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The Second Season of Will Trent Premieres as Charming as Ever

The procedural is back and ABC’s “Will Trent” is a prime example of its charm and potential for success. The first season was a breakthrough hit, with its premiere attracting 18.1 million viewers. It even got some award nominations, mostly for star Ramón Rodríguez’s work in the titular role. 

It turns out the old TV formulas still work and the first episode of “Will Trent’s” second season has all the elements fans of the genre have come to expect — there are clues both obvious and opaque, murders and murderers, and of course hard-scrabble characters, wounded by the many horrors they’ve witnessed. This episode is looser than a lot of the first season, allowing its characters to play with their types and have some fun along the way — the ever-fastidious Trent gets at least one ebullient outburst while Erika Christensen’s Angie Polaski teases his pension for three-piece suits.

The season opens with a scene sure to delight fans and followers of Rodríguez. Based on the books by Karin Slaughter, Will Trent was not originally Latino but with Rodríguez’s casting, not to mention his phenomenal performance as the dyslexic detective who manages to be endearing and prickly, the character’s ethnicity demanded a reexamination. And, at the end of the first season, we learned that TV Will Trent is indeed Latino, the son of a slain Puerto Rican sex worker.

He learns this history with the viewer, having been raised in foster care with no ties to (or even knowledge of) his Boricua culture. We’re talking a character with a thick Georgia accent. So when the second season opens with Trent speaking a truly terrible Spanish (in real life, Rodríguez is fluent), the result is hilarious and meta. For the uninitiated, it’s just a little silly, part of the character’s charm and growth. But for US Latinx audiences who know Rodríguez and our communities’ love/hate relationship with the language, it plays as a knowing wink, telling us that this series and this character has been one of us all along.

And from there, the first episode soars, setting up the plot for the rest of the season without ever feeling like it’s doing chores or checking boxes, as sometimes happens in lesser shows. Here we meet new love interests and watch old relationship statuses change. We meet a new big baddie and are reunited with a previous one. It’s a lot of plot development but “Will Trent” executes it swiftly without neglecting its mystery-of-the-week.

And that’s another place where “Will Trent” excels. It meets current viewers’ expectations by creating throughlines between its episodes, not just the characters’ relationships but a larger crime/ongoing mystery to connect the season. And it makes sure that each episode satisfies the procedural’s tidiness requirement. Here are tragedies that can be resolved in forty-five minutes or less. Bad guys discovered and dispensed; the world made right again by righteous if flawed cops.

Now, of course, the copaganda subgenre has rightly faced criticism of late. And “Will Trent” certainly plays into the fantasy that law enforcement is always (or nearly always) a force for good. While the first season opened with Trent facing backlash for investigating his own, that thread is absent in the second season premiere. One can only hope it will show up again in later episodes.

Instead, we get time with all our favorite Georgia law enforcement officers. Iantha Richardson is back as Will’s partner Faith Mitchell, just as smart, tough, and vulnerable as before. Polaski, as Trent’s on-again, off-again long-time romantic interest is taking her paces, with Christensen continuing to embody her wry vulnerability with ease. Sonja Sohn as Will’s boss Amanda Wagner doesn’t have much to do this episode, but still her no-nonsense compassion sparkles on screen. And Angie’s partner Michael Ormewood (Jake McLaughlin), Will’s sometimes rival, gets a meaningful arc, putting those long eyelashes and insecure toughman to work.

The style of the show also remains intact. Will’s suits and car are as bespoke as ever. Mitchell and Wagner both rock inspired, bright, patterned working women fits. And the show’s Georgia depicts a society with a strong class divide — there are beautiful and well-appointed offices for Trent’s Georgia Bureau of Investigation and their largely upper-class suspects and more hard-scrabble digs for Polaski and Ormewood’s regular police department.

Charming actors in well-written parts. A cleverly updated take on a tried-and-true formula. Attractive clothes and sets that help tell the story. It all adds up to a show that sings and will surely continue to delight audiences in its second season.

Season premiere screened for review. It airs on ABC on February 20th, on Hulu the next day.

Cristina Escobar

Cristina Escobar is the co-founder of LatinaMedia.Co, a digital publication uplifting Latina and gender non-conforming Latinx perspectives in media.

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