Mark Watches ‘Terriers’: Episode 1 – Pilot

In the first episode of Terriers, I thought this was a show about dogs and technically, it kind of is. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Terriers.

Hello, friends! I am glad I had no idea what I was in for because WHAT THE HELL.

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As far as I can tell, this is the first non-genre show I’ve watched for quite some time. It’s refreshing, and the pilot for Terriers is an odd beast because of it. That’s not a criticism, either. I remarked on video that in the span of forty-odd minutes, this story oscillated between wacky humor, emotional heartbreak, and suspense, and it never made it feel like I was watching anything but the same show. It’s a comedy as much as it’s a drama, and I think the writers achieve that by grounding the comedy in characters who are real, not caricatures.

Which doesn’t mean that Hank and Britt don’t do ridiculous, hilarious things. The cold open in “Pilot” establishes them as desperate, but for different reasons. Hank is divorced; he struggles to make alimony payments; he’s no longer working for the police; he used to be an alcoholic. He is, in many senses, a mess. Britt is a mess, too, but in an entirely different way that’s slightly more charming. Both of them, as partners in an unnamed private investigator scheme, take whatever jobs they can get, even if the payment is free dry cleaning for two weeks.

That job? Stealing an adorable dog away from the ex of the person who runs the dry cleaning.

So there’s the humor and there’s the tone, all in one scene. Or at least I thought that was the case. As silly as the opening scene was, I was even more amused by the pair using Winston to gain entrance to Robert Lindus’s property to investigate the missing daughter of Hank’s old drinking buddy. I figured that was the show I was getting: two friends exploiting awkward social situations in order to solve mysteries. And you know, that’s still probably what Terriers is. But as Hank and Britt delved deeper in Eleanor’s disappearance, things got… decidedly less funny? There’s still a humorous vibe to the show, often in the form of Michale Raymond-James’s comic timing, but divorce? Losing the house you had with your wife? FINDING A DEAD PRO-GOLFER IN A LIFEGUARD SHACK ON THE BEACH?

For every joke the show tells, it also piles on the intrigue and the tragedy. It’s a great bit of material for Donal Logue, who I always recognized as a more of a comedic actor, but NOPE. He’s incredibly versatile here, able to convey sadness and joy in the span of seconds. And his character is already shown to be flawed rather than merely an underdog. He’s brash and impulsive, which isn’t exactly helped by Britt, since Britt is pretty damn impulsive himself. They make bad decisions here, like not calling the police after finding a dead body. Or not calling the police after Eleanor shows up at Hank’s house. Or not calling the police when…

I think you get the point. I found myself oddly compelled with Terriers because about halfway through the pilot, literally nothing went as I thought it would. As soon as Hank, Britt, and Eleanor were attacked by Lundus’s henchmen, I felt like the show had become something else entirely. That was no laughing matter; the threat to their lives was real. (Except I can’t lie: Britt backing into one of those dudes was funny.) Sending Eleanor off to a safe house on Catalina seemed like a good idea, but I started to get a strange suspicion: where was this show heading? Was this show highly serialized or episodic in nature? I couldn’t tell, which kept me guessing. Where would this specific plot end?

Y’all, I could not fucking believe the last fifteen minutes or so of this episode. Look, I still don’t know all that much about the show or what kind of stories they’re going to tell, but the double whammy of Mickie’s death and Hank’s shocking threat to Lindus (AT HIS OFFICE, OH MY GOD) jettisoned Terriers into a whole new ball park. I had been wondering if this show was about corruption, both political and the personal, and then Hank is swearing to “destroy” Lindus, and then THEY LITERALLY DO SO IN FIVE MINUTES. IN FIVE MINUTES WORTH OF SCREENTIME, THEY RUIN HIS LIFE. Impulsive doesn’t even cover this, y’all. They’d already lied to Hank’s old partner, Mark, and they were in way over the heads with the whole development fraud, and these two goofballs give not a single fuck. They’re like a sloppier, more petty version of the Leverage team, y’all.

Is that the show? I don’t know what Terriers is. I want to see more of Katie and Gretchen and Mark, and I completely dig the San Diego/Ocean Beach setting. But I feel like this episode threw me in the deep end, and that is pretty exhilarating thing to feel.

The video for “Pilot” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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