“Sounds like it’s time for you to get a new partner…and a new line of work.”
– Hank, to Britt
At the time he said it, Hank couldn’t have known that that line would apply as much to himself as it did to Britt. He didn’t realize that his alcoholism would cost him both his job and his marriage. But his new ally, Laura Ross, has some information that could help him close the case he was working when he lost his job.
“Sins of the Past” jumps three years into the past, when Hank was still on the force and addicted to alcohol. He hadn’t met Britt yet, and he was still married to Gretchen. At the time, there was a serial rapist going around town. Both Britt and local rich asshole Billy Whitman were near the scene of the latest crime. Mark thought Britt was the culprit, but despite the lack of evidence, Hank suspected Whitman.
As we’ve discussed in previous rewatch commentaries, Hank likes to stand up for the little guy. He’s stubborn and scrappy, like the show’s titular animal. “Sins of the Past” shows us the dark side of that quality. Hank’s desire to stand up for the little guy actually became a desire to take down the big guy. Hank did everything in his power to implicate Whitman, even though all the evidence pointed to the contrary. Without alcohol, Hank at least has an internal filter, a way of blocking out his more confrontational impulses. With alcohol, Hank was reckless, going as far as to arrest Whitman on the trumped-up charge of a broken tail light.
Now, in the present day, some new information from Ross points Hank and Mark in the direction of Reynolds, Mark’s current partner. Neither of them had suspected it at the time, but now it all makes sense. Reynolds, having experience in law enforcement, knew exactly how to cover up a rape. Plus, the survivor of one of the rapes identified his voice as the culprit’s in a police line-up. When Reynolds all but reveals his culpability by attempting to destroy “evidence,” Mark knows for sure that Reynolds was the rapist, and he has the sicko arrested.
However, this is all of little comfort to Hank. True, the rapist is now behind bars, but that doesn’t get Hank reinstated as an officer, nor does it remarry him to Gretchen. Moreover, Whitman never got his comeuppance, and it was really Ross who solved the case. All Hank manages to do by revisiting the case is dredging up old wounds. Hank now realizes that it wasn’t the case that cost him everything; it was the alcohol. Even if Hank had managed to catch Reynolds back then, eventually his drinking would have caught up with him, and he would have lost his job and ruined his marriage regardless. Thus, solving the case is somewhat of a hollow victory.
While Hank may have learned his lesson from this experience, he hasn’t managed to relay that lesson his protégé, Britt. Under the influence of alcohol and depressed at the news that Katie cheated on him, Britt decides to go after the man she did it with. However, Britt mistakenly believes it’s Gavin, not Professor Owen, just like how Hank mistakenly went after Whitman instead of Reynolds. Because of Hank’s inability to guide Britt and his withholding of what he knew about Katie’s one-night stand with Owen, history repeated itself, and now Britt finds himself at an all-time low.
So now, Britt is behind bars, and we know that Hank doesn’t always get satisfaction from solving cases. Maybe Hank needs a new partner…and a new line of work.
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