Will Trent

3 out of 5

Created by: Liz Heldens and Daniel Thomsen

covers season 1

Another TV season, another quirky detective.

This time out it’s an adaptation of Karen Slaughter’s Will Trent book series, titled after the main character. Trent, played by Ramón Rodríguez, is an SI with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation – a locally-flavored setting: check – and is keeping his dyslexia mostly secret, but not his rather compulsive habits, which allows him to be incredibly detail oriented as a detective – a lead with some kind of physically / psychologically differentiating factor: check – and he bats around between cases with his on-again / off-again childhood friend / romantic partner, Angie (Erika Christensen), who’s also recovering from a drug problem – rocky smoochy subplot: check.

Much of this has apparently been smoothed out and lightened a bit from the source material, and then you hand it over to some seasoned TV folks – creators Liz Heldens and Daniel Thomsen; directors Paul McGuigan and Howard Deutch on a few episodes – and you wind up with a bit of a split: a very, very strong sense of visual identity and consistent writing, but then a tonal split. And despite my snark above, the creative team and actors help to bring all of these quirks into the picture very organically, and arguably more maturely than 99% of peer series. Angie’s battles with substance abuse feel realistically handled within context; Trent’s struggles with accepting help when needed / application of his I’ve-adapted-to-not-needing-to-read crime-solving abilities are not over-used as scripting crutches; and the will they / won’t they relationship is similarly given a rather natural up and down flow – we’re not jerked around for cheap cliffhangers or thrills. Iantha Richardson, Jake McLaughlin, and Sonja Sohn all also appear around the GBI offices, equally good at imbuing their procedural archetypes with a lot of humanity. Plus, Trent gets a stupidly cute dog at one point.

However, despite the linear story elements attached to these characters, the episodic cases to which we’re tied never allow these stronger aspects to fully take hold, and somewhat undermine the polished visual style as well – as though there’s a really strong dramatic comedy just waiting to come on stage, but we keep having to deal with opening acts of weekly cases. And these, frankly, are never quite as complex as they want to be – they’re given a lot of interesting, byzantine lead-in, and then tend to piddle out with a chase or gunfight – sort of another parallel of the positives and negatives of the show.