When we meet Alec Mercer in The Irrational pilot, he’s an established, world renowned Behavorial Science professor at Wylton University whose expertise is used in various cases to help bring criminals to justice. One refrain that’s heard throughout the episode is the continued questioning on what caused the scarring on the side of his face.
While teaching an introductory course on human behavior at the university, he tells his students that the scarring they see on his face is actually throughout 60% of his body. It was caused by a fire which burnt half of his frame, and he spent a long time in the hospital. The incident led to his decision to study human behavior since he believed the removal of the bandages on his body should have been done slowly instead of quick and fast which caused him the most pain.
After studying his hypothesis, he went back to the hospital and explained what he knew to be true about bandage removal even though at the time of his injury he did not have proof. Armed with his study, he received an apology as well as some understanding that part of the reason the nurses removed his bandaging quickly was because they experienced discomfort putting him through the pain of the process and wanted it over fast.
Much of the pilot episode covers the difference between what’s logical, what’s instinct, and how humans don’t always choose rationale when making decisions. There’s also the issue of faulty memory which is something Alec has experience with as he’s missing major pieces of the night that he sustained burns. However, he has enough clarity to know what happened and the pilot does flashback to that night.
How did Alec Mercer get burned on The Irrational?
The year was 2002. Alec was exiting a church with a friend. The scene suggests they’d attended a campaign meeting for a politician named Standford who was running for Senate. Alec’s friend realized he’d forgotten his backpack inside and went to go get it. Moments after the church door closed, the building exploded. Alec was so close to the blast that part of his body caught fire and he was flung off his feet.
The man arrested for the incident was Wes Banning. The bombing was labeled a hate crime. 13 people died, Alec was the only person to survive. However, he couldn’t place Banning at the scene which led to a lesser sentence for the bomber and the ability to petition for parole. The Irrational takes places nearly 20 years after the bombing. Based on the pilot’s ending, season 1 of the series will follow Alec’s journey in filling in the gaps of his memory to bring down Banning’s partner who seems to have been free this entire time.