroom closet.

Bill Hodges sits in a chair in his office, breathing into a paper bag.
Bill tries to come to terms with the death of his favorite author.

Fan Grief

Montez stops by the Finders Keepers office to see Bill. Rothstein has been discovered murdered, and naturally he sees this as his “new career lottery ticket”, since the Brady trial didn’t happen. He wants Bill to keep him in the loop should he hear anything through the grapevine. Bill, however, is struck dumb. Turns out he too is a super fan of John Rothstein, and he’s practically in shock at the news.

He later tells Ira that Rothstein was the main reason he moved to Bridgton, Ohio, and he even got to meet the man once as a young officer. He tells her that he wants to get the man who killed Rothstein, and Ira recognizes a new obsession forming in Bill. The next day, Bill tells Holly that he wants them to open up a pro bono case for the Rothstein murder.

Morris stares intently at Stan, while Stan looks off in the distance reminiscing
Morris chats with Stan in his office.

No Good Deed

Morris returns to the getaway car only to find the suitcase missing. He patrols around looking for hints as to what might have happened to it, even driving by Pete and his dog at one suspenseful moment. Then he stumbles upon the appliance repair shop of Stan McNair, the Good Samaritan who saved him on the side of the road the other day. Here would be the second “good deed” of the episode title.

Stan is amazed to see Morris up and about, and invites him inside for a beer. Morris asks him why he wanted to remain anonymous, and Stan admits he has a supplemental business going that he’d prefer not to draw attention to. The friendly banter starts to turn dark when Morris asks his if he’s ever come across “a big ole pile of money?”

Morris eventually works his way up to outright accusing Stan of stealing the suitcase, and insists that if Stan will just give him the binders, he can even keep the money. Stan puts two and two together and realizes this must be the guy who robbed John Rothstein. They tussle and Morris shoots Stan in the head, somewhat accidentally. I’m telling you, this guy is a crack shot under pressure. Apparently worried that the bullet could be traced back to him, the episode ends with him taking a drill to the back of Stan’s head to bore it out. Yikes.

Where Is Brady?

As I mentioned in the intro, there are a few places where Brady’s influence can be felt already in this first episode. Of course, one of the main reasons Lou does not want to cave in and accept a deal is that to her it would mean Brady wins. Carl and Morris met the night of the job fair massacre and were spared, perhaps for bigger things, Carl believed. It hasn’t been revealed in the show yet, but in the novel, Pete’s dad was also there that night and got his leg injury as a result.

The closing song might also hint of things to come in this season. The song is “Goin’ Out of My Head” by Little Anthony and the Imperials. As in, maybe Brady escaped his head and is still out there somewhere in the world? Recall that Lou found his “fingerprints” on all the electronic equipment in his room. And there are still all those cheap little tablets that were donated to the school—the same ones Brady used to control hospital librarian Al in the last season.

Then again, it might just be a funny song to play as Morris drills into Stan’s head in the final scene.

Mr. Mercedes in the News

One last thing before we go. In case you didn’t know, Stephen King released his newest novel, The Institute, on Tuesday this week. It was immediately announced on the same day that it had already been optioned for a limited television series. The same team that brought Mr. Mercedes to fruition are slated to work on this project as well. That being David E. Kelley to write and executive produce, and Jack Bender to direct and executive produce. Sounds promising.

Season 3 of Mr. Mercedes airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET/PT on AT&T AUDIENCE Network. AT&T AUDIENCE Network is available on all AT&T video platforms including DIRECTV CH. 239, AT&T TV NOW, and U-verse.

Written by Brien Allen

Brien Allen is the last of the original crazy people who responded to this nutjob on Facebook wanting to start an online blog prior to Twin Peaks S3. Some of his other favorite shows have been Vr.5, Buffy, Lost, Stargate: Universe, The OA, and Counterpart. He's an OG BBSer, Trekkie, Blue Blaze Irregular, and former semi-professional improviser. He is also a staunch defender of putting two spaces after a period, but has been told to shut up and color.

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