‘Terriers’: How ‘Pimp Daddy’ flipped the script

As has been the case all year, “Terriers” is the best show that you’re not watching. I know you’re not watching because I’ve check out the recent ratings and it appears that basically NO ONE is watching. So I feel fairly confident in my assumption.

Now, obviously, if you’re reading a site like this, you might actually be one of the extremely small majority that actually is tuning in week after week to this FX drama. So you know how frustrating it is to look around and see apathy towards this show’s existence. Antipathy would actually be preferable: after all, that would mean that the show at least was in the general pop culture consciousness, having been acknowledged and then summarily rejected. But you’re as likely to get a blank stare when mentioning the show’s name as you would if you tried to name drop members of James Madison’s cabinet. Both would generate about the same amount of general interest if brought up at a dinner party.

Last week’s episode, “Pimp Daddy,” gave fans of the show more reasons to despair over the show’s hazy future. Written by series co-creator Shawn Ryan and Kelly Wheeler, “Daddy” compares favorably to the Season 4 “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode “Hush.” Now, that’s some big praise there, since that show was nominated for a writing Emmy and stands as my personal second favorite episode of the entire series behind “Once More with Feeling.” On the surface, such a comparison seems hyperbolic at best, and downright ill-conceived at worse. But I still stand by it.

terriers_fx_logue.jpgHere’s why: both “Hush” and “Pimp Daddy” seemed to have derived from the same goal. That goal? Purposefully write against the show’s perceived strengths in order to show that that particular piece of entertainment works on more than the easy-to-see level. In “Buffy,” that level lay in the writing of Joss Whedon and his staff, all of whom seemed to speak fluent Whedon-ese. Fed up with the constant praise for the show’s dialogue, Whedon decided to write an episode almost entirely devoid of the show’s theoretical bread-and-butter and produced an episode that was not hampered but energized by the self-imposed restriction.

“Daddy” may not go down in televisions’ historical annals the way that I feel “Hush” will, but the ethos is the same. Ryan and Wheeler didn’t have the benefit of three seasons of cultural criticism against which to react, but still chose to write an episode that avoided playing its strongest asset: the relationship between Hank and Britt. The source of the show’s soul and the majority of its humor were split apart and sent in two different directions for almost the entire hour. Lo and behold: the world didn’t end. And “Terriers” produced another great episode.

But what made “Pimp Daddy” more than a simple writing exercise is that the separation was actually grounded in character and season-long story. The relationship between Hank and Britt is incredibly strong, but not always conducive to individual growth. Often times, such relationships feature people leaning on each other so much that they lack the strength to stand on their own. Having already involved Britt against his will in his background check on Jason, Hank needed to delve into Jason’s dark past on his own. For Britt’s own part, following through on a case without his supposedly smarter half not only gave him professional confidence, but also offered a personal breakthrough that led him to finally take his engagement ring out of storage and onto Katie’s hand.

All of this sets the stage for two potentially separate sets of heartbreak: Hank’s probably going to think about drowning his sorrows in a bottle of booze, and Katie’s guilt will probably manifest itself in a confession. At that point, Hank and Britt may need each other more than ever. But they couldn’t be there for each other then without having traveled a little ways by themselves. Hopefully, a few more eyeballs at home will walk them go through that process as the first season of this fine series winds down.