“Fade to Blue” brought Mr. Mercedes to a shocking, if fitting, conclusion, after a final hour-long showcase by a dynamite cast.
This recap of Mr. Mercedes Season 2, Episode 10, “Fade to Blue”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The verbal sparring match that opens “Fade to Blue” quite neatly encapsulates what works, and what has always worked, about Mr. Mercedes, despite the fact that this is the first time in the second season that Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) and Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) have been able to communicate face-to-face. Their twisted relationship is at the core of the series, and their respective sides of the argument which begins the finale are as true to their respective characters as you could imagine; Bill, on the one hand, righteous and indignant and disgusted, and Brady, on the other, endlessly manipulative, provocative and sinister.
It was no accident that they found themselves as cellmates; if anyone can withdraw the true Brady from the guilt-wracked simulacrum that waddled from the hospital last week, it’s Bill. Antonio Montez (Maximiliano Hernández), supervising through the security cameras, only added to the tension, and when Bill eventually began to choke Brady, their shared delight at the ruse (“He was choking. Any luck he still is.”) was the smart payoff to a great opening.
I’ll never tire of Montez’s incredulous expressions, and he gets plenty of opportunity to flex them when Brady’s trial begins and his hotshot defence lawyer argues that he is unfit to stand trial as he now, having been “cured”, possesses no mental connection to the perpetrator of his crimes. It’s an argument that is ridiculous but also, in some sense, legally sound, which is why it’s so frustrating. And props to Mr. Mercedes for ably simulating the kind of public fervour – and pathetic placard-wielding absolution – that might accompany such a trial.
According to Montez, if Brady is able to convince a judge that he is fundamentally a different person, and that this other, separate person is neither criminal nor mentally unsound, the court will have no choice but to release him. To prevent that, the prosecution requires a testimony that can prove he’s the same person now as he always was, and since Bill is so mired in legal trouble of his own, the only suitable candidate is Lou (Breeda Wool). She, understandably, isn’t keen on the idea. But what can you do?
Spurred on rather charmingly by Holly (Justine Lupe), Lou meets with Brady face-to-face. It’s a great scene, if a fruitless one, narratively speaking. But Breeda Wool has always been the underrated MVP of Mr. Mercedes, and when she’s opposite Treadaway the two have a rapport that is mostly unmatched by any other pairing in the cast.
Reliably, “Fade to Blue” spares time for a touching, low-key scene in Ida’s (Holland Taylor) newly-built gazebo, attended by Bill, Holly, Ida and Jerome (Jharrel Jerome), and as unconventional as this group is, one of the great triumphs of Mr. Mercedes is that when they say they love one another you can believe them. Jerome and Holly have perhaps been slightly underserved by this season, but as a group they play off each other remarkably well, and it’s tempting to want to be there with them in that gazebo, sipping lukewarm tea and listening to Bill swear.
But there are other places to be. Namely, Brady’s trial, where Lou, smartened up but still comically underdressed, testifies against him. It goes okay. She doesn’t break down on the stand, but she’s tripped up a little by Brady’s slick defence lawyer. Then, on the way out of the courtroom, she pulls out a 3D-printed handgun that Brady taught her to make, and shoots him in the fucking head.
Well, blimey. Can’t say I was expecting that.
But really, when you think about it, it’s kind of a perfect resolution. The awkward legal ramifications of the trial were sidestepped. Lou got her revenge. Nobody else will die at the hands – or the wheel – of Mr. Mercedes. And the fact we were never told conclusively whether or not Brady had been “saved” left things on a refreshing note of ambiguity – although his smile as he lay twitching suggested that perhaps, for some people, there’s no such thing as change after all.