Will Trent

‘Will Trent’s Most Compelling Storyline Happens Before Episode 1

ABC’s crime procedural drama, Will Trent, follows a rather standard formula. A gifted, often misunderstood investigator finds details of complex cases that ordinary colleagues miss causing antagonism within the investigation team. Even a rookie to TV dramas can spot its similarities to other more cerebral crime procedurals like The Mentalist, Monk, Lie to Me, Numb3rs, House, and Sherlock, to name just a few of the dozens of shows featuring brilliant but tormented protagonists solving mysteries. Where this particular series departs from the rest is when exactly we enter into the investigator’s story.

A custom image of Ramon Rodriguez holding a dog as Will Trent against an orange background

‘Will Trent’ Challenges the Traditional Crime Procedural Design
For arguably every show similar to Will Trent, there is a tried-and-true story arc that none has dared to challenge. The initial episodes focus on small cases that allow the characters to develop, revealing bits and pieces of their investigatory style, background, and complex relationships. It is in these episodes that special skills and debilitating weaknesses are exposed, planting the seeds for future conflict.

Once those initial episodes are through, a more nefarious, multi-episode plot, one that has been building from the start, comes to light with the heroic protagonist caught at its center. It is here where personalities clash, emotions become heightened and decisions with deeper consequences are made. It is important to note that the 11-book series by Karin Slaughter on which Will Trent is based, follows this to a T. Each book of the crime mystery series reveals a bit more about the character Trent’s past, relationships, personality, etc. It is only in the adaptation to television that the storyline style has changed dramatically.

How Does ‘Will Trent’ Stands Out From the Other Shows?

Ramon Rodriguez as Will Trent holding a chihuahua in Will Trent

In adapting for the screen, ABC’s writers opted to instead toss the viewer and the character of Will Trent, played by Ramón Rodríguez, into the deep end. We find that Trent has already solved a nefarious and grueling case exposing dirty cops and shaking up the dual law enforcement agencies in the show. Every character has already appeared to reach a staggering emotional build-up, from partner Faith Mitchell, played by Iantha Richardson, whose mother’s decorated law enforcement career was ended by Trent, to Erika Christensen’s Detective Angie Polaski who serves as a love interest, defense for Trent’s character within the agency, and emotional window into his dark childhood. Each character’s complex relationship with Trent fills every scene with overwhelming intensity even from unnamed cops who occupy the background. In addition, the viewer must also cope with learning the intricacies of Trent’s dark childhood backstory simultaneously alongside piecing together the internal agencies’ web of nuanced hatred and antagonism.

It is no wonder, that after watching its first two episodes, Will Trent feels very different indeed from other crime procedurals. The cases play second fiddle to the massive amount of exposition thrust onto the screen, and the only thing that seems to truly matter is the emotional plots of the characters that have already come to a head and peaked long before the show began. In typical Freytag structure, the guiding storytelling principle that has long dominated TV dramas, Will Trent appears to take place during the dénouement of a larger story, or in other words, the falling action after the riveting climax. While it is a jarring choice, this could actually work in the show’s favor.

This Unique Choice Allows for More Deviations From the Norm

Ramon Rodriguez as Will Trent looking down curiously in Will Trent

There are two types of viewers for this series — loyal fans of the Slaughter novels who knew the intricacies of the character Will Trent long before the series premiered, and those whose first exposure is this show. Thrusting all viewers on a rocky ride to catch everyone up quickly, avoids endless throwaway episodes for loyal fans just to learn a small piece of Trent’s past that they already knew from the books. Some shows take a full season to reveal what Will Trent has blasted out in its first two episodes.

Furthermore, there is a level of exhilarating potential to where the series might lead. Since Special Agent Trent has already investigated the GBI and APD (Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Atlanta Police Department), supposedly, the cops and agents still working are “good cops” although occasionally flawed. Piecing together what happened before we became apart of Will Trent’s life has been a compelling way to tell the story, and it is also an indication that the writers might have a heightened focus on delivering more exciting departures from the tried and true crime drama formula. With the story beginning in the aftermath of a massive upheaval, there is plenty of room for the writers to patch things together and begin on the next driving storyline in which Will Trent will inevitably become entangled.

Will Trent premieres new episodes weekly every Tuesday on ABC and you can stream them the next day on Hulu.

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