‘Terriers’ – ‘Manifest Destiny’: Case closed?

Senior Television Writer
10.06.10 46 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Terriers” coming up just as soon as I shoot some perfume ads…

“You ever been in shit this deep before?” -Britt

“Manifest Destiny” wraps up the Lindus/Montague story arc for now, but in a way that makes it clear Britt and Hank will be wading through this particular septic tank again before the season’s end.

The hour, written by Lesley Headland and directed by Rian Johnson(*), kept up the chaotic feeling of the closing minutes of last week’s episode. Lindus is lying dead in Hank’s bathtub and left alone with Hank’s crazy sister Steph, Gustafson knows Hank and Britt have done something bad in this but not exactly what, Hank and Britt make two separate trips to the ravine to both dispose of Lindus’ body and then plant the soil sample report on him, and Hank gets to confront both the mastermind behind all of this and the enforcer who took out his pal Mickey. It’s both a breakneck pace and the usual sloppy “Terriers” style, and felt like a good button on the Montague story until whenever it comes back later in the season and we find out what Zeitland has been dumping there.

(*) Johnson also directed the memorable “Fly” episode of “Breaking Bad” earlier this year. But more germane to this show, I highly recommend seeking out his debut feature, “Brick,” which is a very different spin on the same kind of hard-boiled private eye tropes that “Terriers” uses. It essentially transfers the style and dialogue of a Raymond Chandler story into a high school setting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s the lead, and it’s very strange but also very cool.

I particularly liked how the story used Maggie’s pregnancy, which has been shoved in our face in every appearance by Jamie Denbo’s fake belly so far, to make Hank and Britt extra panicked at the middle of the episode. Maggie’s more comfortable in this world than our guys are, and her counsel would have been valuable, but of course there’s the fear that the bad guys might have started taking out their nearest and dearest. Instead, Zeitland calmly tells Hank that Maggie had the baby, and then tired new mom Maggie drives home the threat when she warns the guys away from Zeitland.

That meeting with Zeitland, by the way? Fantastic. That’s a classic gumshoe movie/show moment – the villain shows his face, tells the hero how insignificant he is, only to strengthen our man’s resolve – and all involved nailed it. As Zeitland, Michael Gaston is having himself a fine fall as a low-key but menacing cable villain (he also caused trouble over on “Rubicon,” and please no spoilers for that show here), and Donal Logue walked a neat line between defiance and fear.

And what’s great is that even in a relatively dark, heavily arc’ed episode like this one (which also had Hank confronting an annoyed Gretchen with his feelings), there was still plenty of humor, whether the wild card antics of Steph (“Can we order pizza?”) or the usual Hank and Britt banter. (“It smells like your bathroom in here!” “That was a one-night thing! Quit bragging about it!”)

This was the last of the episodes I saw in advance of the season launch. FX sent out a new batch last week, and I’ve seen the next couple. (Watched them, in fact, with my wife, who hadn’t seen the show up until that point but was quickly drawn in.) They continue to be very good. The more I watch this show, the more attached to it I become. I know some of that affection comes from the underdog status (I don’t have to worry about the future of “Boardwalk Empire,” for instance), but that also feels thematically appropriate. I don’t want to see that “too small to fail” tagline somehow proven wrong.

What did everybody else think?

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