Mark Watches ‘Terriers’: Episode 5 – Manifest Destiny

In the fifth episode of Terriers, WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHOW. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Terriers. 

There are a number of surreal moments within “Manifest Destiny,” and they exist in a universe that feels very real. Terriers is not a fantasy or science fiction, yet I can’t deny how strange much of this feels. That comes from the way in which the writers pile on one impossible disaster after another onto these two men.

Let me start with an early example in this episode. There’s that scene where Hank casually sits next to Lindus – whose decaying body is lifeless in the deiver’s seat – and begins to have a conversation with Britt about what music Lindus would most likely have been listening to during a drunken binge. (A binge that didn’t actually happen, mind you.) In the context of that very moment, it is exactly the sort of thing Hank would be concerned about, isn’t it? He might be impulsive and reckless, but he’s also a nervous wreck at times. He worries. A LOT.

Yet I can’t ignore how it represents a conscious choice in terms of storytelling. There’s the humorous aspect of it, of course. I suppose it’s gallows humor, technically, but it fits in with the characters, so it’s not there just for the sake of it. But there another aspect to Terriers that I’ve just now figured out: it’s the Everyman trope taken to extremes. At face value, Britt and Hank are unremarkable. They don’t have super powers or rare abilities. They don’t have access to wealth or power. They’re “standard” people being cast into one non-standard event after another. Their circumstances are absurdly remarkable. So how does a character like this react to these scenarios?

It’s not always my favorite trope, since it’s often a stand-in for straight white men and no one else. Terriers evokes that, too, and the show is glaringly white for a setting like San Diego. At the same time, I dig the story dynamic here because it fulfills a different kind of fantasy. Hank and Britt are small time compared to the forces they go up against. The threat of arrest hangs over them from the start of “Manifest Destiny,” and Mark represents that threat to them. So they have to devise the means to make Lindus’s death seem like a drunk driving accident in order to escape this threat. But then the conflict morphs – terribly so – after they track down the man who paid to have Mickey murdered. Ben Zeitlin is IMPOSSIBLY remarkable, the kind of villain or antagonist who seems to have everything they need to get away with anything they want. How do you compete against that???

Usually, Hank goes with brash and reckless abandon. Granted, Hank takes the Zeitlin threat seriously. He does what he can to protect his loved ones, as does Britt. So it’s not that he is entirely unwilling to plan ahead. But when Hank gets angry, he just acts. We’ve seen it over and over again, so it’s fascinating to me that as Hank sat across from Zeitlin, I expected him to act as ridiculously as he had in “Change Partners.”

But perhaps this is a sign of a change. Hank is far more calculating here, and it’s got to be because he believes the threat against his friends and family. He doesn’t just expose Zeitlin and the development once he realizes how huge the soil study is. Instead, he finds a way to do what is right while protecting others… sort of. You know, right up to that final scene, I thought he’d found a way to actually do everything he wanted to. But mostly, I believed that he had found a way to get him and Britt off the case, to move on to other things. (Finally, they listened to Maggie! FINALLY.) The development was cancelled, the truth got out, and Hank and Britt could move their families back home.

Yet the show delivers us a knockout punch at the end when Steph reveals the soil study is LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE. Now, I’m still hoping the show can give us more insight to Steph as a character, since right now, she exists mostly to push the plot forward and make Hank feel sad and angsty. (Also, she fixes everything, which is pretty cool.) Is she going to be the one to figure out what Zeitlin is actually doing? Did Zeitlin manipulate Hank into doing exactly what he wanted???

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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