I often wonder: if there weren’t any detectives on TV, what character archetype would producers turn to when they had to make interesting shows? Well, the new protagonist of Arika Lisanne Mittman’s show The Irrational isn’t really a detective but a behavioral scientist who lends his services to law enforcement agencies when they need help solving cases. Now, this area of deduction through the study of behavior is not unheard of, but making an entire show based on this particular area of interest implies that the show has enough tricks up its sleeve to surprise us. Based on Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational the show revolves around a professor named Alec Mercer who works at the prestigious Wylton Institute for Advanced Hindsight. When he is not teaching, he seems to be working in dangerous environments, dealing with criminals with his knowledge and insights. The first episode gave us a peek into Mercer’s world, and we got to see him solve a case.
How is the issue of memory associated with Mercer’s case?
The theme that runs throughout The Irrational Episode 1 is that of memory. Can we really trust our memories? Do they deceive us, and if yes, how often? Alec Mercer has a burn scar on his right cheek, which is the first thing people might be interested in. Being a behavioral scientist, he knows this, so to avoid unnecessary gossip, he immediately addresses this topic in front of his students. He tells a lie, though. The event that gave him a scar was related to a bomb explosion, but he didn’t want to freak anyone out. There is a charm about Mercer. Even though he has a scar, he doesn’t feel self-conscious because of it. Giving off the vibe of a smooth talker, his full potential as a cool customer is visible when he negotiates with a criminal who has taken someone hostage.
His memory is shaky, therefore he cannot recall what really happened on the day of the bomb blast. This might also signify that he likes to play his cards close to the chest, and oversharing is one habit he doesn’t have. Either he gives the full information or none at all. He had images flash by in his mind regarding the event, but the whole truth eluded him. So, he understood the trouble with human memory. This became vital when he got invited to study a case revolving around a retired marine who claims he murdered his ex-girlfriend, even though he cannot fully remember it.
Why did Mercer help Dylan?
A young woman named Jasmine was murdered. Dylan, her ex, claims he did it. When Mercer got hired to look into the matter, as there were high-profile people involved, he became interested in the case when Dylan remembered the whole night, but the exact moments where he shot Jasmine dead were a blur in his mind. Being a behavioral scientist, he ran an interesting experiment where he got a few students to go on a shopping spree. He deliberately pinned the act of scratching costly lab equipment during their spree on the students, and everybody got convinced that they might have scratched it, given they were in a hurry.
Even with Mercer’s memory regarding the bomb blast being hazy, he remembered images from the event, with the rest being a blur. The same phenomenon was being displayed by Dylan. Mercer had a hunch that Dylan just thought he had pulled the trigger under the influence, but in reality, he was simply convinced of a lie, just like his students. The police weren’t keen on this behavioral science stuff Mercer was bringing in. They had a clear suspect in front of them. Mercer had to dig up some clues before the police created a strong case against him and let the real killer have some breathing space. The thing that intrigued Mercer was that Dylan was hell-bent on owning up to the crime, which he found to be highly unusual. Dylan had an episode in Afghanistan where his unit was attacked and only he survived. Mercer was interested in this detail as he suspected him of suffering from PTSD, and perhaps his survivor’s guilt could have made him confess to the murder.
What Had Happened In Mercer’s Past?
Mercer might have kept himself busy with the teaching and the cases, but his personal life is in disarray. He has divorced his wife, Marisa, and lives with his sister, Kylie. Losing track of time studying a case was one of his habits, which he was notorious for. The only good thing seemed to be that his relationship with his wife was still professionally amicable. Marisa, an FBI agent, didn’t mind Mercer’s presence in the cases. Personal stuff aside, she really admired his skills. Mercer could easily remove himself emotionally from a situation, which gave him an edge over others to study a case, but he couldn’t switch off this ability in his marriage, which is why it ended.
The news of the suspect in the bomb blast that killed 13 people and gave Mercer the scar being up for parole triggered his past traumas. A man named Wes Manning was suspected of the bomb blast, but Mercer couldn’t identify him due to his blurred memory. Wes was convicted for nothing more than possession of the bomb, but not for being at the place itself. Mercer wanted to go to the hearing to see Wes and perhaps remember what truly happened years ago.
How did Mercer solve the case?
With the parole hearing coming up, his mind was a little preoccupied, yet he paid close attention to all the details regarding Dylan’s case. When another suspect, a woman named Lila was investigated, the case got a bit convoluted. She was Jasmine’s social media competitor, and had motive to harm her. The only place that could give some clue as to how to solve it was the AA meetings where Dylan and Jasmine had first met. Dylan revealed to Mercer that there was a guy who was pestering Jasmine at the AA meetings, but nobody paid any attention.
Mercer went with his assistant, Rizwan, to these AA meetings to find out the truth. The thing that helped him was the AA badge found at Jasmine’s place. It couldn’t have belonged to either Jasmine or Dylan, as it was a five-year sobriety chip, and Dylan was just eight months sober. Jasmine hadn’t even crossed eight months, let alone five years. In the meetings, he shared his past traumas regarding the bomb blast and how Wes had escaped justice. He did this purely to bond with the others. His plan worked, and one of the men revealed that the only person to have a five-year sobriety chip was a man named Ray. This is how he realized he was the killer.
Why did Ray Kill Jasmine?
Hiding behind a kind persona, Ray was in fact a predator. He kept pestering Jasmine, to the point that she stopped coming to the meetings. Dylan couldn’t even imagine that Ray, his sponsor, could be behind all this. Dylan trusted Ray and believed him when he said that he lost the battle to alcohol and, perhaps in a crime of passion, killed Jasmine. There was some trouble catching Ray, but Mercer’s techniques of persuasion were enough to boggle Ray’s mind. Mercer was taken hostage at gunpoint, while Marisa followed his car. Mercer crashed the car and ended up in the hospital. Ray was caught, and he admitted that he killed Jasmine with her own gun, which she had bought to protect herself from him. Dylan, who had no clue about all this, should thank the heavens that Mercer came in at the right time and solved the case; otherwise, he would have been put away for life.
How Does The Episode End?
After getting out of the hospital, Mercer got back to his original case—that of Wes Manning, the bomber. It turns out there was someone Wes was so afraid of that he butchered his own chance of getting out on parole. The court was shocked to hear Wes’ confession and his willingness to commit another bombing if they let him go free. Only Mercer saw that there was someone at the door who had terrified Wes. Mercer left the trial without hearing the court’s judgment on Wes and ran after the man, who had on a coat and a hat. Mercer couldn’t see his face, and Marisa caught up to him to find Mercer breathless. The mystery man had vanished into thin air. Was this man in black the real mastermind behind the bombing? The next episode of The Irrational will tell.
The Irrational begins with a great pilot, and I’m hopeful the upcoming episodes will be as gripping as the first one. The series will have this case of the mystery man running in the foreground while Mercer solves different cases with the FBI and other agencies, kind of being a ‘super-case’ haunting Mercer to no end. He thought Wes was the bomber, but he might be wrong. He would have to use his skills as a behavioral scientist to solve this ultimate case, along with the others. That mystery might just want to take him out now that Mercer is onto him. With all the intriguing plotlines already, The Irrational would have to ensure the other cases are just as gripping as this one.