“Madness” continues the third season’s new focus with another strong episode of mystery and drama.
This recap of Mr Mercedes Season 3, Episode 2, “Madness”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Looking over his fallen idol, John Rothstein (Bruce Dern), former detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) surmises that what might have been stolen from his home was infinitely more valuable than the reclusive writer’s hoarded cash. It might be the legacy of his work; a legacy that haunts every corner of Mr Mercedes Season 3, Episode 2 more than the specter of Brady Hartsfield ever did.
Everyone in this show is a fan of Rothstein’s work; if not a fan at least a begrudging admirer. Even Jerome (Jharrel Jerome), who thinks his prose is trash, has to concede he writes “great characters”, and comparisons to those characters are made throughout “Madness”. The transporting power of literature is brought up again and again. Bill owes much of his worldview to Rothstein’s work, as does petty criminal Morris Bellamy (Gabriel Ebert), who killed Rothstein and stole his manuscripts in the first place. Lured to Rothstein’s writing most recently is young Peter Saubers (Rarmian Newton), who found it by chance and will, if the source novel Finders Keepers is anything to go by, use the pilfered cash that accompanied it to keep his struggling family — mum Marjorie (Claire Bronson) and dad Tom (Josh Daugherty), who was permanently injured by Brady’s automotive massacre in the first season — financially afloat.
Everyone seems to know Rothstein, too. Alma (Kate Mulgrew), who informed Morris of the treasure trove and continues to manipulate him into tracking it down, had a particular grudge against him since she visited him in an hour of need and was told that, since she now resembled a cow, she might be best served by visiting India and hopefully being revered as a deity by the Hindu people. Bill has met him previously; when offered the opportunity to touch his corpse in the cool city morgue, he refuses, having already ticked the item off his bucket list when he was alive. But Antonio Montez (Maximiliano Hernández) talks him into it, and the experience changes him; he resolves to see the case of his missing manuscripts through, despite having sworn himself off of detective work.
Montez seemed to sense that desire in Bill even before his revelatory experience with Rothstein’s corpse, which is probably why in “Madness” he keeps secretly inviting him to crime scenes he isn’t supposed to be at. But the only real lead so far is that nobody involved with Rothstein’s murder actually possesses the loot. This is clear to Morris, too, who festoons the apartment he shares with Danielle (Meg Steedle) with local maps, under the guise of highlighting potential investment opportunities.
Mr Mercedes Season 3, Episode 2 is full of excellent dialogue exchanges that punctuate scenes of mangled bodies, unpleasant sex, and other hallmarks of Stephen King stories. Jerome’s explanation of the anger in Rothstein’s writing, and the melancholy it can instill in young men who lose themselves in his books, is one. Bill’s conversation with Ida (Holland Taylor) about those same books is another. A dinner table debate about gun control and a tearful father’s confession in the Saubers household help to add some texture to the family, who haven’t been given much to do yet. And Bill’s clashing with the self-serving Judge Raines (Glynn Turman) over Lou’s (Breeda Wool) trial is a masterpiece of macho posturing.
That trial is given plenty of attention in “Madness”, as Lou’s lawyer, Roland Finkelstein (Brett Gelman), attempts to brief her of potential outcomes while preparing a legal defense based on necessity; an idea that Raines, who scoffs at Bill’s signed affidavit testifying to Brady’s mind-control powers, is dismissive of. Somewhat arbitrarily, Raines orders Lou to be detained at a psychiatric facility while her ability to stand trial is tested; during a closing montage, as she arrives in her cell she sees Brady standing in the corner, closing the episode with a terrified scream.