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The 'Will Trent' Series Is Better Than The Books

By Jen Maravegias | TV | May 1, 2024 |

By Jen Maravegias | TV | May 1, 2024 |

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Last year, when I first wrote about Will Trent, I hadn’t read any of Karin Slaughter’s books. I got distracted but finally checked the first book in the series out of the library last month. I hated that book so much that I almost put it in the freezer.

It’s confusing because I love the show and all of the characters. I should, at least, like the books. But I’ll tell you something, I’m not planning to read any more of them. Even after only reading one book in the series I’m delighted by all the changes the show made to the plot and characters. I think they’re a vast improvement. Specifically, I’m happy about the TV version of Michael Ormewood.

Spoilers for an 18-year-old book:

In the first Will Trent book, Triptych, Michael Ormewood is a sociopath who murders women and abuses his wife. That puts his character more in line with real-life cops, whose violent tendencies are put on display every day. Nobody wants that in a show as unrealistic as Will Trent, though. He is a terrible person and a far cry from the jocular Ormewood portrayed by Jake McLaughlin (and his beautiful eyes) in the ABC series.

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TV Ormewood has an almost unbelievable level of emotional intelligence for a middle-aged, white cop. Although he has cheated on his wife in the past (with Angie Polaski, and maybe others?), he’s never physically hurt her. Although he’s clumsy in his approach, he loves his wife and wants to work on their marriage, which is where they left it before his wife, played by Sara Antonio, went to an in-patient therapy program. By the way, I don’t buy that and I’m going to be super disappointed if they reveal that Ormewood murdered her. That would be entirely unbelievable for this version of the character. I hope she ran away to a Caribbean Island.

Book Ormewood is a teenage drug dealer who torments and abuses his female classmates, frames his younger cousin for murder, and then steals that guy’s identity while he’s in prison so he can continue committing crimes. Sorry, I did mention there would be spoilers, right? While I can see TV Ormewood being the kind of high school jerk who bullied smaller, nerdier kids, I can’t see him murdering anyone.

In episode six of this season, “We Are Family,” we see Ormewood struggling to single-parent his kids while working on a murder that happened at a drag club. He spends a lot of time asking the women in his professional life to teach him how to french braid his daughter’s hair, or do it for him. The episode ends with him throwing a dinner party for his daughter, inviting the primary cast, and some of the performers from the drag club. The sociopath from the book would have never been able to pull off that level of human interaction without murdering everyone in the room.

The drastic changes to Michael Ormewood’s character are not the only differences I appreciate in the show. Overall, the cast of Slaughter’s book series is white. Will Trent is described as “6′ 3-4, broad-shouldered, lanky and strong, with short sandy/dirty-blond hair and large hands.” Unlike the Jack Reacher series, Trent’s physicality is not as important to his character as his quirks are. So, in the show, we get a Will Trent who is undeniably weird and seeking more information about his identity and his mother’s Puerto Rican roots.

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Trent’s partner Faith Mitchell and his boss Amanda Wagner are also white in the books, but Iantha Richardson and Sonja Sohn do such great work in the show that it’s hard to think of anyone else in those roles.

The showrunners have put together teams in the GBI and police offices that better reflect Atlanta’s diversity. It makes for a much richer story-telling tapestry. The cast’s undeniable chemistry and ease with each other shine through the storylines. I’m a giant bookworm, so I rarely prefer a screen adaptation. But Will Trent got me. They got me good.

New episodes of Will Trent air on Tuesday nights on ABC and stream the next day on Hulu.