I’m back reviewing a new NBC mystery show starring Law & Order star Jessie L. Martin in The Irrational. This show is based on a book called Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Averly. What got me intrigued about this show is that the main character is not a guy with a badge. He’s a university psychology professor who just happens to be good at utilizing his psychology skill set to help the authorities solve inexplicable crimes. I think it’s a cool premise that stands out from every other mystery show. And let’s hope it gets a season two unlike how it happened with last year’s The Endgame. Without further ado, let’s talk about the pilot episode.
Episode One Pilot introduces us to Alec Mercer, who is a renowned psychology expert in Virginia who explains how people are predictably irrational in a voiceover montage. We then find him in the middle of a hostage situation where he negotiates the pros and cons of the man holding his baby and significant other hostage. Afterward, he decides to toss away his gun and gives himself up to the police.
We are introduced to an FBI agent and Alec’s ex-wife Marisa (Mahrra Hill) who asks how he convinced the man to surrender. Alec answers that he used paradoxical persuasion to coax the subject to give up. Hearing this, Marisa explains how this attracted her to marry him and then eventually divorce their marriage.
The next day, Mercer goes back to work as a professor teaching his applied psychology course to his students. His students ask how he got his burns, and we see in many flashbacks throughout the episode that he was the only survivor of a church bombing, which is incidentally where he met Marisa at the hospital. He then gets a call from the mayor (Lauren Hill) regarding a new case involving Dylan, a former marine and son of a senator framed for murdering her girlfriend, Jasmine.
As he procedurally tries to solve the case of the week, he hears news of the parole meeting regarding the bomber who bombed his local church years ago. This brings back traumatic memories of the bombing and how he got one side of his face scarred. Marisa and his sister Kylie (Travina Springer) tell him to move on with his life, but he can’t.
Mercer learns that the murder victim Jasmine and Dylan are both alcoholics, but one other person tries to hit on Jasmine creepily at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. His investigation at the AA meeting reveals that Dylan’s sponsor is the guy who killed Jasmine and framed Dylan for the murder. The sponsor had more than five years of sobriety under his belt and was on his way to becoming a spokesperson. After he tries hitting on Jasmine, she threatens to tell the world that he is a predator prompting him to kill her. Mercer then subsequently damages his car to stop him from shooting the pursuing FBI agents.
The suspect has been apprehended and Dylan walks away an innocent man with the idea of going back to school. Mercer suggests he should take up psychology. Mercer and Marisa go to the bomber’s parole hearing all the while an unknown figure scares the bomber to not being released on parole, suggesting that there’s more to the plot than it meets the eye. And Mercer is planning on finding out why.
Martin’s Mercer is a much looser version of Detective Ed Green from Law & Order with a scarred past. A distinction that shows that it’s not the typical stoic detective in a case-of-the-week serial. The use of psychological experiments to solve a case is cool to establish how and why a suspect may be innocent. It is also a cool way to unveil the killer’s motives to understand the nature of how and why they committed a crime instead of the usual way of solving it.
Episode one is a fascinating start to what I think is going to be a great mystery series revolving around the psychology of human nature. It has a great premise that differs from many other by-the-book crime procedural shows. Martin is charming in the role of Mercer which gives some levity and fun to the show. This is only one episode, so I’m curious as to how the rest of the series will fare as it goes on.