Welcome to The Book vs The Box! Here I discuss some of my favourite reads that have been adapted for television or box office. I’ll be looking at authenticity, casting and plot changes, whether watching the material lives up to reading it and which I preferred.
Today’s choice: Mr Mercedes – Stephen King
Mr Mercedes was published 3rd June 2014 by King’s usual publisher Hodder & Stoughton, use the link above for Goodreads’ full synopsis.
The show was first picked up by AT&T in 2017 and is currently rated 8.0/10 on IMDb.
“Tells the story of a psychopathic killer who drives a stolen Mercedes into a crowd and a recently retired detective who tries to bring him down.”
Interestingly, best-selling author Dennis Lehane works as a screen writer for Mr Mercedes, a point I was thrilled to note during the opening credits.
Let’s begin with how perfect the casting choices are. Both the appearance and affected behaviours of the actors and actresses in Mr Mercedes were near enough exactly as I’d imagined them from King’s writing. Our main protagonist and antagonist in particular are captured perfectly by Brendan Gleeson and Harry Treadaway giving the adaptation an authentic feel of the book.
Unfortunately Jerome doesn’t get as much screen time as I would have expected and I felt too that Holly could’ve been further fleshed out during the first series.
Instead we see a lot more of Ida- Bill’s overbearing neighbour, Pete- his ex partner in law enforcement, and Janey- Holly’s cousin, daughter of the Mercedes owner. However, each of these characters were justified in their additional screen time via new plot twists and their roles in the character development of Bill. The same can be said of Lou- Brady’s colleague and Frobisher- Brady’s manager, I don’t remember reading quite as much about them as we get to see in the television series, but they contribute well to the overall story.
I won’t spoil any surprises for you. It has been 4 years since I read Mr Mercedes and perhaps my memory is not entirely trustworthy, but I definitely zeroed in on several key changes to the plot. Had I been watching the television adaptation immediately after reading the book I would’ve been clearer, so I think it’s best that I’d waited a while in between. There were a few moments of WHO is that? This is NOT what happened! Luckily my memory was muddied enough that I could happily bear these changes, and in the cases of obvious discrepancy I was enjoying the show so much I really didn’t mind.
There are variations on murder weapons, venues and timings but I felt the omissions and additions brought forward strengthened the storyline of the television show. They gave me something to look forward to… discovery of the unknown!
So which did I prefer? Perhaps because I’ve watched Mr Mercedes recently in comparison to reading it years ago, or maybe it’s my feeling that the changes made for the television show enriched my initial experience of the story. I didn’t think I’d say it but actually- I prefer the show! For season one anyway, I get the idea that my opinions will be completely different after season two.
At present I’ve only finished season one of Mr Mercedes. Having begun season two and taking a peek at further episode synopses I can tell you that it jumps past Finders Keepers and begins instead from End Of Watch. Considering book 2 is separate from the Brady Hartsfield plot this seems a wise choice.
However, the plot for season 2 seems to be drastically altered from King’s supernatural version in End Of Watch. Surprisingly this hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm, if anything I’m interested to see where they will take us next!
Have you read or watched Mr Mercedes?
What did you think?