Mr. Mercedes S03E05 “Great Balls of Fire”

Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney sits on a bench in the courthouse, both looking unhappy.

I have to say, I’m perplexed by the title of this week’s episode, “Great Balls of Fire.” The first three episodes had titles that very definitely indicated a theme playing out in several plot lines throughout. Last week’s title, “Trial and Terror,” was more of a play on words, but even at that, there was a trial and there was terror. But what’s going on with this one?

Of course, when you first hear the phrase “great balls of fire,” your mind is immediately drawn to the Jerry Lee Lewis song. A song about a man being driven crazy by his lover. A little lewd perhaps, definitely some sexual innuendo going on. The only budding romance we have though is between Holly and Roland, and their wholesome courtship would be better represented by something from Captain & Tennille, or the Carpenters perhaps.

Looking at it as a more general linguistic phrase, it’s intended to be “an exclamation of surprise or delight.” Unfortunately, there’s nothing really surprising or delightful this episode. This one is kind of a transition episode, with a lot of setup for things to come. Morris and Alma take the first steps against their respective targets. Lou’s murder trial finally starts in earnest. Tension builds between Morris and his “bookstore buddy.” Tension also builds between Pete and his parents.

The phrase’s origins do imply some biblical references, which have been creeping in here and there this season. Burning bushes, fire raining down, and other “wrath of God” type stuff. Again though, not a lot of that happening in this episode.

I dunno. I’m stumped. If you have any ideas, let me know in the comments.

Bill Hodges sits on the witness stand, unhappy look on his face, with a US flag and Ohio seal in the background behind him.
Bill Hodges takes the stand, unexpectedly early.

“So like Scrooge and shit?”

OK, so last week I put out a theory that the John Rothstein of Bill’s dreams/daydreams is actually another manifestation of Brady Hartsfield. I’m 100% sure of it at this point. He’s getting bolder and bolder. This time not just talking at Bill, but interacting with him; conversing with him. Coyly though, he claims that he’s just Bill talking to himself. Which is, of course, exactly what Brady wants him to think.

A couple things weigh on my mind about this. For one thing, and this is a spoiler for the books, so skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know, but at the end of the trilogy Bill Hodges dies. So if they only intend to work out the three books here on screen, even though presented out of order, they could very well be intending for Bill to die in the end. I’m trying to think of how the Finders Keepers crew could stop a supernatural Brady who can basically go anywhere and be inside anyone, with no physical body to tether him down. It’s going to require a sacrifice, I’m betting. One Brady will not expect.

Montez sits on the stand, with blood trickling out of his right eye.
DA Montez takes the stand, and Lou has another horrible vision of blood trickling out of his eye.

“You and I? We’re Brady bashers.”

Of course, one of the things Bill has to be depressed about now is his performance in the trial. The prosecution subverted Lou’s “de facto surrogate” plan by using Bill as a surrogate for their case. This shows some masterful plotting on behalf of the writers, pulling in elements from Season 2, where Hodges nearly killed Brady twice but held himself back. Did they have this planned all along for Seasons 2 and 3 to flow together like this?

Both Bill and Montez had their moments on the stand in this episode, realistically only leaving Holly and Lou to testify on screen. With five episodes left, I don’t see the trial stretching on through them all. They’ve inserted a lot of David E. Kelley type courtroom drama into the original material, but ultimately the resolution is going to have to happen outside the courtroom. Certainly this is the case for the cat and mouse game between Morris and Pete. But it was also hinted that Lou’s story will end up outside the courtroom, when she tells Holly “I’m gonna be sounding real good when I’m out though.”

Lou said something else to Holly in this episode that I thought was particularly telling: “I need you to be comfortable in your own skin in a way…(laugh)…in a way that I can’t.” Given the premise that Brady is “haunting” Lou and Bill, is he saying here that for some reason he can’t get inside Holly’s head? Because why, she’s crazy? That would be interesting, since it seemed more the other way around in Season 2, when Brady possessed the nurse on anti-depressants and Library Al with the mental handicap.

Morris stands in the courtroom hallway with a very serious look on his face.
Morris delivers his assessment of the trial.

“Lou Linklatter is a hero in my book.”

Alma is upping her game this episode, with a two-pronged approach to get in close with both the Saubers family and the Finders Keepers team. She’s smart enough to see that their exposure could lead to police interest, spurring her to do a little “spring cleaning”. Of course, she might just be making room in the freezer for Morris, because his loyalty has been waxing and waning as of late. His reveal that he’s really only in it for the books seemed to genuinely surprise her.

Speaking of spring cleaning, what was Pete up to in his room? He cleared out his backpack and pulled all of the manuscripts out of the suitcase. I hate to say it, but he’s almost certainly got to be headed back to Halliday’s book store. Though what he hopes to accomplish, I can’t imagine. More bad decisions.

Alma stands in her shed, Danielle's frozen body in the foreground, with a small chainsaw in hand.
Alma prepares for a little bit of “spring cleaning”.

Quick Takes

A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:

  • Pete’s mom is still running interference between him and his dad, but you can tell now that she’s siding more with the dad. The visit by the police obviously rattled her, opening her up for Alma’s machinations.
  • Pete has a scene with Ira as his teacher introducing him to Jimmy Gold, mirroring the one with Morris last episode. They do have a bit in common, though I don’t see Pete strangling his mother any time soon.
  • Speaking of mirroring, the scenes with Marjorie Saubers and Alma and with Holly and Lou both had “why are you looking at me” / “I’m worried about you” moments, back to back. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything to that. It just caught my eye.
  • “My son was a dope” has got to be the saddest epitaph a parent could ever give their child.
  • Freezing first really is the key to chopping up a body and feeding it into a wood chipper. So much less mess. Although I would always recommend you wear eye protection.
  • The song Alma is belting out during that scene is “Don’t Rain on My Parade” by Barbra Streisand, from the Funny Girl soundtrack.
  • That final song didn’t carry over into the credits as usual. Perhaps the darker score over the credits was intentional, setting the mood for the halfway point for the season.

The best lines of this episode:

  • “My insurance doesn’t cover it, so I’ve got to slum it and talk to you.”
  • “Well she aimed for his nuts but she missed.”
  • “He projects his anxiety when he’s nervous.”
  • “You’re scared I might try to kiss you or something?” “No…well, yes…um, no.”
  • “He was a little boxed in by the truth.”
  • “They only put ordinary failures on TV nowadays, it makes the ads look better.”
  • “He hurts me. And then he helps me. And then he hurts me. All I got to do is know which one is which.”
A reporter with microphone stands in front of a crowd of protesters.
A TV reporter tells of Bill Hodge’s poor performance in court.

Mr. Mercedes in the News

More interviews this week. Natelie Paul (DA Sarah Pace) was interviewed by ESPN’s sports and pop culture website The Undefeated (October 3). There is more hype preceding the release of In the Tall Grass on Netflix this Friday, with an interview of Joe Hill and Stephen King together for USA Today (October 3).

The most exciting news for Mr. Mercedes fans is that Stephen King’s next book release has been announced, and it will include a new Holly Gibney story! The book, titled If It Bleeds, will be a collection of four novellas, in the same vein as Different Seasons, Four Past Midnight, and Full Dark, No Stars. Entertainment Weekly has an exclusive excerpt (albeit a very short one) from the title novella, “If It Bleeds”, which is the one that features both Holly Gibney and Ralph Anderson (from The Outsider). If It Bleeds will release on May 5, 2020.

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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