The Student
Review
What to Watch in Lockdown. Week 3: Mr. Mercedes

I’ll be the first to admit that this week of lockdown has not been a good week. I don’t know if it’s because the reality has set in and the novelty has worn off, if I’m just getting lonely, or if I miss the vitamin D, but I haven’t really had much energy this week and have failed to turn up with any film recommendations whatsoever. I have not watched anything that I could recommend as a lockdown watch with complete confidence.

Nonetheless, all of the films I managed to watch this week were good, so I’d like to talk about them for a second anyway. First up was the incredible spy thriller Atomic Blonde, packed full of atmospheric 80s music and refreshingly realistic fight sequences with Charlize Theron kicking butt (plus James McAvoy reinventing his shaved head look). Then I watched Thoroughbreds, a slow, dark comic thriller with memorable performances from Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke. Next was a lazy Saturday afternoon with I, Tonya, one of my favorite biopics, filled with enough details to ensure you can enjoy every new watch. I can never get tired of Allison Janney’s Oscar-winning turn as LaVona Golden, and I highly doubt you will either.

Yet what I would recommend this week has actually been a TV show. I intended for this series of articles to recommend films, but the reality of lockdown life – sharing the house with a family – means that my viewing habits just aren’t the same anymore.

A new habit that I have been forced to adopt is watching an episode or two of television as a family every night with dinner. I didn’t appreciate this at the start – our first pick, Castle Rock, began to drag for me and I felt trapped with it – but, as we’ve moved onto our second choice, I’ve come to love this hour or two that we share. On a Stephen King bender (we started with The Outsider), we decided to watch Mr. Mercedes. It’s based on a three-book series that my mum raved to me about when she read it, and, since it stars our household favourite Brendan Gleeson, we were thrilled to watch it.

To quickly summarise: Mr. Mercedes stars Brendan Gleeson as Bill Hodges, a retired detective haunted by the Mercedes killing, where a group of jobseekers were run down by a stranger in a – you guessed it – Mercedes. Hodges is a grumpy old Irish detective full of surprisingly laugh-out-loud insults and one-liners, and it’s so wonderful to watch the found family that grows around him: Kelly Lynch’s Deborah Hartsfield, Jharrel Jerome’s Jerome Robinson, and Justine Lupe’s excellent Holly Gibney. It’s hard not to feel your heart warmed after seeing Hodges and Holly interact, thanks to their moving and endearing performances. It made me feel better even when I was having a miserable day.

I was also captivated by the performance of Harry Treadaway as the psychopathic Brady Hartsfield: even though he is clearly the villain of the piece, and a messed-up one at that, the performance is captivating. You can’t help but wonder what he’s going to do next, and at some points, I even found myself rooting for him. There’s also an amazing contrast between the music that represents him (punk and alternative rock) and the more country sounds that accompany the protagonist, and I loved the sonic and symbolic dissonance that was established between them.

Maybe Mr. Mercedes, a show about a disgruntled detective hunting a cruel Freudian psychopath doesn’t sound like the most inspiring watch for the family. But for me, I catch glimpses of happiness anywhere I can find them, and if that’s in watching a hard-boiled Stephen King cat-and-mouse, then I’ll take it.

Image: Ints Valcis via Flickr