A review of the second episode of “Terriers” coming up just as soon as I glaze a bong…
“God knows I love Hank, but it is not on Hank Dolworth to do anything but self-destruct on people.” -Gustafson
Of the five “Terriers” episodes FX sent out for review, “Dog and Pony” (written by Shawn Ryan and “Veronica Mars” alum Jed Seidel) was easily the lightest, both in terms of tone (lots of time spent on Britt’s “teabagging, flatulent, incontinent dog”) and how much time was spent on the case of the week. Next week’s is even more standalone, but darker, while the episodes after get more heavily into the bigger arcs.
I’m fine with that. I don’t need shows to have set formulas. As we learned over the summer with “Louie,” a show that tries to do something different every week won’t always succeed, but will usually be more interesting than a show that’s better-executed but more predictable.
But given a lot of the displeasure that was shown over the early, mostly standalone episodes of “Justified” on this channel, I figure there might be some people who may have liked the complexity of the pilot and then had alarm bells going off over “Dog and Pony.” And what I would say to you is to be prepared for anything with this show. It’s such a mash-up of tones – dark noir one minute, goofy comedy the next that Ryan, Griffin and company could take it almost anywhere in a given week. Hank and Britt are clinging to the bottom rung of the PI ladder, yet they have powerful friends and enemies who can lead to all kinds of cases. The constant will always be the Logue/Raymond-James chemistry, but the rest of it will be what it wants to, when it wants to.
And after the opening sequence with the Lindus depositions (and Hank having fun with wordplay), what I thought “Dog and Pony” did smartly was to surround the fugitive case with continued personal storylines for the guys. Hank is still dealing with the consequences of trying to buy his old house – and all the people, like his AA sponsor, wisely pointing out what a horrible idea that is – while Britt and Katie give the dog a shot as a gateway responsibility towards perhaps having a kid, only for it to be a dog only a giant fugitive could love. (Fortunately, they wound up with Winston, the only co-star with whom Raymond-James might have more chemistry than he does with Logue.)
Regardless of where the Lindus story is going, we need to care about these two guys, and Hank’s decision to smash down the hated wall – too late to save his marriage, but just in time to take away his option to back out of the purchase – was a moment where the stakes were as high for him as when he threatened to take down Lindus in the pilot.
I also liked the conversation between Mark and Britt about the pitfalls of being Hank’s partner. We already saw Hank screw Britt over once by using the initial Lindus check to buy the house (and given that Britt and Katie aren’t suddenly flush, I wonder if Lindus stopped payment on the second one), and we’ve had strong hints that when Hank left the Ocean Beach PD, it wasn’t pretty for Gustafson or anyone else. We know Britt likes Hank, and because he’s played so well by Donal Logue, we like him too, but will the point come where he lets his new partner down as badly as he did his old one?
Also, while Hank and Britt are mostly a low-rent, low-tech operation, we learn that they do have access to people with gadgets in their trailer park buddies, whom Ted Griffin (in a bit of our interview that I left out because it would have made no sense before people saw this episode) described as “Our Q.” The actors are friends who, according to Griffin, went to Vassar together, live together and have been an improv troupe “for about 10 years, and I saw them in some show a year ago and just sort of figured out how to use them and make them this like three-headed monster.” I liked their patter – and liked seeing Hank and Britt be stuck on the outside looking in at another insular dynamic – and look forward to seeing more of them as the stories warrant.
Finally, the ratings weren’t very good last week, especially compared with “Sons of Anarchy” the night before or what “Justified” did back in the spring. I’m not sure the name or the marketing (which for a long time focused on the dog and not the guys) helped things, but we’ll see. I asked Shawn Ryan for his take on things, and he said:
Obviously they need to improve if we’re going to get a 2nd season. I know FX really believed in the show creatively and this feels like the kind of show people can drop into the next few weeks without feeling lost, so we have hope that good word of mouth (which there seems to have been a lot of after people caught up with the pilot on DVR) might help us build. We’ll see.
So if you like this show, tell your friends, family, etc. Now is the time. The show’s tagline may be “too small to fail,” but that concept doesn’t really apply when the ratings are involved.
What did everybody else think?