Whatever preconceived notion you might have about what Will Trent is, or what the show will attempt to do, is thrown away in the first five minutes of the “Pilot.” But even that is on par for the course. TV has always been filled with big personalities solving crime in new and innovative ways, and there have even been a few handsome men in three-piece suits playing them before. The setup isn’t extraordinary. But, somehow, against all odds, Will Trent actually is.
Not just the show, but the character, though the first one definitely benefits from the second. You cannot have a series named after one character if your character cannot just carry the show, but make it soar – which is exactly what Ramón Rodríguez does. The character setup helps him, but Rodríguez plays the titular character with a combination of confidence, aloofness, and vulnerability that is both incredibly appealing and slightly off-putting, just the right balance to keep you watching.
The ensemble around him is intriguing enough, if slightly more cookie-cutter. Their interpersonal relationships will surely be explored, and fans might even come to care for them, but so far, the thing that makes them stand apart is the ways in which they relate to Trent. That includes a partnership with just the right amount of antagonism and respect, a ship that you want to root for, but cannot yet, and a few other interesting possibilities that are sure to delve deeper into Trent’s troubled past.
A new show must not just feel like a journey, it has to feel like a different journey. If people don’t care, everything is doomed from the beginning. If people feel like they already know where the story is going, it’s pretty much the same result. Will Trent stands out by presenting a compelling protagonist that isn’t anywhere near his best self, relationships that need a lot of work, and representation that is more than skin deep.
Yes, Will Trent is played by Rodríguez, a Latine, but that isn’t the only thing that makes Will Trent stand apart.
Instead, the show portrays its main character, one of the brightest stars in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as dyslexic, and not just dealing with it, but thriving at his job – in his own way – even as he battles his past and his own self-doubts. Representation of this kind is few and far between on TV, but it’s especially rare within a community where things like learning disabilities are treated as the kind of thing you don’t share. Frozen might have popularized the phrase “conceal, don’t feel,” but it often feels like Latines invented it.
At this point, it is impossible to deny the role of representation as not just an inspirational force, but an equalizing one. When you don’t see people who look like you, who sound like you – or who have the same issues as you – it’s hard to believe there is a place for you in whatever you might dream of doing. This is particularly true when you already come from a minority and have to live with a condition such as dyslexia. But Will Trent is out there and yes, he has issues. Sure, he could do with some therapy – and some dark-colored suits. But he’s still living his life, and he’s got a journey ahead of him, one we can all follow along to.
That’s all we need sometimes. Existing out loud is, at times, the most important message. And if Will Trent can solve some cases, figure out his relationships, and learn how to deal with his trauma too, well, that’s all icing on the cake of a good story, led by a pretty great protagonist.
Will Trent airs Tuesdays on ABC.