“Mom, you want ice cream?”
— Steph

We’ve known Hank’s sister, Steph, for a few episodes now. We know that she’s blunt, eccentric, and socially awkward, but we’ve also seen the loving relationship that she has with her brother. Surprisingly, though, previous Terriers episodes haven’t gone into detail about what Steph’s “condition” is. We know that’s it’s a psychiatric disorder, based on numerous references to self-harm, but the show hasn’t given us much in the way of detail. “Missing Persons” remedies that by giving us a look inside Steph’s head during one of her psychotic episodes.

Ever since his wife left him, Hank has been a lonely man. He does get to spend most of his days with his best friend, Britt. Nonetheless, at the end of  each of those days, Britt goes home to Katie, and Hank goes home to an empty house. But that house hasn’t been so empty ever since Steph moved back in, and Hank realizes just how much he missed the companionship of his sibling. They eat meals together, they tease each other, and they watch old TV shows together. It’s not exactly domestic bliss, but it’s a comfortable, happy life, and it helps Hank feel less alone.

Perhaps that’s why Hank sympathizes with Adam Fisher – the episode’s villain, if you want to call him that – even after he finds out that Adam kidnapped Jessica. He doesn’t see a kindred spirit in Adam, but he understands that sometimes loneliness can push people to do things that they wouldn’t normally or rationally do. On some level, deep down, Hank knows that he won’t be able to keep his sister with him forever; no matter how reliable her medications are, eventually she’ll have an episode. Still, he continues let her live with him in order to cure his loneliness. Thus, Hank can understand why loneliness (and rejection), coupled with the side effects of anti-malarial drugs, could drive Adam to kidnap Jessica.

However, Hank loses all sympathy for the kid the second time around, when he holds Jessica’s roommate at (water) gunpoint. Then, instead of seeing the parallels between himself and Adam, Hank begins to see the contrast between Adam and Steph. While Steph takes her medication to stave off her condition, Adam’s condition was caused by his meds, which he took of his own volition. In a sense, he voluntarily gave himself his condition. Steph can’t help her condition; she didn’t ask for her psychoses. Adam exploits his condition, using it to try to excuse his selfish behaviour.That someone would treat mental illness so flippantly angers Hank to his very core.

But Hank’s rage is also partially self-pitying. When he goes to confront Adam, he knows that he’ll have to let Steph go. His anger and frustration at that fact is what fuels his vicious haranguing of Adam. It might not be fair, but it’s exactly what Adam needs to hear.

However, as much as Hank needed to vent, he has to face the facts: he simply can’t take care of Steph by himself; she needs the help of an assisted living facility. So, Hank must let her go. Steph, scientific as she is, seems remarkably well-adjusted despite her recent episode; she has learned to accept psychotic breaks as a part of her life. Meanwhile, Hank is on the verge of tears, partly because he’ll never truly understand Steph’s condition, but also because he’s once again forced into the sad state of loneliness.

For more information on the Terriers rewatch project, please click here.

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