Based on the first book by Stephen King in a trilogy based around former detective Bill Hodges, Mr. Mercedes is the latest high octane drama to hit Audience Network.
It features a top notch cast, offers an opening scene both stomach churning and emotionally disturbing, and moves on to analyze individuals involved in the case through a societal lens to help understand their motivations and actions.
Mr. Mercedes rounds out an interesting trio of similar entertainment options this August with USA's The Sinner and Discovery's Manhunt: UNABOMBER. The three series speak to the nature of crime and the detectives driven to solve even what appear to be the most impossible cases.
Mr. Mercedes begins with a devastating crime delivered in excruciating detail. While some may consider what they see to be over the top, it's important to the set the tone for all the characters going forward that the audience is as close to the ghastly intentions of the killer as possible.
It's often too easy to discover the backstory of a madman, and subsequently, relate to his desire to act out if you are not given a front seat to the devastation he's caused initially. That won't be an issue with Mr. Mercedes.
Not only will the audience be witness to the initial crime, but they'll get to know the victims, too. That's important, but it's also difficult to take. As it should be. Horror stories are King's forte, but the horror of humanity without the supernatural element can be far more frightening.
Retired police detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) left the force with many unsolved cases on his plate, but the Mercedes killer was the one that chipped away at his life force.
Two years after the crime in which 16 people were mowed down with a stolen Mercedes at a job fair and 32 were injured, Hodges can't adjust to retirement. He's overweight and drinks too much. He needs a hobby, says his caring neighbor, Ida (Holland Taylor).
When the Mercedes killer reaches out to taunt Hodges, he can't help but lean into it, even if it means angering his former partner and being considered a fool. At least it gives him the motivation to get off the couch.
At the same time, the audience gets to know Brady (Harry Treadaway), who could easily be seen as a victim. Among life's pleasantries, he's been subjected to an alcoholic mother, incest, and the loss of his father at an early age.
Brady is even a computer geek at a store similar to Best Buy. He hates his boss and feels put upon by the man. But the correlation to the actual victims of his crime reminds viewers everyone has their issues. How they handle them is what defines their humanity.
Mr. Mercedes becomes a cat and mouse game between these two men. Hodges needs to find and put an end to the personal torment he's suffered as a result of allowing the Mercedes case to go unsolved.
Brady needs to put an end to his personal torment, whatever the original genesis of that might be (it's not revealed by the end of the fourth episode). We haven't learned by this point what has driven him to be the person he is despite his many, shall we say, challenges in life.
It's clear he has had issues from an early age, but what's not is why he has made any of the decisions he's made. It almost feels as if he's taunting Hodges in the hope he'll be the man who will end his torment for him, even if he doesn't know yet that's what he wants.
To catch Mr. Mercedes, Hodges will immerse himself in the case. He's done that before and the results weren't pretty. When Hodges picks up and responds to Mercedes possibly for the first time speaking the killer's language, the stage is set for Hodges to move beyond and through his past mistakes.
Brady might get the answer he didn't know he was seeking by poking the sleeping bear. We get thrilling performances from Gleeson and Treadaway.
The series also stars Kelly Lynch and Mary Louise-Parker, and there is a lovely story connecting Hodges to a young man named Jerome (Jharrel Jerome).
Mr. Mercedes doesn't pack the punch of Kingdom, but the cast makes it a worthy successor on Wednesday nights. Gleeson is the perfect choice for Hodges, and his gruff yet charming demeanor is irresistible.
As this is King's first hard-boiled detective tale, my biggest issue with the episodes I watched thus far was how seasoned detectives could have dropped the ball so many times. It could be that I'm in 2017 and they're in 2010-12 or that I watch so many true crime shows I'm just that good, but I'll let it slide.
Until the episodic reviews, anyway.
If you don't already have DirecTV NOW or another way to watch Audience, you have time. Mr. Mercedes premieres Wednesday, August 9 at 8/7c. Don't miss it!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.