“Ah, we’ve been in worse situations. I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but they’re there.”
– Britt, to Hank
The division of a series into a seasonal structure gives television some narrative idiosyncrasies as a medium. Serialized stories build up to finales that put protagonists in seemingly impossible situations, only to let them weasel through some deus ex machina before the credits roll. In a sense, “Hail Mary” suffers from this very problem. When all hope seems to be lost, Hank finds out that he has had access to blackmail material on Tom Cutshaw, the mastermind behind the Ocean Beach airport plan, all along, which he then uses to stop Cutshaw from going through with the plan.
However, to put it like that is to do a disservice to Hank and his journey this season. Hank has had to prove that he has worth as a person, both to himself and to others. He has had to realize that it’s still worth fighting the good fight, even when all hope is lost. More than that, though, he has had to learn that he has to stop trying to find self-worth in fixing things for other people and in making choices for them. That’s why the episode – and season (and series) – ends with Hank giving Britt the option of serving his jail sentence or escaping to Mexico.
But wait! you say. What’s Hank doing ever considering moving to Mexico? Doesn’t that ending undermine his character journey throughout this season? After all, wasn’t the point of it that he would become more responsible? In a sense, yes, but not in the way that society conventionally defines “responsible.” Hank had to learn how to take responsibility for his own actions, not for others’. As he learned in “Sins of the Past,” getting kicked off the force for alcoholism was his own fault, but Reynolds’ actions were not. That’s why finally solving the case brought Hank no catharsis. He had already come to terms with the fact that he was responsible for the things he had done while under the influence of alcohol. What he hadn’t yet realized was that solving the case wouldn’t absolve him of the guilt of something that he hadn’t caused in the first place, i.e Reynolds’ rapes.
Hank found himself in a similar place at the end of “Pimp Daddy,” when he warned Gretchen of Jason’s shady past. He hadn’t understood that Gretchen was a perfectly capable woman who already knew about the allegations against Jason’s family, but he quickly realized how reckless he had been in trying to get that information to her.
So, by “Hail Mary,” Hank finally realizes that trying to fix others’ problems is taking responsibility for their actions, not his own. He has let go of his attachment to trying to repair things that he has no responsibility to fix. This is demonstrated symbolically with Hank deciding to sell the house he once shared with Gretchen, but it’s also demonstrated implicitly in his conversation with her:
Gretchen: “Call me if you need anything.”
Hank: What was that?
Gretchen: That’s what everyone says when they leave: “Call if you need anything.” You didn’t.
Hank: Because you know you can.
Hank now understands that his responsibility isn’t to fix things for Gretchen without her asking; it’s to be there for her when asks for help. The important thing is to give her the option of seeking his help or not.
Viewed in that light, the final few minutes of the series are quite fitting for Hank. They symbolize that he has stopped trying to decide things for Britt and now views him as an equal partner. It doesn’t matter that we never find out what option Britt chose. The important thing is that Hank gave that option in the first place. Hank may have stopped the Ocean Beach airport project through sheer luck, and he may have ended the series just as goofy and immature as he was at the start. But along the way, he gained the wisdom to realize that life isn’t just about playing the hero all the time; it’s about living with and loving the people in it, seeing them as beings on par with oneself. That wisdom is reflected in the fact that he’s asking Britt to determine the next step of their journey. And so he asks him:
“Which way will it be?”
For more information on the Terriers rewatch project, please click here.
Well, that does it for the Terriers rewatch. I hope you enjoyed my incoherent ramblings. Stay tuned to the blog for more interesting things to come.