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The Guys in “Terriers” Are Terrible People

 [The following contains spoilers for the first 5 episodes of Terriers (Season 1).]

This weekend, for the first time after several weeks/months of intense working/recording, I was finally given the opportunity to relax for a few days. So, after an intense Twitter poll last night, I decided to sit down and blow through the first 5 episodes of Terriers, whose first season wraps up this week on FX.

I really enjoy the show, and people on Twitter say that it only keeps getting better. The dialogue is sharp, the one-liners are consistently funny, the acting is uniformly solid, and the direction and pedigree absurdly great for a basic cable show (Clark Johnson, Guy Ferland, and Rian Johnson take on directorial duties, among others. And that’s just in the episodes I’ve watched so far).

That being said, I was a bit taken aback by the complete amorality of the main leads, Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) and Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James). Sure, their camaraderie is intoxicating, but do they really have to commit so many crimes?

In the first 5 episodes alone, these are some of the criminal/wrong acts that the guys have performed:

  • Planted a gun in a man’s house, leading to his arrest for murder (though in fairness, he was framed for a crime he DID commit)
  • Directly provoked a mentally unstable bank manager to commit suicide
  • Threatened to destroy a woman’s house, in an attempt at flushing out her boyfriend, all for the sake of obtaining a state reward for his arrest
  • Broke into a crime scene and stole $250,000 that potentially might have served as state’s evidence
  • Chased a desperate criminal into the path of an oncoming car, killing him
  • Covered up the true cause-of-death of said criminal

Typically, when protagonists flout the law, it’s in the service of a greater good. Nope, not these guys. Dolworth is mostly out for revenge, and for money to buy his old house back from his ex-wife.

I get that these guys are meant to be anti-heroes. Their flagrant violations of the law are thrilling to behold (in particular, the crime scene heist was pretty well-executed, given the show’s limited resources). I also understand that their collective ethical character will undoubtedly improve as the show goes on. But the show doesn’t seem to grapple much with the flagrant violations of the law that these guys perform on a regular basis. Based on the things I’ve read about the show, neither do most viewers. Perhaps the fact that we’re willingly taken along for the ride is a testament to the show’s greatness; it’s hard to get us to root for the cuckolder, yet this show achieves it.

More reactions later, possibly on the /Filmcast, when I finish the series…