Terriers Episodes 11-12: Flashbacks and Setbacks

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We're (re-)watching Terriers as part of the TV.com Summer of (Re-)Discovery Club. You'll find links to past installments at the bottom of this story.


Terriers S01E10 & S01E11: "Sins of the Past" and "Quid Pro Quo"

The human experience is a lot like being president of your own nation. Logic and emotions make up the powers of congress (per se) and executive decision takes the form of plain old choices/behavior (your doo-rag is the flag). Ideally we combine the most excellent of said congressional elements and put our best foot forward, hoping not to step on any other presidential toes along the way. Unfortunately "best" can mean a ton of different things to a ton of different people, and truth gets a mite blurry around its edges. Hank and Britt found all this out the hard way in "Sins of the Past," a flashback story that somehow managed to fill in some blanks without really illuminating anything new about our characters.

Past or present, I'm impressed with how many ways this show is able to play out the theme of what I'll call "hunch danger." Who among us hasn't acted on knowing 98 percent of the facts, only to find that the remaining 2 percent actually made the 100 percent totally different? (Math.) For Hank that meant reopening the case that got him booted from the force and supposedly ended his marriage; for Britt, turning his break-up with Katie into a vengeful parking lot crime (as if there there is any other kind).

Though it was interesting to see Hank forge a new bond with Laura Ross via solving his past, I wonder if the mystery of this famous case appeared too late in the season. Frankly, I was more interested in the Tera Nuestra plot—so the diversion into backstory somewhat annoyed me. The show seemed to know this halt in momentum needed to justify itself at this point in the game, so I do applaud dovetailing the expository flashback with a case of the week. Plus I was hoping Britt would have dreads and a goatee.

Props due for using the "before times" to play off the present storyline. Seeing how Britt and Hank found each other satisfied my fan curiosity, but it was especially impressive to see their inverse trajectories occur in each era. Dolworth went from misinformed, drunk powder keg to sober, reasonable gumshoe, while Britt started off a truth-telling thief with a heart of gold and ended the episode behind bars for drunkenly attacking an innocent man. In both cases, a cocktail made of alcohol and ego was to blame (a.k.a. the Devil's Sweat).

While Old Hank combined booze and wrongful interrogation against a local rich kid with a coincidental connection to Gretchen, Britt similarly let his imagination get the better of him, encouraged by the abandonment of his usual buddy, plus liquor. If these dudes didn't "use," would a deep-seated insecurity still ruin their relationships another way? Would Britt have made the sloppy choice to kick the shit out of that veterinary student without the aid of "punchy-juice"? Sometimes relaxed inhibitions allow for the expression of a choice, and sometimes it is the choice. Which is to say, if our president was drunk all the time maybe there'd be more war, but also maybe more state-mandated fun fairs. Decision partially feeds back to that balance of logic and emotions, and while I don't blame Britt for those fighting feelings kicked up by being cheated on, both he and Old Hank should have just bitten a pillow.

The difference between Britt's hurt and Old-Hank's was that the latter took issue with Whitman's status as a societal enemy ("entitled rich kids"), while the former struck me as purely damaged by having lost Katie's love. Every step forward in life requires a vulnerability to the unknown and the joy of being in a relationship is insurance that no matter how wrong one may be, there will always be a person who sees the right. Losing that can cause an irrational spike in emotions, and the world becomes briefly uncertain again. If Hank would have tempered his feelings and calmly respected Gretchen's right to her past instead of including it in a case, perhaps she would have explained herself and they'd still be together.

But I get it—it's offensive not to be trusted at one's word. Which is why Gretchen stayed mum about Billy Whitman. Not because she'd been assaulted by the guy, but because Hank betrayed a shared trust by using his cop resources to impose on her personal history. Everyone has a right to privacy, I suppose, but damn if the combination of faulty guesswork and withheld information isn't responsible for 98 percent of mistakes (and plot points!).

I can't get too mad at Hank and Britt, because most of the time their impulses do a lot of good. When bad decisions end in divorce or imprisonment, though, it's time to take a good long look at the other side of things, and recognize personal blame. It might take three minutes or three years, but doing so is like officially marking an area on a map where there's quicksand. Hank finally apologizing to Gustafson was a true moment of character growth (dude has some pride issues). Sadly, things didn't go so smoothly with Britt, who on the one hand deserved to cool out behind bars for hurting some poor guy, but on the other caught a pretty raw deal set into motion by Katie and Hank. Sure, they kept the truth from Britt for his own protection, but it's a hell of a thing to be unknowingly manipulated by the people you care about the most.

"Quid Pro Quo" bordered on being one giant chase scene. I know it wasn't, but when I think back on the sequence of events all that comes to mind is Britt, Laura, and Hank running around between locations and finding clues, Scooby Doo-style. Luckily, it's fun to watch our gang do what they do, like observing a master glassblower shape away. Plus, being the second-to-last installment (ah, so soon?), it was clear this episode cared way more about getting to some larger plot points involving the Ocean Beach land grab and Hank's relationship with Gretchen than it did about the Katie and Britt stuff. I appreciated the implied wedge Laura Ross continued to drive between the Gomez Bros., but I'd always sensed the threat of a split was coming. A relationship as intimate and central as the one shared by these two dudes practically begged testing, and what better catalyst than a pretty lady who "gets" Hank?

My only gripe with this character is that she was introduced so late in the season. I like the idea of Hank developing a new bond with someone as nosy and secretive as he, but knowing we're about to wrap things up season-wise is a bit of a bummer considering what could have been (i.e. playing Clue together and solving the crime after only one move). Had she entered the picture earlier, Laura could have embodied the growing discord between Hank and Britt, and we wouldn't have had to depend entirely on Hank and Katie's secret to provide the sole source of tension (which really frustrated me, the more I think about it).

Anyway, while Hank was preoccupied turning over stones with Laura, Zeitlin bailed Britt out of jail, thus pushing him further away from his old friend. Or so it seemed, until Britt got his altruism on and offered his services in exchange for Hank's safety. I thought it weird that Britt would get over Hank kind of being a punk to him so quickly, but maybe he was scared about facing hard time for the first-class ass-whooping he laid down on the vet student and wanted Dolworth's help. Still, without Hank as a moral compass, Britt took on a pretty skeezy mission flirting with the potential mole over at Zeitlin's firm.

Hank may be selfish, but he's usually pretty good about not screwing over innocent people, (his Cool Dude-ometer simply will not allow it). I wondered whether Britt slept with this chick mainly to protect Hank, warn her, get his swerve on in the wake of Katie's infidelity, or simply keep his own butt out of jail. Either way, the Bjork-a-like was totally justified in her disgusted reaction. I know Britt did it for a variety of possibly selfless reasons, but his ability to get all sociopath-y left me with an icky feeling where normally there is sympathy and warmness. In other words, my soul felt like this dude's face:

Gross. For as much as I supported Laura and Hank's pairing, there was a creeping sensation that their lack of conflict with each other was already about to turn boring (again, another problem that might have been resolved were she around earlier). Maybe I don't like happy Hank? Luckily, the show immediately heaped on some frowns via Ross going AWOL and Jason getting straight dead.

I'm no sadist, but this was definitely where the story needed to go, with Hank screwing over Gretchen the most ever, and he and Britt forced to team up for one last hurrah. Hopefully Katie and Britt will still work out now that our boy has lain with another woman, but I worry to the tune of Gretchen when she expressed the inherent problem of having a loved one with seemingly two personalities. Katie's fearful agreement reminded me of a conversation with my wife and a friend the other night about how the thing that sucks most about working in an office is the false persona everyone must adopt and how that compromises one's sense of self. Between the duplicitous nature of Mad Men's Don Draper or Breaking Bad's Walter White, existential disparity may be the theme of our time, and it's a shame this show never got to stick around long enough to explore that.


POOCH POINTS:

"Sins of the Past": 7/10 (Dog Biscuits and a Paw Massage)

"Quid Pro Quo": 7.5/10 (Dog Biscuits and a Bowl of Offal)


WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU THINK?

– Do you kind of wish Gustafson had a flashback flat top?

– Was drunk Hank way cooler?

– Is Katie better off without Britt?

– Is Jason responsible for his own death?

– Will Gretchen ever forgive Hank?


RELATED STORIES
Terriers Episodes 9-10: Making Things Right and Wrong
Terriers Episodes 7-8: Goodbye and Hello Again
Terriers Episodes 5-6: Dead Deals and Blue Romance
Terriers Episodes 3-4: Fakery and Foolishness
Terriers Episodes 1-2: Killer Waves and Sunny Crimes
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