Say this much for “Will Trent,” a new drama series on ABC: It’s found a compelling lead. Ramón Rodríguez, playing the central detective, makes for a sympathetic and rootable figure. The challenge the show faces will be bringing the story up to his and his costars’ level.
Rodríguez benefits, perhaps, from the source material; Trent, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent based in Atlanta, emerged from the mind of novelist Karin Slaughter. Here, he’s an astute but fallible sleuth, brought to the point of frustration both by his learning disability and an incident in which he seemed to have missed crucial clues. His missing things lends texture and interest to the story; Rodríguez sells his anger well, too.
Will is investigating a case that comes to bloom through (at least) the show’s first two episodes; the ability to find new detail and intrigue within a single story speaks to the show’s relative ambition. But beyond the crime he’s working, we come to know Will primarily through relationships — his vexed ones with a love interest from his past (played by Erika Christensen) and with his partner (Iantha Richardson). Richardson draws out Will’s methods in the field nicely, but it’s with Christensen’s Angie Polaski that we see Will in his fullest dimensions; the pair knew one another in youth, when both relied on each other to get through their respective senses of abandonment in foster care.
This show, like its network-mate, “Alaska Daily,” is a superior 2020s network drama but, in the end, a 2020s network drama. Here, that means that violent crime is deployed titillatingly, and character detail evoked nicely through performance is often, then, thuddingly restated in expository dialogue. Still, it is hard to root against a show that, within the context of its genre, seems admirably open to presenting its characters as something other than brilliant supercops. Will Trent’s doggedness, and his ability to pivot when he’s been proven wrong, buoy a show with a bit more going on than first meets the eye.
“Will Trent” will premiere Tuesday, January 3 at 10 p.m. ET