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.
Disassociation and false realities can really wreak havoc on those who suffer from mental illness, be they temporary or lifelong. One would think an inherent right to existence might be properly functioning senses, but sadly, through no fault of certain folks, this just ain't the case. It's been an uphill battle for victims of such conditions to be accepted into mainstream culture, but one champion of the psychologically handicapped seems to be television. On that note, I can't fault Terriers seventh episode, "Missing Persons," for getting one part of that message out there. Last week I called for more development in the Stephanie department, but little did I know her exploration and seeming resolution would come and go in the same 41 minutes.
Hank and Stephanie started off with some quality bro-and-sis time which looked good until she called for their mom (who obviously wasn't around). We got a brief insight into Hank's childhood via a sibling imitation, with his mom smoking cigarettes and yelling at her kids for not appreciating her cooking. I got the sense here that Hank enjoyed Stephanie's presence as a companion and for being able to see her (briefly) improve firsthand. The next morning at a local diner, Hank and Britt scored free breakfast for a week by getting an amnesiac kid out of a bathroom, allowing this regular to use the head real bad:
"My dentures are floating!" Hank and Britt took the kid out for a stroll to help blondie remember his identity. Though Britt saw the kid as a waste of time, Hank figured he came from a rich family and could probably lead to some dough.
However, the real reason was that the kid's condition reminded Hank of Stephanie's mental breakdown at a similar age and he felt an overwhelming sense of compassion. I've previously touched on the importance of maintaining a proper relevance between case-of-the-week situations and the development of main characters, and I don't know whether Karina Logue had to quit shooting, but it felt a little too convenient that this kid was going through some head stuff at the same time as Stephanie. But also, this is what Terriers is: Hank helping people who in turn help him, I think? Maybe such was the show's true curse, that the show never established a distinct enough direction, but rather did a few directions very well. Or, as some of you have commented, maybe the title was all to blame.
Anyway, the kid had a pill on him (which I figured was one of those incredible growing sponge dinosaurs) and they figured out via an ex-doctor-turned-ice-cream salesman that it was an anti-malaria drug. The drug had some known side-effects, like causing memory loss and faux-hawks. Hank and Britt took the kid down to the precinct (pretty sure a police office is called this) and ran his prints to see if anything came up. During some downtime Britt got mad at Hank for dominating the relationship, but it was pretty clear he was just pissed about Katie giving him the cold shoulder. Hank's in a tough spot here, as he's commanded Katie to withhold the fact that she boned her professor, and the longer he keeps this from Britt, the larger the betrayal. Why does Hank feel so strongly about this? Katie should just tell Britt, but maybe Hank had his own flings in the past, and figured that's what sank his relationship with Gretchen. If that is that case, he is still not allowed to impede the relationships of others.
Hank calmed Britt down (bros before... non-bros) but the peace was interrupted when the kid had an episode and tore down a "Missing Persons" poster for a local gal named Jessica Sampson. A-ha, a lead! Apparently that malaria drug was also used as a roofie pill, so now Gustafson and his crew were like "this is a crime." Hank swore up and down that he had looked into the kid's eyes and seen "good," which made me want to dub him the "perp whisperer." Hmm, maybe that's what this show should have been titled...
Around the Dolworth 'hood, Stephanie wandered across the street and made contact with the neighbor kid, but the scene was so tonally heightened (and the only one so far with a child), that I figured it had to be a hallucination. I've seen a lot of Six Feet Under and I can recognize when living characters are talking to non-existent ones, but I was willing to be surprised. Did you catch how the kid mentioned her dad was gone, and her mom was asleep? I'm guessing this was essentially Stephanie's childhood, so it makes sense she and Hank have a close relationship. Latchkey kids got to look out for one another, yo.
Britt and Hank investigated Jessica's off-campus housing and discovered she was interested in Cambodia. Kids these days, right? Britt and Hank checked in with their hacker buddies and found out that some tickets were purchased under Sampson's name and one "Adam Fisher," two weeks apart. Got to say I love the dudes that play these computer nuts, and if you're ever in the Los Angeles area they are actually an improv group known as Convoy. At the Fisher household Britt and Hank let themselves into another home and discovered Jessica all tied up.
Man, seeing these guys trespass so much makes me want to try my hand at a little home invasion. Can anybody here advise on that? It seems pretty thrilling, and the only thing I know for certain is that I would remove my shoes in case the stranger returned home. I'd be like "Hey sorry, I respected the carpet at least." At this point the cops were ready to nab Adam Fisher who was still at large, but Hank figured the pills made him go crazy. I think what was going beneath Hank's skull was a sort of desperation relating to Stephanie's worsening condition, as if proving that one case of mental illness was only temporary would act as a sort of victory against his sister's larger hopeless state. Later that night Stephanie tried to go talk to the little girl's parents and obviously they had no idea what she was on about. To make matters worse she shouted at a tire and Hank got way bummed.
Even Stephanie was disappointed, and I think this is where Terriers captured the realism of mental illness. The victim is not a born lunatic—he or she just has moments that in hindsight of normal perspective are embarrassing. So anyway, Adam Fisher called Hank and said he was going to "take care of the situation," which Hank figured meant suicide by police.
In a very emotive scene, Hank rescued a hostage college student and threw Adam around like a rag doll, basically taking out his feelings of frustration over his sister's condition. This is one situation where I do approve of Hank projecting his problems because it helped straighten out a troublemaker and seemed cathartic. In so many words, he was like, "You just went crazy a little bit from some pill, my loved one was born this way!" Let it out, Hank. Hank's had a rough go of things lately, and this kid seemed like just as good a whipping boy as any. Man, life is just not fair.
So Stephanie agreed to go to an assisted living facility and in an interesting reversal of roles, Hank was the one who had a hard time letting go, see?
Bye-ya Steph! I found you very charming, even though all you did was romp around in sweatpants and blurt stuff. I did appreciate how Steph was the one who made the decision to leave Hank, totally going against the fast disappearing image that the mentally ill are a burden on society. They got problems just like everyone else man, and they know it!
Speaking of problems, Episode 8, "Agua Caliente," found Britt in a Mexican one (una problema). With the introduction of cartels this outing I found myself thinking upon Breaking Bad and how that show's organic growth also involved a network of baddies more dangerously powerful than its protagonist's experience. At this point in the season I think Terriers had strong enough characters that it could have easily abandoned the client-of-the-week stories for a natural focus on the partnership of Britt and Hank in the same way that Jesse and Walt's dynamic took center stage. For example, "Agua Caliente" featured a brief mission that didn't stem from a random customer, and these "survival assignments" always work best in letting the dudes flex skill while adding to the overall story.
Britt went missing while serving a routine restraining order, and Hank searched high and low for his buddy, coming up with nada. Checking in at Katie's place, he found out she was still all nervous about having slept with her professor and not just because dude was like a 6 to her 10.
Running out of options, Hank got Gustafson to use his police influence to pull security footage from the golf course where Britt had served the restraining order. Sure enough, the video featured some unseemly hoods kidnapping Britt that Gustafson identified as cartel members. Drug lords take note, Hollywood loves your world—quit all this murder business right now and come sell your tale (but leave the cut-off heads in the lobby). Down in Mexico town, Britt's ex-partner Ray lost some expensive Chiclets to the local policia and promised his superiors he knew someone who could retrieve the merchandise.
Britt was like, "Nah I don't do that anymore, which way is the exit?" but the cartel guy used Instagram to threaten his loved one, Katie.
Terriers handled the integration of technology well into what might otherwise have been a premise hampered by its own dedication to throwback detective stories and hands-on solutions. It's a modern world out there (I conduct 90 percent of my life via the internet), so updating a genre that originated in a time before all these conveniences means eliminating certain obstacles and by connection, defining qualities. Then again, both crime and justice have access to the same machines, which levels the playing field and underlines the idea that noir was never an era. The genre is essentially a bunch of characters subject to the same levels of good and evil, no matter the setting. This is all just a long way of saying that Blade Runner was cool.
Anyway, after taking some cop shit from the DEA, Hank convinced Mark to go to Mexico and save Britt. Ray and Britt got purposefully arrested via a bar fight that allowed Britt a chance to punch out some emotions. I appreciate fistfights where I can get them, but kudos to Terriers for dovetailing some honest emotion into a scam.
Also, Ray had to keyster those lock-picking materials during that fistfight? Ouch. That's called "comeuppance," my friends. Despite the uncomfortable circumstances, it was still cool to see Britt work with his old partner again and note the different dynamic between Ray and Hank. Britt was still just as capable, but with Hank he has a better time, like he enjoys work. Probably because with Hank there's an element of Good Samaritanism. So yeah, the two snagged all of the drugs and sneaked out of the Tijuana jail just in time to find the cartel dude killed by a San Diego community college teacher on holiday.
No, obviously it was another cartel heavy. Britt freaked out because now there was no one to call off the hit on Katie. If her day wasn't stressful enough what with being held hostage, Professor Dumbass came by to clear the air. Katie was like, "Yeah, yeah, scoot, scram," but he was all, "I'm married with kids and blah, blah..." until the cartel goon took him hostage, too. South of the border, Hank made contact with Britt and illegal-immigranted him stateside just in time to find Katie in the arms of another man.
Got to hand it to Katie that she at least tried to stab her way out of this situation, but everyone knows you don't bring Fiskars to a gunfight. Mark, Britt, and Hank worked together to kill the cartel dude seconds after Hank took a bullet for the team.
This episode wrapped up in one of my favorite ways: like an action movie from the mid-'90s, what with ambulances, flashing lights, and the hero getting wheeled off on a gurney while making some smart-ass remark, all, "Next time, let's order in," or some such. Gustafson alluded once more to the time Hank let him down. What is it? I don't think it was a death because Gustafson behaves way too congenial toward Hank for that. I could see it being a situation where Hank got so blotto he left his partner for dead or blew a case that would have had both of them promoted. Very eager to find that out. I'm also waiting for Katie to break the news already to my boy Britt about hooking up with her professor. Oh well, at least they were happy for the time being.
"Missing Persons": 6/10 Dog Biscuits and a Scolding
"Aguas Calientes": 8/10 Dog Biscuits and a Flea Bath
WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU THINK?
– Have you ever lost your memory by taking a pill?
– How would you have used Stephanie differently in the overall story?
– Would you sleep with Katie's professor?
– Did Ray deserve to get arrested?
– Does portraying cartels on TV only encourage them?
– What would be the ideal non-client assignment for Hank and Britt?
– Have you ever been sent to Mexican jail?
– Why hasn't Katie told Britt yet?
– 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
– Announcing the TV.com Summer of (Re-)Discovery Club