A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mr. Mercedes is a TV adaptation of Stephen King's Bill Hodges trilogy. The show is about a serial killer who wears a clown mask, and it contains other horror elements, though it's more hard-boiled detective fiction rather than King's typical brand of supernatural horror. There are some Easter Eggs referring to King's popular works hidden throughout the show. Violence and sexual content are both used frequently to shock and upset the viewer. A man drives a car into a crowd of people, intending to murder as many as possible. A woman has an incestuous relationship with her son. A man is seen masturbating in silhouette. Animations of violence and sexual content are also shown, including a baby's head exploding and a drawn penis being masturbated. Profanity is used throughout the show and includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," etc. Characters also drink and smoke, and one character is an alcoholic. Mr. Mercedes clearly tries to appeal to fans of King's horror films and books, but the violence and other graphic content mostly comes off as excessive and unnecessary.
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What's the story?
MR. MERCEDES is about retired detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleesan) who can't seem to let go of an unsolved case. Two years ago, when Hodges was still with the police, he worked on a case where someone intentionally ran their car into a group of people. Hodges dubs the killer "Mr. Mercedes," named for the make of the vehicle that was used for the murder. Now in retirement, he's starting to get mysterious and disturbing emails alluding to the crime. Meanwhile, the troubled Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) appears to be following Hodges around. Could he be Mr. Mercedes? Or are he and Hodges linked in another way?
Is it any good?
Stephen King fans undoubtedly have a certain set of expectations whenever his work comes to the screen. They want to be spooked. Mr. Mercedes is an adaptation of King's detour into hard-boiled crime fiction, but it tries to satisfy King fans' supposed blood lust with gory violence, disturbing sexual content, and some obvious referrences to King's library. The problem is that none of these horror elements actually add to the story, which is really focused on Hodges' co-dependant relationship with a serial killer. Think Silence of the Lambs, Dexter, or the BBC's Luther, all of which know how to be unsettling without alienating folks who have less interest in violence and gore. Instead, Mr. Mercedes settles for cheap thrills in a show that doesn't call for them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the mystery. Who is Mr. Mercedes? What do we know about him? Why is Bill Hodges still interested in the Mr. Mercedes case? How does he go about working on it?
Who is Brady Hartsfield? How is he connected to Bill Hodges? How is he connected to Mr. Mercedes?
How does Mr. Mercedes differ from other detective shows? How is it similar and different to other Stephen King works you've read or seen?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love horror
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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