‘Terriers’ – ‘Pilot’: Cheaters sometimes prosper

09.08.10 7 years ago 48 Comments

Jessica Brooks / FX

FX’s “Terriers” debuted tonight, and hopefully my review – or the involvement of people like Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James (whom I recently interviewed) or Shawn Ryan and Ted Griffin (ditto) or Tim Minear – convinced you to give it a shot. Some specific thoughts on the pilot episode coming up just as soon as I get into fisticuffs with a Little League team…

“I’m going to destroy you, Lindus. I could’ve walked away from this thing an hour ago eating shit – and Jesus knows, I’ve eaten enough of it in my life. But you killed my friend. So I’m going to destroy you. And I just wanted you to know that.” -Hank
“And I’m still gonna cash the check!” -Britt

The “Terriers” pilot opens with Hank Dolworth (Logue) telling partner Britt Pollack (Raymond-James) a tale that inspires Britt to point out, “For a short story, that went on a bit.” And though terriers are not themselves shaggy dogs, that opening, and Logue’s appearance, suggests that “Terriers” the series might just be one shaggy dog story about two goofball detectives annoying each other inside Hank’s filthy pick-up truck. And the chemistry between the two leading men is so fantastic that I would probably enjoy that series very much. (And that chemistry isn’t just an on-screen invention; go read their interview to see how well the two get along in real-life.)

But Griffin, Ryan and company have set their sights considerably higher than that. “Terriers,” like Hank, looks a little loose and sloppy at times, but it has a plan, and a story to tell, and a world to build, and this episode is a very entertaining start to all of that.

I should say upfront that I am a sucker for both the kinds of films Griffin’s drawing inspiration from. I love hard-boiled detective fiction (half the bookshelves in my house are devoted to both classic stuff by Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald to more modern works by guys like Michael Connelly and George Pelecanos) as well as stories of male bonding (whether in adventure films or comedies), and the pilot nicely blends the two.

Hank’s not a loner because he has Britt (and Britt’s girlfriend Katie to cook him meals), but he’s living on the fringes of this world where he used to be a cop, and a husband, and someone who didn’t have to skulk around town in a lousy pick-up with the bogus “Gomez Brothers Pool Service” sign on the side. He’s a loser, which is the only reason he knows Mickey and Mickey’s daughter Eleanor, and is the main reason shady millionaire Robert Lindus is so willing to let Hank and Britt continue sniffing around: he thinks they might be able to find Eleanor and the blackmail video, but he can’t imagine these two getting over on him.

But the case, and Mickey’s murder, and the news that his ex-wife is selling the house and getting remarried, and Katie’s understandable concern that Hank and Britt are going to be little boys forever, seems to kickstart Hank’s resolve. He spends Lindus’ money on a deposit on the house he used to live in and can’t really afford, presses with the case far beyond the point where both has past and present partners are telling him he might want to stop, and ultimately comes up with a method for humbling Lindus, if not necessarily putting him away for good.

I love the exchange in the car where Britt asks Hank if he has a plan and Hank says, simply, “Cheat” – followed quickly by a pay-off to the earlier scene where Britt scampered over Lindus’s fence just to show that he could. These guys are small-time and in way over their heads, but they’re not without some skills to go along with their tenacity.

A very strong start, very well-directed by Craig Brewer of “Hustle & Flow” and “Black Snake Moan” fame (who previously did a final-season “Shield” episode), and with a lot of fine small moments like Hank simultaneously figuring out why his ex wants to sell the house and trying to keep her from seeing how much that reason breaks his heart.

What did everybody else think?

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