Brendan Gleeson Mr. Mercedes
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Credit: Hodges Productions/Peacock

Your guide to Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes ahead of its SYFY debut

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Mar 12, 2021, 1:55 PM EST (Updated)

Next week, Mr. Mercedes, the acclaimed crime drama based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, will make its debut on SYFY for viewers who perhaps haven't seen the more hard-boiled side of King's imagination. The series premiered on the Audience network all the way back in 2017 and more recently was moved over to NBCUniversal's new streaming service, Peacock, but no matter how available a show is, there are always outliers who mean to watch something but never actually find the time. If that's you, then the show's SYFY premiere might just be your chance to dig into this tense cat-and-mouse story of a retired cop and the brutal cold case he just can't leave behind.

So, if you're still uninitiated to the world of Mr. Mercedes, we're here to help. Before the first three episodes premiere on SYFY on March 16, here's what you need to know about the show.

Origins

Like many of Stephen King's stories, Mr. Mercedes began with something he encountered out in the real world, in this case, a news story about a person who drove their car through a crowd of people in line to apply for jobs at McDonald's. As King explained during an event at UMass Lowell in 2012, after seeing a local news segment on the story, "I thought to myself 'I want to write about this.' I didn't know why I wanted to write about it, or what I wanted to write about it. I just knew that I wanted to write about it."

What began as a short story about this brutal incident soon evolved into something more as King's imagination took over. He began to imagine the act of violence not as something that happened in the heat of the moment (as was the case with the local story he saw), but as the premeditated plan of a monster who'd somehow managed to get away with the whole thing and go into hiding. To hunt this monster, King dreamed up a retired detective looking for a new sense of purpose in life, and the result was not just one novel, but a trilogy of hard-boiled crime stories unlike anything else in King's catalog.

The Story

Like the novel, Mr. Mercedes the series follows retired detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson), a man who feels adrift in the world after leaving his life's work on the police force behind. When we meet him, though, "adrift" starts to feel like an understatement. Divorced, drinking too much, and losing his drive, Bill begins to think that his life almost isn't worth living anymore. Then he receives a message from a man claiming to be the Mercedes Killer, who drove through a crowd at a job fair years earlier, slaughtered 16 people with a Mercedes, and was never caught.

Credit: Peacock

As his former colleagues all urge him to leave the case to them, Bill finds himself caught in a web of obsession he can't escape, but the tension doesn't stop with him. Part of the power of Mr. Mercedes as both a book and a series is in the way it interweaves Bill's story with the story of Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway), the Mercedes Killer himself, who launches a deadly game with Bill from his basement that will only end when he's caught — or when Bill is dead.

The Series

Like many Stephen King novels, Mr. Mercedes quickly picked up an A-list roster of talent to adapt it, both in front of and behind the camera. Writer David E. Kelley, whose hits include The Practice and Big Little Lies, stepped in to develop and script the series, while Jack Bender (Lost) joined as a director. In addition to Gleeson and Treadaway in the two leading roles, the show's cast also expanded to include Holland Taylor, Mary-Louise Parker, Justine Lupe, Jharrel Jerome, Scott Lawrence, Nancy Travis, and more.

Though it began development as a limited series adapting Mr. Mercedes, it soon began expanding. King himself had grown the Bill Hodges story into a trilogy of novels, releasing sequels Finders Keepers in 2015 and End of Watch in 2017, giving the show plenty of room to run. The first two seasons of the series adapt Mr. Mercedes, while the third season tackles Finders Keepers. If the show were ever to be granted a continuation after its three-year run, there's still plenty of Bill Hodges material left to work with.

Oh, and for those Constant Readers with an eye on the Stephen King Multiverse, it's worth noting that the series and the books share some connective tissue with other King works. Justine Lupe plays investigator Holly Gibney, who's also been seen onscreen in The Outsider, where she was played by Cynthia Erivo. Outside of the Hodges trilogy and The Outsider, Holly also appears in the title novella of King's If It Bleeds collection, which was released last year.

How to Watch

Mr. Mercedes will make its SYFY debut via a three-episode marathon on March 16, beginning at 11 p.m. EST. If you get hooked, you can binge the entire series on Peacock.