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Quirky new ABC series ‘Will Trent’ is an absorbing ride: review

“Will Trent” is a rare example of a midseason series that would have — and maybe should — been right at home with a splashy fall debut.

The quirky procedural, based on Karin Slaughter’s bestselling book series, stars the engaging Ramón Rodríguez as the titular Will Trent, an intuitive Special Agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. It’s absorbing from the get-go (didn’t look at my watch once, always a good sign) and doesn’t cram too much mind-numbing context into the series premiere. It’s always a turnoff when a new show throws too much information out there too fast. There are other ways to grab viewers’ attention.

Instead, “Will Trent” takes its time after introducing our protagonist, gifting Rodríguez the latitude to fill in the blanks while showing us what Will is all about — both in the workplace and in his private life. It helps that the Jan. 3 premiere episode carries over into the following week, wrapping the show’s overriding premise in two episodes and allowing it to expand its universe as the series arc progresses.

Ramón Rodríguez (Will) and Iantha Richardson (Faith) investigating a double-murder case. They're outside on a campus-like setting and are facing each other with serious looks on their faces.
Ramón Rodríguez (Will) and Iantha Richardson (Faith) investigating a double-murder case.

“Will Trent” opens with Will investigating a bloody double-murder/kidnapping at the home of a wealthy Atlanta businessman. It appears to be a cut-and-dried scenario, but of course it’s not, at least once Will arrives on the scene shortly after (grudgingly, but we know better) adopting his next-door-neighbor’s Chihuahua, Betty, who was left tied up in the backyard after her owner’s death. Despite his obvious quick attachment to Betty, though, these aren’t warm and fuzzy times for Will; he’s the bureau’s star agent, solving case after case with his “Monk”-type obsessive methodology (and Southern accent), but he’s on the Atlanta PD’s s–t list after busting some bigwigs there — and the cops he encounters let him know just exactly how they feel about him. It ain’t pretty, nor his his car, emblazoned with nasty graffiti courtesy of angry cops.

Will, though, is laser-focused on the double-murder and the college-aged woman who was kidnapped. We soon learn that she’s the daughter of the wealthy businessman, Paul Campanos (a bearded Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and that, in turn, helps with exposition vis-á-vis Will’s back story; he knows Paul from their boyhoods growing up together in Georgia’s foster care system, years that left their marks (good and bad) on them both and … wait for it … also on Atlanta PD Det. Angie Polaski (Erika Christensen), who spent years with Will in foster care. Now, 25 years later, they’re in an on-again/off-again romantic relationship, which seems to suit both of them just fine — and definitely helps when they work together on the murder/kidnapping case, resolved (with more back story added) in Episode 2. They know each others tics and flaws and, more importantly, how much their past ties them together.

Erika Christensen as Det. Angie Polaski. She's sitting at a table and looking over her shoulder. There's a coffee can visible near her arm.
Erika Christensen as Det. Angie Polaski, who’s in an on-again/off-again relationship with Will.
Jake McLaughlin as Det. Michael Ormewood in a scene from "Will Trent." He's wearing a suit and tie and has a closely-cropped beard. He's talking to someone whose back is to the camera.
Jake McLaughlin as Det. Michael Ormewood in a scene from “Will Trent.”

Rounding out the fine ensemble cast are Sonja Sohn as Will’s no-nonsense boss, Amanda; Iantha Richardson, as Faith, a smart young agent who’s partnered with Will (he famously works alone … but not anymore); and Jake McLaughlin (“Quantico”) as Det. Michael Ormewood who, years before, had a drunken fling with Angie. She’s not happy when they find themselves working together again.

It’s Rodríguez, though, who drives the series forward. As Will he’s both charismatic and unpredictable with a touch of subtle humor thrown in. We know there’s a lot we don’t yet know about Trent — and that underneath his unstylish three-piece suit (and that’s being generous) lies a brilliantly deductive mind camouflaging the hurt and pain from his foster-home past — and which now drives him to solve crimes and help others (including Betty).

It should be a fun ride.

“Will Trent” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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