Terriers, “Dog and Pony”

After a fantastic pilot episode, “Dog and Pony” proves that Terriers is going to be a must-watch new series this fall. The episode is fairly standalone in nature with only a few mentions of the Lindus case that Hank and Britt are now the prime witnesses in, but spending 45 minutes with these two guys and this world is beyond enough to sustain my enjoyment. So those of you worried about another FX series mulling around in boring standalone fare ala Justified, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that Terriers seems to be okay with telling standalone stories. The good news is that “Dog and Pony” is absolutely better than any of Justified‘s standalone episodes.

The case this week is fairly light, both in terms of tone and detail: Hank and Britt swipe a case sheet that has an attached reward on it to make some many and quickly find out that the big whale of a man they’re supposedly trying to capture for armed robbery is actually tied up in a feud with his mousey half-brother who organized the theft of $100k at the local horse track and then left the big guy with nothing. Like in the pilot, Hank and Britt play multiple sides throughout the episode and end up protecting the man they thought they were bringing down and actually officially assist the police and Gustafson before it’s all said and done.

However, it’s in the way Terriers goes through those traditional paces that so great. Hank and Britt’s horrible attempts at pretending to be local muscle, their horrible attempts at fighting the big man and their subsequent care of the big man after he’s shot by the crappy half-brother are all hilarious moments without being overtly so.

But the centerpieces to the episode are actually extremely intense moments that acknowledge how dark these characters can go and also how easily the series can transition between tones. Throughout the episode, Britt begins to worry about a dark presence that is supposedly coming to wreck his life, according to the lame palm reader girlfriend of the big man they’re helping. Though he thinks it’s the new dog that he and Katie just bought (and eventually get rid of by the episode’s end), there’s an overt suggestion that it’s Hank. So when Gustafson intensely explains to Britt that being Hank’s partner eventually sucks, it looks like a little bit of the fun got sucked out of Britt’s eyes. He surely knows about Hank’s rocky past, but has been willing to stick with  him thus far. But as Hank gets deeper and deeper into this Lindus thing, there’s a question of whether or not Britt will be screwed along the way. I mean Hank did attempt to use that check for his house without checking with Britt.

Meanwhile, the episode’s final sequence, in which Hank finally shows up at his old house to give up the check and has a flashback to the day that he and Gretchen bought it the first time, is fantastic. It’s only two episodes into this series, but scenes like this one where Donal Logue knows how to play the sadness in the eyes but not push out an extremely animated performance, go a long way in making us really care about Hank. Awesome. And then he takes a hammer to the wall she never liked, officially confirming that he can’t back out now, the stakes are raised, just as they were last week when he made his charge to Lindus.

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