Sophomore seasons can be tricky. The novelty of the first season has worn off, so the pressure is on to create new tensions and conflicts with the established characters and context.
The delight of Mary Kills People Season 2 Episode 1 is that although time has jumped forward eight months from the end of Mary Kills People Season 1 Episode 6, the personalities that drew us in so completely last year have actually intensified during the hiatus.
And the action hits the ground running and NEVER. LETS. UP. I'm not ashamed to admit that I audibly gasped multiple times watching and genuinely admire the risky twists running amuck through this season's plot already.
When we pick up the story, Dr. Mary Harris has continued moonlighting as an "end-of-life consultant," helping terminally ill people end their suffering. Running her business solo for the last eight months has meant that she's become adept at acquiring the sodium pentobarbital as well as administering it.
The opening scenes that alternate between Mary's journey to her Mexican supplier and Des' life in prison are a study in juxtaposition. The adrenaline of anticipation in both. Mary's blindfolded while Des is handcuffed and both are escorted humorlessly to their destination.
Both are judged and nearly denied their desire. Here, the similarities end.
Where Des presents a subdued and contrite face to the parole board, Mary demonstrates a hard-as-nails demeanor (as well as some fluency in Spanish) to the Mexican veterinarian and the border agents to bring home the pento.
A friend once told me that life can make you strong or it can break you. There isn't much in between. I believe that this experience has made me stronger. It's shaped me into a better version of myself.Des
When they reunite, the changes are even more apparent.
Mary's efficient, methodical approach is a stark contrast to Des' befuddlement. He's out-of-step, resistant, and confused. His timing is off, and he throws a spanner in the works of Victor and Betty's plans.
To be fair, Mary's agreement to assisting Betty's suicide is a huge departure from the raison d'etre they had established at the beginning of their enterprise.
The fact that Mary was convinced to do this indicates that her moral compass is susceptible to some adjustment. Her definition of insurmountable suffering is beginning to broaden.
Suffering isn't always physical.Mary
When Betty takes that desperate leap from the balcony and Mary and Des run to the railing, I was suddenly transported to the series premiere when we first see the two of them dealing with a procedure gone wrong.
Then, it was a case of bad pento, supplied by Des' dealer, Grady (played to creepy perfection by Greg Bryk) who met his demise in last season's finale. Here, Betty's attempt is an act of despair fueled by Des' refusal to help a healthy person die.
Mary: We help people who want to die.
Des: No, we help the terminally ill shuffle across that rainbow bridge a bit faster. We don't murder perfectly healthy individuals who happen to be a bit sad!
Common link? You got it. Des.
The theme that develops here is that Des attracts problems. He brought Grady into their lives and business last season. He was also identified as the weak link in the partnership by the police investigating Mary and was even convinced to wear a wire.
Apparently, Des' parole was big news because EVERYONE knows about it when it happens (well, except Mary) and that attracts two more problems into the mix.
The biggest is obviously the magnificently wicked Olivia Bloom (played by the wickedly magnificent Rachelle Lafevre) who slips into the seat next to Des at the bar, tumbles into bed with him, and then drop-kicks him into a murder scheme.
When it's revealed that she's Grady's sister, I had to applaud the brilliant line of continuity. Her daughter, Maya, was the singular indicator of Uncle Grady's humanity last season. Olivia makes it clear when we meet her that Maya is the most precious thing in her life.
However, she isn't dealing with last season's Mary Harris. When she demands that Des murder her husband, he runs to Mary and she takes control with a vengeance.
Just, for the record, if you were dying, I would not want to die with you. I mean, I love you but I love life more.Des
Their confrontation (once Maya makes the introductions) is epic in its simplicity.
Olivia comes in with the expectation of compliance, probably built on a lifetime wielding fear and control.
Mary comes back with "I killed your brother, and I will kill you too" and doesn't even seem to acknowledge Olivia's sense of entitlement.
The other major problem waiting to ambush our heroes (?) is Louise, Des' former attorney.
In a tantalizing stinger last season, she viewed the surveillance footage that showed Mary and Des in the police sting operation. That she was, at the time, living with Mary's ex-husband, Kevin, should've probably thrown up some conflict of interest flags at that point.
Eight months later, she and Kevin have broken up, and he's moved back in with Mary "temporarily," and Louise still has the footage. Unexplainably, she throws the memory stick into a box of his stuff that she returns via Jess who is still hanging out with her daughter, Naomi.
Well, unexplainably for sane people. Naomi's crazy is probably hereditary. I'm just hoping Jess doesn't catch it.
Right. Jess and Naomi. Argh. So much dysfunction. So little sense.
In a weird little echo of the "Bloody Mary" game that Mary catches Jess and Cambie playing in Mary Kills People Season 1 Episode 1, we get to watch Jess choke Naomi into unconsciousness because that's Naomi's newest kink.
She's crazy. I'm just impressionable.Jess
I'm grateful that they've added another classmate, Heather, to the mix in that she can come right out and point out the stupidity of their pastime. My biggest problem with the Jess/Naomi relationship has always been that no one ever witnesses the shenanigans Naomi pulls, and that seems both improbable and dangerous.
That Heather also seems to be a thoughtful and intelligent young woman only serves to highlight and possibly escalate Naomi's nuttiness. One can only hope that she turns out to be a friend that can draw Jess into some sort of sanity.
I don't believe in a traditional god, like, white man in the sky watching down on us all in judgement, but I believe in a higher power that I can talk to, that has my back in some cosmic way.Heather
Returning to the problems that Des attracts, once she tells him that she does this job better without him (and rightly so!), Mary is at least able to right one wrong in being able to assist Betty to self-administer a lethal morphine dose.
As always, the clients are the most sympathetic characters presented. Betty and Victor are so incredibly in love, and Betty's agony at facing a life without her husband is heart-wrenching.
Her final moments, slipping into death using "the means" that Mary hands her (I guess we can count on awesome episode titles once again), are blissfully restful. Finally, a single happy ending amid the chaos brewing.
Des: Our service is for people who are dying.
Betty: We're all dying. It's just a matter of timing.
It'll be interesting to see if this will come back on Mary as well. Because it's not like she doesn't have enough people gunning for her so far, right?
Her administrator, Dr. Dunn, is a huge jerk and since she's already circumvented his orders about a patient's CT scan, he'll probably be interested when a patient dies of morphine overdose while the alarm sensors are mysteriously paused. Probably because morphine is expensive.
There is so much to process, and yet I'm tempted to watch Mary Kills People online to review the first season again. With only six episodes per season, it's almost overwhelming how many plates they've set spinning.
My only gripe with this premiere? Sister Nicole hasn't made an appearance yet.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.