Series Premiere — Terriers, “Pilot”

Obviously, pilot episodes have a lot of balls in the air. Good pilots have to set up the plot in the most broadest of ways. They have to present compelling characters who are interesting to watch. They have to create a sense of place that is worth enough to bring the audience back. And most importantly, it has to make you want to watch again (duh). Most of the time, a pilot will get two of those four things right, or sometimes halfway accomplish each of them. Only the really awesome pilots nail all four fairly handily. Terriers‘ pilot episode is such an example.

Nothing about Terriers is exceptionally original. It is surely inspired by the classic hard-boiled detective novel and the buddy cop film genre, plus any number of series where an ex-cop is trying to put his life back together. However, there’s enough little tweaks to the formula and especially so much charm and heart in the lead characters Hank (Donal Logue) and Britt (Michael Raymond-James) that it doesn’t even matter.

Hank and Britt are man-children, shaggy individuals with lots of personality and resourcefulness, traits that sure as hell help when they’re trapped in a sticky situation that they probably got themselves into it. They’re a pair of private detectives, and though their appearance suggests a pair of makeshift ones, that’s really not true. Hank’s an ex-cop and a smart SOB, if only he can just get his life together as a recovering alcoholic and divorcee. Britt, well, I’m not exactly sure what definable skills Britt has and I don’t think he personally knows either. But that’s the point. Hank thinks things out, Britt just acts, but they make one heck of a small-time pair who might just be big time, even if they don’t know it yet. These two are kind of losers, but they’re the kind of losers that know other losers that can help them solve middling crimes and protect the rest of the world from bigger losers.

The events of this episode, where Hank helps a former drinking buddy who perhaps re-defines down on your luck and ends up getting interwoven into a murder-blackmail situation involving a major architect, spin Hank all around. He recognizes that though he’s recovered from being a drunk and things could be worse, he’s still a mess. To make matters worse, his ex-wife is selling their old house and now getting re-married. Suddenly, he’s full of resolve and ready to not be such a loser. He takes the money given to him by the eventual baddie Lindus and buys his old house. He lets Britt’s lady, Kate, know that he and Britt will eventually grow up so that she can have a baby. And after his drinking buddy ends up dead and Hank suspects Lindus is behind it all in hopes of covering up some major shadiness, Hank is ready to play with the big dogs again. He strives to take down Lindus and thanks to Britt’s agility, Hank finds a way to at least humiliate Lindus.

Thus, it looks as though Terriers has its ongoing arc. I suspect Hank and Britt are going to be a constant, annoying pain in Lindus’ ass for the rest of the season and as this episode suggests, the architect probably has more skeletons in that big closet of his. But if most of the episodes focus on goofy, small-time cases like stealing back someone’s dog back from their D Bag of an ex, I’m absolutely okay with that because Logue and Raymond-James play so well off one another.

And while many series like this start with the characters in some sort of antagonistic relationship, Hank and Britt are friends, good friends. We don’t have to go through an entire season with them growing comfortable with one another. Instead, they’ve clearly known each other for a while (though not exceptionally long, it seems) and care about one another. The actors sell all those emotions very easily, which makes for wonderful scenes even when they’re just sitting in the beat up truck.

I’ll just say this now: Donal Logue is fan-freaking-tastic in this role. I’ve always thought he’s been underrated as a dramatic actor and thankfully he’s now been given a starring role and proving me right. Logue’s watered-eye look in the scene where the ex-wife tells Hank she’s getting married again was surprisingly emotional, and even in a first episode, it had me hooked.

I imagine that Terriers will take a few more episodes to get its footing and define the relationship between the two leads before jumping back into the ongoing arc, but unlike last spring’s Justified, I think FX will be fine to let this series do its thing. You should absolutely watch this series.

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