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Will Trent.jpg

Mark-Paul Gosselaar Returns in the Emotional Season Finale of ABC's 'Will Trent'

By Jen Maravegias | TV | May 4, 2023 |

By Jen Maravegias | TV | May 4, 2023 |

Will Trent.jpg

Spoilers for the first season of Will Trent

Season 1 of Will Trent ends where Will Trent’s life began: In a back alley dumpster. The two-part season finale gives us the complete low-down on Trent’s origin story, tangled up in the hunt for a serial killer whose crimes have spanned decades and who now seems to be targeting the kids from Will and Angie’s foster home.

In 1986, when Amanda Wagner (Sonja Sohn) and Evelyn Mitchell (LisaGay Hamilton from The Practice) were uniformed cops fighting street crime and overt sexism in the squad room, they tried to shine a light on a case involving the murder and mutilation of a number of prostitutes. Those murders were eventually pinned on a pimp named Juice and the case was closed.

But the same M.O. is being used in a present case involving kids from Will and Angie’s past. That means that Mark-Paul Gosselaar is back as flamboyant pill-popper Paul Campano. Yay! He survives an attack by the killer and is now a witness and a convenient dogsitter for Betty. Convenient because Angie gets snatched out of Will’s house by the killer and the whole team, including Faith’s mom, is working to find her before she becomes the killer’s next victim.

Through the course of tying the past investigation to the current one, Amanda is forced to reveal to Will that she knew his birth mother. She was a prostitute named Lucy Morales whom Amanda and Evelyn tried to rescue while she was pregnant with Will. Unfortunately, they failed in that and Will’s mom died giving birth to him without ever having revealed who his father was.

The killer is obviously someone who was involved in the original case and they try to fake us out by using the super-gross former detective who made Amanda and Evelyn’s lives so difficult back then as a red herring. But, if you know anything about procedurals, you screamed like I did when they introduced Greg Germann’s character, James Ulster, the former defense attorney on the case. You don’t just bring Greg Germann in for a two-part finale as a nobody!

Desperate to find Angie, Will tackles the clues in his upside-down backward sort of way and lands on the right suspect at the same time that Paul Campano remembers why the killer smelled so familiar and Amanda is able to tie that info to James Ulster.

It’s all a bit improbable, but so is everything else that happens on this show. So sure! Why not? Angie is injured but rescued by Will … Although, to her credit, she did a really great job of almost rescuing herself and getting Will on the phone to confirm his suspicions.

Both cases have been solved, Angie is safe, and Will finally has the information about his past that he’s always longed for. But as far as we know Angie is still planning to leave Will (“for his own good”) so he’s feeling more alone than ever as the episode and the season come to an end. Evelyn Miller knows how to fix that. In a quiet moment in the hospital waiting room, she explains how Amanda took Will in when they found him all wrapped up in the garbage can. She gave him her mother’s maiden name and would have adopted him if the laws in 1986 had allowed single mothers to adopt babies. He’s spent his life thinking he was alone but has had a mother looking over his shoulder all this time.

When this show began I didn’t think I’d still be watching it at the finale, let alone enjoying it as much as I did this first season. It’s got a good sense of humor that doesn’t overwhelm the action. Even though I still think the idea of a profoundly dyslexic GBI Special Agent is ridiculous, Ramón Rodríguez’s performance and dialect work has grown on me over these thirteen episodes.

This has been some of my favorite of Erika Christensen’s work too so far. Angie is tough on the outside, processing trauma on the inside, and trying to maintain her recovery from heroin addiction. There are a lot of ways Polaski could have become a caricature. But Christensen did a nice job of humanizing her and creating real moments between Angie and Will as well as between Angie and her partner, Michael Ormewood (Jake McLaughlin).

Angie and Betty.jpg

Ormewood is a great foil to the seriousness and gravity that Angie and Will live under. Along the lines of Law & Order’s Lenny Brisco, Ormewood always has something funny to say. His standout line from the finale is, “You can’t spell stakeout without takeout.” That one is probably going to stick with me until next season.

In the meantime, I’m going to check out some Karin Slaughter books from the library and hope there will be more of Mark-Paul Gosselaar when Season 2 begins.

All episodes of Will Trent Season 1 are available on Hulu. The series has been renewed for a second season by ABC.