‘Terriers’ – ‘Fustercluck’: Sister act

Senior Television Writer
09.29.10 31 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Terriers” coming up just as soon as it’s an honor to be nominated…

“I just want to know all the angles, man.” -Britt

Back at press tour, FX gave critics the first five episodes of “Terriers.” Press tour is insanely busy, so my plan was to watch 2, maybe 3 at the most, to get a sense of what it was before interviewing the stars and producers, then move on to the many, many other things I had to do while there.

So I watched the pilot. Loved it. Watched the second episode. Enjoyed it but wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about the lighter, more self-contained style. Watched the third episode. Was wowed by Donal Logue and the very dark place the story took Hank at the end – and had to keep going just to find out what the hell was up with the shadowy figure climbing into Hank’s attic.

So I watched the fourth episode, even though I didn’t really have time for it, swearing to myself that this would be it, and I would save the fifth episode for the flight home, or some other point down the road.

Then I came to the end of (the delightfully-titled) “Fustercluck,” and at that point there was no way I wasn’t going to immediately pop in episode five. For that matter, I would have put a bunch of more pressing obligations on hold if FX had brought me a DVD with episodes six and beyond.

Obviously, “Fustercluck” has that great freak-the-hell-out ending, with Lindus expiring on Hank’s bathroom floor, Gustafson coming to bring Hank and Britt in for questioning, and Hank’s crazy sister Steph left alone with the body. Hank and Britt are always shown to be guys flying by the seat of their pants, only vaguely knowing what they’re doing, even on a small stage. So put them up in the big leagues in matters involving guys like Lindus and the shady construction people who seemed to be pulling his strings, and any of our heroes’ mistakes are only going to seem massively, massively worse. I was literally holding my breath at the end, and I knew I had the ability to jump immediately to episode five. I can’t imagine what it was like for some of you tonight.

But even before we got to that catastrophe, “Fustercluck” felt like the strongest “Terriers” episode yet. After two weeks of self-contained cases mixed with ongoing personal stories, we’re hip-deep in Lindus shenanigans again, and I think the balance has been good for the show. It’s important to see the guys’ work not always revolve around this big case, but at the same time the stakes do get higher in this situation, the tension is greater, and at times the laughs are bigger. The lead-in to the opening credits, with Lindus telling Hank and Britt that he wants them to rob a quarter-mil from him, was just wonderful – so unexpected and yet confident that I knew everything to follow would work.

And everything did. The small-scale heist sequence was executed perfectly, the visual of the men in the hazmat suits at the construction site was creepy as intended, and Lindus’ traffic accident floored me in a way that particular gag (overused on “Lost” and other JJ Abrams-affiliated shows) doesn’t usually. Because even though Lindus is a bad guy who killed Eleanor’s boyfriend, Hank and Britt still pulled him off that runway and literally chased him into the path of that oncoming car. Like the bank manager’s suicide last week, the accident is something Hank could have had no way of knowing would happen, but he still acted without thinking and played a part in what happened. And that’s gutsy for the show to keep doing with its leading man.

Shawn Ryan was a guest on Mo Ryan and Ryan McGee’s podcast this week, and he mentioned that he had envisioned the show as being a bit lighter than it ultimately became (he co-wrote episode two, remember), and he said one of the reasons for that was seeing how good Donal Logue was at the heavy stuff. As he stares down Lindus in jail in the opening scenes, he’s every bit the hard-boiled private eye, even if he looks more like The Dude.

But the episode also works because it introduces a wild card element in Steph, played by Logue’s real-life sister Karina, who actually worked for Shawn Ryan twice (on “The Unit” and “Lie to Me”) before Donal did. As with Donal and Michael Raymond-James, who were friendly in real life before they played friends on this show, the Logues’ sibling chemistry came through, even as Karina played a fairly unhinged, off-her-meds character. Steph’s presence is about the last thing Hank needs at this moment, but for the show, she adds some great black comedy and unpredictability.  

Great stuff all around. Can’t wait to talk about next week’s episode, and then to see where the hell this is all going after that.

What did everybody else think?

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