ICYMI: ABC’s Detective Drama Will Trent Is Worth Investigating

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ICYMI: ABC’s Detective Drama Will Trent Is Worth Investigating

Editor’s Note: Welcome to ICYMI! While the writers and actors fight for the fair contracts they deserve, we’re highlighting some shows you may have missed in the deluge of content from throughout the year. Join the Paste writers as we celebrate our underrated faves, the blink-and-you-missed-it series, and the perfect binges to fill the void left by delays and corporate greed:

Is there any silver lining to the entire entertainment industry being shut down? Certainly not for the actors and writers fighting for better pay, better working conditions, and protection from the frightening rise of artificial intelligence. These strikes have gone on for far too long.

But at Paste TV, we want to keep celebrating the great work of actors and writers who created the shows we love. While we all hope for a swift end to the strikes, maybe, just maybe, we can use this unexpected down time for good!

During the past several years there’s been a glut of content. It’s highly likely you’ve missed out on some absolutely fabulous TV. I know I have. And I watch TV like it’s my job. Kicking off our ICYMI series is Will Trent, the ABC detective drama that premiered in January. 

Based on Karin Slaughter’s book series, the 13-episode first season follows Special Agent Will Trent (Ramón Rodríguez) of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). As the series begins, he’s just wrapped up an internal investigation into the Atlanta Police Department. He is, according to what’s been spray painted on his car, a rat, a snitch and a traitor. “There’s a lot of uniforms out there plotting your murder,” a detective tells him when he arrives at a crime scene. 

Reminiscent of shows like Monk, Will, who always wears a three-piece suit and carries a handkerchief, is more observant and smarter than pretty much everyone else. “He read that crime scene like a book,” Will’s new partner Faith Mitchell (Iantha Richardson) says. Sometimes frustratingly smug (in the show’s opening moments, he notes into his tape recorder that Atlanta PD has gotten everything wrong), other times heartbreakingly vulnerable (he’s able to empathize with the victims like most cannot), no one can solve a case like Will Trent can. Rodriguez’s nuanced performance makes Will both a character others are constantly exasperated with but also someone viewers will want to root for. It’s a tricky line to walk as a performer, and Rodriguez handles it with aplomb. 

Rodriguez is surrounded by a stellar cast. Sonja Sohn, perhaps most known for her work on The Wire, is GBI Director Amanda Wagner, Will’s no-nonsense boss who brings a seasoned gravitas to the series. Relative newcomer Richardson (eagle eye viewers might remember her as adult Tess on This is Us) is a great verbal sparring partner for Will. Faith respects Will but also doesn’t put up with a lot of his nonsense. Jake McLaughlin oozes smarminess as Detective Michael Ormewood. But is he a bad guy? I honestly don’t know! I love that I got to the end of the first season and still didn’t know exactly how to feel about him. 

The real revelation to me has been Erika Christensen as Atlanta police detective Angie Polaski. Christensen’s Angie is a contradiction. Fragile, but strong. In control, but also always teetering on the edge of losing it. Strategically savvy but impulsive. Will and Angie grew up together in a group foster home and their childhoods were anything but happy. They’ve both forged successful careers for themselves, but the cracks in their collective armor often show. At times, the show jumps back and forth in time to drop clues about the characters’ complex histories. Will is a puzzle that perhaps even he cannot solve.  

Will and Angie’s history connects them in ways others don’t fully comprehend. No one understands Will the way Angie does, and no one understands Angie the way Will does. But with history comes baggage, lots of it. Do they bring out the best in each other or the worst?  That’s still to be determined, but the chemistry between Rodriguez and Christensen is smoldering. Their beautiful but troubled relationship is the heart of the series.

The main cast is supported by some stellar guest star turns including Mark-Paul Gosselaar (who I know has done so much work since Saved by the Bell, but will always be Zack Morris to me) and Jennifer Morrison (House, Once Upon a Time) as a dysfunctional married couple in the show’s two-part opener. Later episodes in the season feature French Stewart (3rd Rock from the Sun), Yancy Arias (Bosch), LisaGay Hamilton (The Practice), and Greg Germann (Grey’s Anatomy, Ally McBeal, every TV show you’ve ever loved). These and other A+ guest stars help bring this fantastic series to life every week.

What really makes the series tick is that all these performances come together to form a series that works on two distinct levels. Sometimes you just want to be entertained. You want to watch a show, find out who did it, and move on. Will Trent is here for you. But unlike a lot of crime dramas on TV, it’s not so easy to predict a plot and figure out who did it before the main characters do. The show will keep you guessing often right up until the very last moment. 

But the series also has several overarching storylines and mysteries that play out over the course of the first season. I’m not going to give anything away, but the series is ripe with storylines that span multiple episodes, from Will’s origin story to Angie’s traumatic past to some crimes that don’t get neatly wrapped up in a neat little bow. 

If all this isn’t enough to convince you to give Will Trent a chance, I give you the cuteness factor.  In the pilot episode, Will adopts (against his better judgment) Betty, a chihuahua. She’s the pet of his deceased neighbor. Will tries to take her to a shelter, but when he finds out the shelter isn’t exactly a no-kill shelter, he reluctantly brings her home. As played by a chihuahua named Bluebell (who also can be seen opposite Emma Stone in Cruella), Betty is impish and adorable. 

Whether it’s for the addictively compelling crime capers or the interpersonal drama, there is no better time to investigate Will Trent. And lucky for us all, it’s already been renewed for a second season. 

Watch on Hulu

Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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