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Series / Terriers

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Got a ride with a trickster and a javelin man...

"As a rule, I don't like getting my ass kicked for free."
Hank Dolworth

Terriers is a Detective Dramedy, created by Ted Griffin and co-executive produced by Shawn Ryan, that premiered on FX in the fall of 2010. Critics have made favourable comparisons to The Big Lebowski and Brick.

Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) is an ex-cop and a recovering alcoholic who makes his living as an unlicensed Private Detective in Ocean Beach, California, along with his partner Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James), a reformed thief. They typically get jobs from their lawyer Maggie, some reluctant police help from Hank's former partner, Detective Mark Gustafson, and usually part of the mix each episode are Hank's ex-wife Gretchen, her new fiance Jason, and Britt's girlfriend Katie. Life is cruisey, until the duo agree to take on a job from real estate developer Robert Lindus that involves tracking down Eleanor Gosney, the daughter of Hank's old buddy Mickey. Cue a murder, a scandal, and the beginnings of the biggest and most dangerous case Hank and Britt have ever had to deal with.

The show only lasted one season. The fifth episode, "Manifest Destiny," was directed by Rian Johnson.

This series contains examples of:

  • Addiction Displacement:
    • Mark Gustafson quit smoking, but he always keeps an empty cigarette holder in his mouth because he likes the familiar feeling.
    • In the episode "Asunder", it is heavily implied that obsessing over cases is the thing that keeps Hank sober.
  • Affably Evil: Ben Zeitlin.
  • The Alcoholic: Hank, prior to the start of the series. He's sober now. We actually get to see his alcoholic days in "Sins of the Past" and it's not pretty.
  • The Alleged Car: The "Gomez Brothers" pick up that Hank and Britt share.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Hank, a former cop, and Britt, an ex-con.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Cutshaw claims not to know about the evils of The Conspiracy but Hank and Laura don't buy it. He also did something in Mexico that lead to him trying to atone by making a children's hospital...or, for an even more evil explanation, he built a children's hospital to prey on the children.
    Hank: You're either lying or incredibly ignorant.
  • Amicably Divorced: Hank and Gretchen. They're divorced and bicker from time to time about money, but when the chips are down, they're there for each other. When Jason is murdered, Gretchen hugs Hank dearly and treats him as a confidante for how she feels.
  • Amoral Attorney: Zeitlin again.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Possibly, if the boys decided to go left at that traffic light and head for the Mexican border. See Word of God.
  • Assassin Out Classin: Burke comes to kill Hank in the finale. Put it this way: Zeitlin can take Burke off his payroll.
  • Asshole Victim: Gavin wasn't the one who took advantage of Katie when she was drunk, but he tried to. It's hard to feel bad for him when Britt beats the hell out of him.
  • At the Crossroads: The ending and cliffhanger shows them literally at the crossroads, deciding whether Britt should turn himself in and go to prison or go straight to Mexico.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the finale, Hank is with the two guys who confessed to killing Jason with the cop claiming an SUV is following them. When he pulls into an alley, Hank thinks he's going to be killed by a corrupt cop...and it's really Gustafason calling in a favor from a cop to let Hank go to clear his name.
  • Bald of Evil: Ben Zeitlin.
  • Bar Brawl: Britt and Ray get into one in Mexico, as part of a Get into Jail Free scheme.
  • Being Watched:
    • Burke and Zeitlin realize their hotel room is bugged when their attempted intimidation of Laura is thwarted.
    • Hank realizes his house has been bugged when Jason is killed attempting to meet Laura's source, since there's no other way Zeitlin could have found out about the meet.
  • Big Bad: Ben Zeitlin.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: When Hank sends Britt to steal Jason's wallet (neglecting to inform Britt that Jason is Gretchen's new fiancé), Britt pays Hank back for the deception by pretending he accidentally saw Jason's penis and expressing disbelief at how large it is.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Burke is killed, Zeitlin goes to prison for his crimes, the plans to pave over Ocean Beach are foiled, and Hank finally manages to move on from his failed marriage. But the mastermind Cutshaw walks away from everything with no consequences, Gretchen's husband is killed in a coverup, and Britt has to choose between going to prison for a few years or fleeing to Mexico forever.
  • Book Ends: The season both begins and ends with a radio announcer telling listeners they're listening to KXOB, where constancy is the spice of life.
  • Bound and Gagged: Jessica is found bound and gagged in Adam's closet in "Missing Persons".
  • Brutal Honesty: Whatever else, Cutshaw is perfectly upfront on at least one point: When Hank asks why, if paving over Ocean Beach to make a new airport is so great, he wouldn't just ask the people if they wanted it, he replies "what if they said no?"
  • The Caper: "Fustercluck" and "Agua Caliente" both involve breaking into a secure location and stealing something extremely valuable (a quarter of a million dollars in bearer bonds and a garbage bag full of cocaine, respectively).
  • Captured on Purpose: Brit and Ray intentionally get locked up in a Mexican jail to steal confiscated drugs.
  • The Cartel: Britt has a run-in with the cartel in "Agua Caliente".
  • City of Adventure: Ocean Beach.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • "Change Partners": Someone is secretly living in Hank's attic.
    • "Fustercluck": Robert Lindus dies in Hank's bathroom and Steph approaches the body with an ice pick.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Steph. However, she's perfectly aware that she's mentally ill.
  • Contrived Coincidence: There was Hank, all about to let the whole conspiracy case drop...and then he overhears the bosses talking in a men's room at the ex-wife's wedding he wasn't supposed to attend to set him on it all over again. Hank himself lampshades how amazing this coincidence is.
  • Corrupt Cop: Reynolds is revealed to be a serial rapist in "Sins of the Past"
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Robert Lindus. And, at the end, Tom Cutshaw.
  • Corrupt Politician: The hippie city councilman who Hank and Britt turn to. He openly relates how anyone can make "political hay" with the idea of getting a new airport...and he's the one to do it.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Hank. He might seem like an absent-minded guy, but he is a skilled ex-cop, and stronger than he seems. In the finale he manages to get the drop on Burke (who was holding him at gunpoint!) and kill him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Hank and Britt get their asses handed to them by the hulking fugitive Montell.
    • Hank tells the story of a mugger who tried to steal the purse off a woman leaving a kickboxing class.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Jason is murdered when he gets tied up in the airport conspiracy. Despite this, Gretchen and Hank don't wind up together.
  • Defective Detective: Hank, albeit a low-key one.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: At the end of the series, Hank does not wind up with Gretchen and Britt does not wind up with Katie, although Britt and Katie make up and Britt plans to be a father to her child whether or not the child is actually his.
  • Disappointed by the Motive: Hank and Britt are both very disappointed when they learn that "all of this [happened] for an airport?"
  • The Dragon: Mr. Burke, AKA "The Man in the Tan Suit."
  • Drinking on Duty: Hank during the Flashback to when he was an alcoholic, naturally.
  • Driven to Suicide: Armand Foster jumps from his high-rise office window to his death when the reality of his cuckolding fetish hits him.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • Hank nearly relapses the day of Gretchen's wedding, but a Contrived Coincidence keeps him off the sauce.
    • On Hank's suggestion, Britt gets wasted after he learns of Katie's infidelity.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Discussed, when Hank and Britt visit Lindus' posh house:
    Britt: Hundred bucks says the people who live here employ a live-in Mexican maid.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Subverted when Britt tries to fake a car crash.
    Hank: What, did you think the car was going to explode?
  • Expy: The trio of hackers Hank and Britt periodically consult are basically the So-Cal version of The Lone Gunmen.
  • Fetishes Are Weird: Foster's fixation on cuckolding and the damage it has done to his marriage is the focus of the episode "Change Partners", and he winds up Driven to Suicide when his fantasy finally becomes reality.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Zigzagged by Hank and his twin sister Steph. Steph is a very serious variant of the Cloud Cuckoolander (she has schizophrenia which has resulted in her having to abandon her whole life), while Hank is the Cloud Cuckoolanders Minder who is trying to get clean from alcoholism and go straight. Ultimately, though, it's Steph who realizes she needs help and takes responsibility for her life by going back to psychiatric care, while Hank spirals deeper into a conspiracy.
  • Frame-Up: The finale has Hank arrested for hiring two guys to kill Jason.
  • Framing the Guilty Party:
    • After Lindus orders a hit, Hank and Britt hide the murder weapon in his house.
    • They do this again to Britt's former partner to get him off Britt's back in "Change Partners"
  • Friend on the Force: Gustafson. Though "loose friend" or "ex-friend" might be more accurate; Hank and Gustafson were partners back when Hank was on the force.
    • However in the finale, after Reynolds is exposed, they seem to have mended their relationship, with Gustafson risking his job and life to help Hank.
  • Get into Jail Free: Ray and Britt start a bar fight in Mexico so they can steal confiscated drugs.
  • Great Escape: Following their Get into Jail Free plan, Ray and Britt promptly bust out of their holding cell so they can steal confiscated drugs.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Tom Cutshaw, the man behind the plot to pave over Ocean Beach and replace it with an airport.
  • Guile Hero: Hank and Britt.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Especially Britt.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Hank and Britt.
  • Hollywood California: Magnificently averted; the show revels in its depiction of metro San Diego.
  • Honey Trap: Britt pulls one on Ashley while pretending to work for Zeitlin.
  • Humble Goal: Deconstructed. Cutshaw admits that the conspiracy might seem overblown to Hank and Britt, with Hank pointing out that, if Cutshaw is right that the airport is the right thing to happen, it should be easy enough to convince everyone. Cutshaw replies, "What if they said no?"
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Hank and Britt pretend to shake down a woman in an effort to draw out her wanted boyfriend so they can nab the bounty on him. Britt worries the woman may have gone to the police instead, only for the man to instantly open the door and batter the pair in a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Laura Ross, who runs a blog, which is mocked derisively.
  • Jerkass: Elliot and Gavin both try to take advantage of Katie when she is drunk.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Most of the main characters, but especially Hank, Britt, and Gustafson. Gustafson is frequently antagonistic towards Hank and seems to disapprove of his business, but this is because Gustafson tried to help Hank out many times while he was Off the Wagon and it always failed (he later shows how much he cares for and respects Hank); Britt is a petty thief and dropout who nevertheless cares deeply for both Hank and Katie and is trying to be better, and Hank is a recovered alcoholic who is often sour and abrasive, but he shows how loyal and caring he is too.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Almost everything in the first season is connected to something that resolves in the finale.
  • The Jinx: Even though it hasn't been explicitly brought up, Hank, considering he was partly responsible for Jason and the informant's death in "Quid Pro Quo", the husband's suicide in "Change Partners", and Lindus's imprisonment and death. Poor guy.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: It seems as though the bad guys want to stop Hank, Britt and anyone else from revealing the results of the geological survey, so our intrepid detectives figure out a way to leak the survey to Gustafson, thereby shutting down the development on that land... which winds up being exactly what the bad guys want, as Hank realises once he learns that the survey's results were faked.
  • Karma Houdini: Cutshaw, The Man Behind the Man who is also a pedophile, gets off scot-free at the end of the series, though Hank would have continued investigating him had the series been renewed for a second season.
  • Kinky Roleplaying: Britt may have given up his career as a thief, but Katie still has a thing for roleplaying that he's an intruder breaking into her home.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Hank proves to be one in the pilot.
  • Last Episode, New Character: Cutshaw, The Man Behind the Man who was being set up as the Big Bad of Season 2.
  • Layout of a Season: Its season finale is a textbook example that works as either a cliffhanger for the next season or a satisfying resolution to the series. (It turned out to be the latter when the show was not renewed.)
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Hank and Britt try to come up with a title for their private investigator business that lets clients know they latch onto cases and never let go. The scene seems to be heading toward a Title Drop... but they can't think of anything.
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: Hank tells Burke the story of a mugger he was chasing during his police days, who was brutalized by a woman he tried to mug while she was leaving a kickboxing class. Who brings money to a kickboxing class? His message is that the baddies shouldn't threaten someone who has no way to help them but many ways to hurt them.
  • Mad Woman In The Attic: Literally Steph.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Burke does this to Mickey Gosney, staging an overdose, and Hank and Britt do this to Lindus, making it look like a (different) car accident.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Tom Cutshaw. Also, the various other Corrupt Corporate Executives who hired Zeitlin.
  • Mid-Season Twist: Zeitlin wanted the soils report that would sabotage Lindus's Montague development to be leaked so that the development would be shut down, and attempting to cover the papers up was a Batman Gambit.
  • Mood Whiplash: "Change Partners" revolves around a relatively lighthearted plot investigating an affair for a man who wants his wife to cheat on him because he gets off on being cuckolded. Then at the end of the episode the man abruptly kills himself.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Britt: A blue collar Loveable Rogue, who has his problems, but always puts his girlfriend first. And is very often shirtless and boyishly grinning while doing do.
  • Monochrome Casting: Pleasantly averted.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: "Change Partners". Armand Foster is into being cuckolded by his wife least in theory.
  • My Greatest Failure: The Whitman case got Hank fired, and arguably ruined his marriage. To make it worse, he realizes years later, it wasn't Whitman at all but a fellow cop.
  • Mysterious Informant: Hank and Laura arrange a meeting with Laura's informant in "Quid Pro Quo", but she gets murdered at the meet.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Tom Cutshaw is highly corrupt and almost certainly a pedophile.
  • Nice Guy: Jason, Gretchen's fiance. Even Hank, her ex, likes him.
  • No Ending: Frustratingly so, since the show only lasted one season. In the final scene of the series, as Hank is driving Britt to prison so that he can serve out his assault sentence, they get to a stoplight. Hank tells Britt to make a choice: they can either go straight and continue on to the prison, where Britt can pay his debt to society and look forward to many years as a family man...or they can turn left and head for the Mexican border, where they can look forward to many unpredictable years on the run from the law. The screen cuts to black just as the light turns green, and we hear an engine rumbling...but we never get to see which direction they went.
  • Nonindicative Name: Detective Gustafson is an African-American.
  • Non Violent Initial Confrontation: Also crossing over with Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Hank and Britt spend days being nearly killed multiple times by assassins. After all that, their initial confrontation with Tom Cutshaw is extremely polite, within earshot of his family.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Hank and Britt pretend they don't understand they're being hired to assassinate someone so that they will infuriate their would-be employer enough that he'll say something incriminating on tape.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Gustafson finally trades out his cigarette holders for the real deal in the final episode.
    • Hank refuses to take painkillers after being shot to preserve his sobriety, but orders and nearly drinks hard alcohol the day of Gretchen's wedding.
  • Origins Episode: "Sins of the Past" shows what got Hank kicked off the rope.
  • Police Are Useless
  • Private Detective: 'Natch.
  • Quest for Identity: Adam the amnesiac in the episode "Missing Persons".
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Conspiracy is a group of murderers and CorruptCorporateExecutives. But there's a reason that the final Big Bad we meet is a pedophile, and probably a child rapist, who built a children's hospital in Mexico to cover up his crimes.
  • Recovered Addict: Hank.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: Hank partnered with Britt, a career thief he had recently arrested, shortly after being kicked off the force.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Hank and Britt trade places constantly. In the first half, Hank is the red oni to Britt's blue oni. About midway through, Britt crosses into red oni territory when he has a breakdown after discovering Katie's infidelity, and Hank becomes the blue oni as he tries to balance him out.
  • Secret Squatter: Hank briefly thinks he's going mad when food starts disappearing from his house. It turns out that his mentally ill sister, Steph, is living in his attic. However, zigzagged in that he's perfectly happy to have her there when he finds out.
  • Shaped Like Itself
    Hank: You know what this reminds me of? The time we had to climb down the ravine to the car we crashed with the dead guy inside.
  • Ship Tease: Hank and Laura, in the last few episodes.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man:
    • Subverted by Katie who seems to harbor no desire for Britt to get a "real" job and even gets turned on by the revelation he first met her after finding out where she worked while robbing her apartment
    • Played straight with Gretchen, who married a cop, divorced him when his alcoholism overtook him, and then gets engaged to Jason, a Nice Guy with a steady, well-paying job.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: How Hank (and most of the inhabitants of Ocean Beach) view the world.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Discovering Jason's body while liquor store muzak plays.
  • Spotting the Thread: Of all people, it's the schizophrenic Steph who realizes the supposed ground soil toxicology report is a fake because it's simply not possible for compounds to mix with earth soil in that huge numbers unless someone planted them there.
  • Spy Cam: Used by Hank to spy on, and ultimately disrupt, Zeitlin's Faux Affably Evil interview with Laura.
  • Suicide by Cop: Adam plans to do this by taking a hostage with a water pistol.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Robert Lindus is clearly concussed after being hit by a car, but is still able to walk and communicate. Then suddenly, he drops dead on Hank's bathroom floor.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: Robert Lindus, as detailed under Surprisingly Sudden Death.
  • Theme Song: "Gunfight Epiphany" by series composer Robert Duncan.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness:
    • Britt drunkly beating Gavin, believing he is the man his girlfriend slept with, effectively ruins his life.
    • Almost every single horrible event in Hank or Britt's make are a result of their own impulsiveness and bad decisions. Examples include drawing out a fugitive only to get thrown out a window or accidentally driving Armand Foster to suicide in order to get a loan.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Hank seems to think this. Steph - y'know, the actual schizophrenic - is the one who convinces him she needs professional help.
  • Threat Backfire: After discovering that Jason was implicated in a child molestation case, Hank threatens that "either you're telling Gretchen or I will" and adamant this means no wedding. Jason simply says "do what you want." Of course, what Hank doesn't realize until he reveals the file to Gretchen is that Jason told her about this on their second date. Just as Jason knew, Gretchen is far more upset about Hank investigating Jason like this and disinvites him to the wedding.
  • Title Drop: Subverted in the second episode. Britt decides they need a mascot, and he and Hank try to come up with an animal that will represent how they latch onto cases and never let go (a stereotypical trait of terriers). They can't think of anything.
  • Underestimating Badassery: What a poor reporter does with Zeitlin when she meets him. She brushes off his threats with him laughing off a claim of planting drugs in her car but it's when his enforcer tells her they're ready to kill her mother that she realizes this isn't just some mildly corrupt businessman.
  • The Unreveal:
    • We never do find out what was on that photo that the boys used to blackmail Tom Cutshaw.
    • We also never find out the results of Katie's paternity test, since Britt tells her outright that he doesn't care if he's the father or not—he plans to be there for the child either way.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Michela the prostitute spares her client from this in "Pimp Daddy" when she realizes he's not aware she's trans.
  • Wham Episode: "Quid Pro Quo". Culminating with Jason getting killed in the liquor store The pilot also counts, as does "Manifest Destiny."
  • Wham Line: "Change Partners".
    Hank: I needed the loan, Miriam.
  • Wham Shot: Armand Foster jumping out the window after Hank revealed he had sex with Foster's wife.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To Chinatown. It's a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot set around a land grab in metropolitan California with a private eye lead (well, two). In contrast to Chinatown, though, the water aspect is a total Red Herring and the goal is actually an airport. It also culminates in a single scene with the Big Bad, Tom Cutshaw, who is heavily implied to be a pedophile like Noah Cross.