Solid adaptation by ABC's Karin Slaughter - The Hollywood Reporter

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Not always empirically good, but better than the bland title and awful opening sequence might lead you to suspect, ABC’s Will Trent it quickly emerges as an above-average TV broadcast procedure – even if it’s precisely these structural pitfalls that so often undermine it.

As far as average popular literary adaptations go, Will Trent offers a distinct main character and lead performances, a promising ensemble, and – based on the first two episodes – seems easily able to appeal to the same audience that found comfort in Netflix’s Lincoln Lawyer and from amazon reacher.

Will Trent

Conclusion

A broadcast drama with promise.

Display date: 10 pm Tuesday, January 3 (ABC)
Throw: Ramón Rodriguez, Erika Christensen, Iantha Richardson, Sonja Sohn, Jake McLaughlin
Creators: Liz Heldens and Daniel T. Thomsen from the books by Karin Slaughter

Appointed with the same strategy that gave us Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector on NBC for a few months in 2020, Will Trent is based on a long running series of novels set in Atlanta by Karin Slaughter – a fact that existing fans probably still could have deduced with a more vivid title. Certainly the current title is the least vivid imaginable, and it misleads Trent himself, an endearingly quirky and interestingly damaged special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Will (Ramón Rodriguez) is one of those archetypal Holmesian investigators who simply sees the world differently. His secret gifts — of observation and not according to the book because, as we quickly learn, Will is dyslexic — were honed through a difficult childhood in Atlanta’s foster care system and various group homes.

The series, adapted by Liz Heldens and Daniel T. Thomsen, begins with Will facing an upheaval for his role in orchestrating a major police investigation into corruption. As the GBI and APD share an office building, Will is constantly forced to come into contact with people who think he is a rat or an informant, which is made even more difficult when he is called on an important case that requires cooperation. departmental.

The case involves a mother (Jennifer Morrison) who returns to her luxurious suburban home, thinks she has found her teenage daughter murdered, and, in a struggle, kills the man she thinks is the perpetrator. APD decides it’s an easy fix, but Will uses his superpower – like so many Sherlockian sports shoes, it’s mostly illustrated with a lot of squinting – to find holes in what seemed obvious, much to everyone’s chagrin. Soon he’s dealing with the victim’s surly father (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), who knows Will from a shared past, a cantankerous boss (Sonja Sohn’s Amanda) and a reluctant new APD partner (Iantha Richardson’s Faith), whose grudge against Will is folks.

Alongside, but quickly interacting with, the main case is undercover deputy detective Angie (Erika Christensen), a recovering addict and another part of Will’s traumatic past; and his new partner Michael (Jake McLaughlin), who seems a bit of a dick but apparently has a high case-solving rate, so we should consider him a capable work in progress rather than something like a bad cop.

The overqualified presences of a raw Morrison and a deftly stormy, intimidating Gosselaar build instant investment and make me wish the first case could have played out over an entire season rather than coming to a rushed conclusion at the end of the second hour. That’s how the cable version of the series obviously would have worked, and I have concerns that Will Trent can transition to a case-of-the-week structure, perhaps exemplified by the utterly uninteresting B-case in the second hour. Giving everything more room to breathe might have alleviated some of the challenges in explaining the GBI’s jurisdiction and how it, and Will, fit into the Atlanta police scene. But at least the general description of Atlanta is handled well, and the disclosure of Will’s initial case in two episodes offers some chance of character details emerging.

Will is just a good, interesting character, full of physical and psychological scars that inform everything he does – from his reluctant series-opening decision to adopt an adorable, abandoned Chihuahua named Betty to his home under renovation in a rough neighborhood to your relationship. with Angie, who is half booty call and half needed therapy together. Though Rodriguez is solid in the lead role – a good mix of the dapper and the damaged, with just enough undercurrents of humor – Christensen, frazzled and dangerously on edge, is the real standout. I could instantly understand why the Will/Angie pairing is the kind of relationship I can invest in on the page.

I could argue that the first two Will Trent the episodes spend a lot of time explaining their eccentricities and pathologies, but the last thing I want to do when it comes to a broadcast show is complain that the characters are too clear and specifically motivated. This extends to most of the main characters, including Faith, trying to find her place in a department dominated by her mother’s now conflicted legacy, and to Amanda, still enough of a cop to resent Will for his role in the corruption case she created. he chases. Only Michael doesn’t have a hook after two hours and this, again, is much better than what shows of this type usually manage so early in their run.

Tone glitches are much more familiar to the broadcast space and are almost instantaneous. The opening scene, recapping the main crime, is bizarrely operatic, with slow-motion screaming and heightened violence that borders on parody – director Paul McGuigan makes one bad decision after another by mistaking brilliance for emotional compromise – just to make the transition. instant for a purely comic scene. of Will trying to get rid of his dog at a shelter. Time and again in these two episodes, humorous beats and awkward banter undermine attempts to give gravitas to Will and Angie’s backstory.

I would have liked to see one or two more episodes of Will Trent to find out how it works week to week, to see how the show settles into letting its characters’ personalities drive the drama instead of using the drama to explain the characters’ personalities. Still, wanting to see additional episodes is as close to a compliment as I’ve been able to give a drama that’s aired in the past two years.

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