May 28, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Trust”


A recurring storyline in FX’s TRUST tracked the obsession of J. Paul Getty (Donald Sutherland) with the sumptuous Los Angeles museum that would bear his name, which was ultimately revealed to be a gigantic monument to its own pointlessness.  Series creator Simon Beaufoy couldn’t have intended that as a mirror to his own show, but there was a certain sad familiarity to the reveal.  Trust, of course, was the second extended retelling in under six months of a story few people remembered, if at all, as more than an anecdote:  the 1973 kidnapping of Getty’s grandson Paul Getty III (Harris Dickinson) which resulted, because of his grandfather’s selfish refusal to pay the ransom, in the victim’s ear being cut off and sent to the press before the boy was finally released.  It was foreboding that Ridley Scott’s version of the tale, the feature film All the Money In The World, flopped badly worldwide late last year despite much media attention to its post-production substitution of Christopher Plummer for the disgraced Kevin Spacey as Getty Sr.  Trust followed suit, a major disappointment in the ratings.

Trust encapsulated much that was good and bad in our current world of Prestige TV.  It was produced with all the resources one could have hoped for (not just in terms of budget, but FX’s willingness to have long stretches played out in subtitled Italian), intelligently written (much of it by Beaufoy), inventively directed (in part by Danny Boyle) and impressively performed by a fine cast that included Hilary Swank as Paul’s mother and Brandan Fraser as the tycoon’s fixer (the roles played by Michelle Williams and–far less entertainingly–by Mark Wahlberg in Scott’s film), in addition to Sutherland and Dickinson.  It was also, at ten hours (and at FX, that mostly meant 60-minute hours plus commercials), stretched not only to self-indulgence, but to a point where the entire saga lost its focus, as episodes were swallowed by their own tangents.

The final episode, written by Beaufoy and Alice Nutter, and directed by Susanna White, demonstrated all of that.  It was, in its entirety, an epilogue, basically an hour-long version of the titles that appear on screen at the end of a true-life film for a few seconds to update the audience on what happened afterward.  It returned to the engaging device of having Fraser (terrific, once again) break the fourth wall to address viewers directly, and well-filmed and performed.  However, it added very little to the nine hours we’d already seen.  It had already been drilled into us that the elder Getty was a vain, borderline sociopathic narcissist, who kept his grandson in captivity for months because of his refusal to pay a ransom that was negligible compared to his fortune.  In the finale, he got the standard Hollywood version of billionaire comeuppance, as his museum was disdained, and he was abandoned by his mistresses and family, and even tricked by his butler, left isolated and miserable.  (A fantasy sequence painted him as a modern-day Midas unable even to eat because anything he touched turned to inedible gold.)  Getty’s parallel figure, the ruthless Italian gangster Primo (Luca Marinelli), murdered most of his co-conspirators and, according to the show, parlayed the ransom money into founding the Italian Mafia’s drug trade, which Beaufoy tried in a roundabout way to tie to Getty.  Young Getty got married, probably unwisely, and his drug-addict father John Paul Jr (Michael Esper) was checked into rehab.  A sentimental finish had Fraser’s character James Fletcher Chase realizing as a result of exposure to the Gettys that family was important, and reuniting with his own son.

One can make a case for all this as being relevant to Trust‘s larger theme, a homily on the evils of greed, but truthfully none of it was needed at such length to tell the story that the series purported to be unfolding.  (There were rumors that FX planned to expand Trust into a multi-season epic about the Getty clan, but once the ratings came in, those voices went silent.)  As well-told and watchable as much of Trust was, the same went for too much of the project as a whole.  Following the Getty patriarch’s example, it was an object lesson in the way that wealth becomes waste.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."