In the seventh episode ofÂ Terriers, Britt and Hank take on a strange case. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watchÂ Terriers.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of mental illness.
I want to be careful in discussing this because while I have mental illnesses of my own, they’re not the same as what we see in this episode, so I don’t want this to come off as some sort of Seal of Approval or that I’m saying that everything here is perfect representation of these specific mental illnesses.
I’ll start by saying that I don’t know many shows that have ever tackledÂ multipleÂ depictions of mental illness in the same episode and done so without necessarily sensationalizing it. I got the sense that we were supposed to feel sorry for Adam, even though what he’d done was horrible. And in Steph’s case, we’re shown that for some people, mental illness is not a temporary or easily curable thing. It’s their whole life! I suppose that’s the simplest reason why I enjoyed “Missing Persons” so much. There’s not one token mentally ill person; we get degrees. We get someone who only recently developed symptoms of something serious and scary, and then we get to see how Steph adapts to her life outside of a hospital.
While there’s a deliberate parallel drawn between the two characters, they’re ultimately not the same. Adam’s amnesia comes from his dissociation after his anti-malaria meds cause him to do terrible things to a girl he had a crush on. And that’s not to minimize how horrible this was for that woman; mental illness is not a blank check to do whatever you want. That is also not mutually exclusive with saying that Adam’s mental illness deserves treatment and that he deserves to get better from this episode or whatever it was. He can doÂ bothÂ things. But after Hank witnesses his sister’s hallucinatory episode earlier, he doesn’t want Adam to give up. It’s interesting how he frames it: he assumes that AdamÂ canÂ get better, and thus, it’s unfair that Adam thinks he can throw everything away. Now, I wouldn’t suggest that Hank’s perception of this is true, though I totally getÂ whyÂ he’d say this. His sister’s illness isn’t something that can be easily washed away, and then, he’s standing in front of someone who just wants to give up without even trying.
I think the key to understanding this all is in Hank’s characterization. At the end of “Missing Persons,” he’s more devastated than Steph that she’ll be moving to an assisted living facility. Why is that? As I said in the video for this episode, I theorized that he felt guilty. He saw this all as a sign that he had failed as a brother, which isn’t how mental illness works. But Hank internalizes everything, and he takes things remarkably personal. It’s why he attaches himself to Adam so early on and why heÂ alsoÂ views himself as having failed the kid when things go south. In that sense, his behavior is clear to me: he wanted to fix everything, and he fixed nothing.
I don’t know if this means that Steph won’t appear as much, but I would like to see more of her. Karina Logue is a fantastic actress, and her scenes in this episode were my favorite part of it. Yet her story still feels like it belongs to Hank, doesn’t it? She leaves, and he is the one we get to see feel guilty. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be careful in discussing the focus on mental illness because even in the end, Steph still isn’t a main character. (Or at least she won’t be any longer.)
BUT LET’S ALSO TALK ABOUT KATE AND BRITT. Oh my god, this is so unbearably awkward, and IT HURTS. It’s painful to watch Hank try to support his best friend while ACTIVELY LYING TO HIM AND INHERENTLY CAUSING PART OF THE PAIN THAT HE IS EXPERIENCING. I was not at all surprised that Katie had difficulty pretending that everything was fine. As we learned in the last episode, she and Britt have long had an honest relationship, so the act of lying to him literally hurts her. How can she possibly hide this any longer? I was fully ready for the truth to come out in this episode, but apparently, MORE SUFFERING IS AHEAD OF US.
The video for “Missing Persons” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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