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Another Fascinating Season with 'Mr. Mercedes'
September 10, 2019  | By David Hinckley

It might seem like faint praise, or redundancy, to suggest one of the main attractions of a psycho-crime drama is a funeral scene. 

In the case of Mr. Mercedes, whose third season debuts at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday on AT&T (formerly DirecTV) network, it’s a particularly arresting moment in a show that offers many. 

Brendan Gleeson (top) stars as Bill Hodges, a former cop and now private investigator haunted by a case in which a calculating madman killed 16 people by plowing his car into a crowd. 

It’s no surprise, by the way, that an automobile was the weapon of choice for the psychotic Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway). Mr. Mercedes is based on a trilogy by Stephen King, whose writing has often suggested he may have had a troubled relationship with motor vehicles in his youth (not to mention his nearly deadly one in his 50s). 

In any case, at the risk of spoilers, Hodges finally caught up with Hartsfield at the end of Season 2, resulting in a showdown that seemed to leave both of them with indeterminate injuries. 

At the risk of further spoilers, both are around at the start of Season 3, though not necessarily in peak condition. 

Hodges has progressed further in his rehab, and the first episode shows him going through some paces of ordinary life. 

When a tree falls on the prized gazebo of his sometimes annoying and basically decent neighbor Ida Silver (Holland Taylor), he recruits his former cop partner and best friend Pete Dixon (Scott Lawrence) to come over and help him rebuild it. 

Things take a turn away from HGTV projects when tragedy strikes and Hodges finds himself delivering that eulogy. While Hodges is not a polished speaker, Gleeson captures the essence of funeral-service torment, a volatile mix of adrenalin, anger, and sorrow. While few of us wish to be dead, we would all wish to have someone respond this way to our lives. 

This turn of events leads to one potential silver lining. Hodges’s researcher/assistant Holly Gibney (Justine Lupe) temporarily moves into his house so he won’t be alone. 

It’s not a romantic thing. It’s one wounded bird trying to find a way to comfort another. Holly harbors multiple neuroses, but she’s brilliant when focused, and for viewers’ purposes, she’s a great character. 

Next year, in fact, Holly will be getting her own HBO miniseries, based on another King novel. She’ll also be played by another actress, which is too bad because Lupe is smashing. 

Meanwhile, back in Mr. Mercedes, the stakes rise for Dr. Felix Babineau (Jack Huston) and his wife Cora (Tessa Ferrer). He has developed a drug he hopes may have the potential to cure brain illnesses like dementia, and since his wife works for a pharmaceutical company, she has a potential golden goose in that race. 

One of Felix’s problems has been the lack of subjects on which to test the drug. So now, if discerning viewers were to learn that Brady Hartsfield suffered brain trauma, those viewers might connect the dot to Felix’s research dilemma. 

Don’t think of that as a spoiler. Think of it as a possibility. 

Mr. Mercedes takes a few leaps of logic. It compensates by offering a rich palette of characters, with even lesser players offering regular gems of intrigue. 

Gleeson’s Hodges is hardly the first cop to have dragged along the torment after he left the job. He gives torment its own spin, though, and the way he ducks and bobs his way through life, even with people he likes, makes his troubled and suspenseful journey intriguing to follow. 

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