×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Mr. Mercedes’ on AT&T Audience Network

With:
Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Holland Taylor, Mary-Louise Parker, Robin Wright, Jharrel Jerome, Breeda Wool.

David E. Kelley has been on a hot streak of late, with his series “Goliath” and “Big Little Lies” successfully negotiating the demands of both upmarket TV consumers and commercially minded drama purveyors. Unfortunately, “Mr. Mercedes,” despite its excellent cast, breaks that streak.

On paper, the combination of Kelley and Stephen King, the author of the book that the AT&T Audience Network series is based on, is a felicitous match. King’s novels often supply the kind of character nuance and wry detail that keep a reader turning the page, no matter how strange things get. For all his reputation as a master of various genres and their attendant spectacles and mythologies, King has a gift for putting readers inside the complex psychologies and dilemmas of believably layered people.

Kelley, for his part, has a knack for keeping the pace of a one-hour program lively and yet unrushed, and Amazon’s “Goliath” and HBO’s “Big Little Lies” saw the former broadcast network stalwart adjust nimbly to the challenges of streaming and pay-cable platforms. “Mr. Mercedes,” however, is an assemblage of shopworn elements that does not offer much in the way of crisp pacing, character depth or originality. The hoped-for qualities that could be mined from King adaptations and injected with Kelley’s usual verve are largely absent, and the end result is repetitive and saturated with sallow superficiality.

Brendan Gleeson plays Bill Hodges, a character type that fiction, TV and film cannot resist: the hard-drinking retired detective who can’t shake a big case from his past. The opening minutes of “Mr. Mercedes” depict the crime that deeply scarred Bill, and the sheer brutality of the act makes his PTSD and affinity for the bottle understandable.

But that gruesome crime also sets the stage for the dramatically inert developments that follow. The identity of the man who committed the crime is made obvious early on, and the viewer is expected to spend hours traversing the unhappy, claustrophobic mindscapes of two men who are not ultimately worth the effort. One man enjoys killing others, and the other has almost nothing in his life aside from the case that won’t leave him alone, and their frustrations — and their prickly demeanors — never take on the kind of nuanced specificity that this kind of dark saga requires.

A cat-and-mouse game between a cop and the disturbed killer who taunts him could be fascinating: Even when the audience knows how and why the characters are linked, the unexpected evolution of their relationship could supply suspense, as well as insights into the darker corners of human nature (and “Hannibal” did those all things with panache).

But “Mr. Mercedes” comes off as a plodding compendium of serial-killer and cop cliches, all conveyed via an unrelentingly dour tone and almost suffocating aesthetic of drab greens, blacks and browns.

“Mr. Mercedes” appears to be trying to say something about the state of America, the costs of toxic masculinity and the fraying of the social fabric. But its claim to fine-grained cultural commentary is hard to take seriously when a number of supporting characters, especially a manager in a big-box store, are either underdeveloped or cartoonishly broad. And though it depicts an incestuous relationship between an overbearing mother and her disturbed son, the show’s commitment to a certain kind of enervated realism keeps it from going full Gothic, which might have been one way to stir things up.

Like too many allegedly ambitious one-hour dramas of late, and despite the attempts of the talented cast to enliven their characters, this drama is a slow-moving mishmash that seems designed to try the audience’s patience.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Mr. Mercedes' on AT&T Audience Network

Drama; 10 episodes (4 viewed); Weds. Aug. 9, AT&T Audience Network (on DirecTV). 60 min.

Crew: Executive producers, David E. Kelley, Jack Bender, Stephen King.

Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Holland Taylor, Mary-Louise Parker, Robin Wright, Jharrel Jerome, Breeda Wool.

More TV

  • Cara Delevingne'Carnival Row' TV show premiere,

    Amazon Prime Video Signs Distribution Deal With Altice Europe (EXCLUSIVE)

    Amazon Prime Video has unveiled its first distribution deal with a telco in France, signing a pact with Altice Europe, which owns leading French internet, mobile and cable-TV provider SFR. The deal will give SFR customers access to the service via their set-top boxes, which is crucial in France, where households still consume content mostly [...]

  • Courtney Kemp Agboh'Power' TV show final

    'Power' Creator Courtney A. Kemp On Why Starz Series Hasn't Gotten Awards Recognition

    “Power” is a top ratings performer for Starz and has a hugely committed fanbase, but the series has lacked in its awards recognition. Other than honors from the NAACP Image Awards, “Power” has not received any awards or nominations from the Emmys, Golden Globes or SAG — something that star and executive producer Curtis “50 [...]

  • Breaking Bad Movie

    'Breaking Bad' Movie: Watch the First Teaser for 'El Camino'

    In case you hadn’t heard, Emmy-winning drama “Breaking Bad” is cooking up a movie sequel. On Saturday, after details of Netflix’s project quietly leaked online, the streaming giant issued the first teaser for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which will be released on October 11. Starring Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, the “Breaking Bad” [...]

  • Breaking Bad

    'Breaking Bad' Movie Release Date, Title and Plot Revealed

    The “Breaking Bad” movie is coming to Netflix sooner than you might think. The film, titled “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” is now set to be released on Netflix on Oct. 11, according to a report from the New York Times, with Aaron Paul returning as the series’ popular meth cook Jesse Pinkman. Jesse [...]

  • Laurence FishburneNational Memorial Day Concert Dress

    Laurence Fishburne to Produce 'Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur' Series for Disney Channel

    Laurence Fishburne is stepping into the animation game. The “Matrix” star is set to executive produce “Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur,” an animated series which has been given the greenlight at Disney Channel. Based on Marvel’s comic book series, the show hails from from Disney Television Animation and follows the adventures of 13-year-old super-genius [...]

  • Aracne

    Chile’s Sanfic, Mexico’s Morbido Fest Pact to Promote Latino Horror (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexican horror festival Morbido and Chile’s Santiago Intl. Film Festival (Sanfic) have agreed on a long-term collaboration intended to strengthen the genre film industry in Chile and across Latin America. This partnership will see Morbido representatives attend the Sanfic industry section each year to aid in the promotion of horror projects and advise those projects [...]

  • 'The Simpsons' Producers on Disney, Spinoffs

    'The Simpsons' Producers Talk Potential Disney Spinoffs, Confirm Apu Will Remain

    “The Simpsons” has never shied away from lampooning Disney over the years, but maybe that’s no longer the case. Homer, Marge and co. are of course now part of the Disney family and made their first appearance at the Mouse House’s D23 Expo convention, where the show’s producers were asked plenty of questions about what [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content