This Trust review contains spoilers.
Trust Episode 4
It’s almost a shame that Trust is a true story. No, not because I feel badly for Paul, his mother, or any of the real-life subjects of the FX series, but because had this kidnapping tale been fiction, at least I’d feel a little tension while watching. Knowing history and thus the outcome of one of the world’s most famous kidnapping cases, already retold this year in a high-profile film, zaps Trust of its potential to surprise. The only bits of intrigue are how certain events and principle characters in the true crime tale are depicted, but there’s never any worry that Paul is actually going to end up in a hole or that Martine is in any danger staying in Rome. The show has to either manufacture drama in different ways or use the kidnapping to explore some other deeper meaning, but as of now, that isn’t happening.
“That’s All Folks,” the first episode not directed by Danny Boyle, serves as the calm before the storm in Paul’s kidnapping. The hour, helmed by music video director Dawn Shadforth, is directed competently enough, but it’s mostly spent exploring our kidnappers, mainly Primo and translator Angelo, and the emotional state of Paul’s mother Gail. Unfortunately, the over-confident, swaggering yet intimidating Primo is the only character that the story finds interesting.
We begin with Primo going to his uncle Don Salvatore to get his assist in the kidnapping and advice on what amount to set the ransom. Primo comes to the meeting cocky and pleased with his maneuvers, but in typical boss fashion, Salvatore calmly urges him to slow his roll and not act foolishly. If you’ve ever seen any mob film, the bickering among the underlings and the no-nonsense cool of Salvatore will all feel painfully familiar. As I was watching the episode, a friend stopped over during this scene and said, “Awesome, I love Narcos.” Salvatore says to set the ransom at $17 million, and Primo goes to visit his cousin, a lawyer, to carry out the negotiations.
I didn’t catch his name, but the cousin character is quite fun. Clearly afraid of being involved in such a prominent crime but more scared of Primo, he bumbles his way through calls to Gail and the newspaper. The nonchalance of the newspaper in particular, combined with his high-strung anxiety, gets Trust back to the black comedy that felt like it would be more prevalent after the premiere. Hopefully we see more of this character and more of his interactions with Primo. Their contrast could equal some quality material.
Meanwhile, Paul spends his time in captivity trying to appeal to Angelo’s ostensible humanity, but Angelo’s apparent change of heart comes too easily. All it takes is a Mick Jagger name drop and earnest proposal to be John’s best man in his wedding to get Angelo to seemingly turn on Primo’s order to kill Paul. Maybe the series has more pressing matters to attend to, but it feels like they could have dragged this relationship and change of heart out more. A more gradual, subtle reversal would have felt more realistic and earned.
Plotwise, “That’s All Folks” perhaps finds its best material back at Sutton Place. With a convincing photo of Paul in peril now in his custody, Getty decides to reopen negotiations, but his miserly mind and business-like approach backfires spectacularly. Getty thinks he’s being clever avoiding extortion charges by offering the kidnappers “$600 plus expenses” but his “civil pencil pusher” offer goes right over Primo’s head. Getty’s general lack of concern and instinct to extend an offer written in lawyereze is so cold and uncaring that it’s almost admirable. Donald Sutherland is bringing the juice and the show would be better if they continued to lean on him.
Similar to last week, I can’t quite articulate why Trust is failing to bring me in. There’s little I can point to that is inherently wrong with the show, but I also struggle to come up with a reason to watch it. With not much other to say than, “Look at these greedy fools lol,” it just feels like there’s better true crime series you could spend your time with that are thematically richer with new things to share about their source inspiration. Trust isn’t frustrating because it’s bad, it’s frustrating because it doesn’t inspire much of a reaction at all.