Author Topic: True Detective  (Read 38363 times)

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Drenk

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #105 on: March 10, 2014, 11:04:07 AM »
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True Detective’s first season is an attempt to solve for a void. It contemplates a conundrum with so little hope of being answered that anything not sitting on the plane of the problem is flattened out until it approaches nothingness. You’ve perhaps heard the theory that objects pulled into a black hole flatten out into dim streaks of what they once were, collections of atoms spread out into things that were but no longer are. That’s how the central mystery on True Detective acts for its two main characters: They stare at it so long and race toward it so quickly that they are unable to perceive the atoms that make up anybody or anything else. They’re constantly being sucked into a space between spaces.

In both its best and worst moments, the first season of True Detective was an earnest paean to the things that exist in that negative space. It often felt as if the series took this tack thanks to the direction of Cary Joji Fukunaga, who directed all eight of the season’s episodes. Like a diligent student of the horror genre, Fukunaga was fond of filling the screen with things that weren’t seen, with darkness or emptiness that might contain the monsters at the end of the book, but, more likely than not, were simply the normal, non-supernatural darkness we find ourselves in every night. The season was always at its best when giving rise to possibility, to ideas of elemental corruption that proved more potent than the things that actually arrived. Perhaps, that is why so many cried foul on Twitter when the series’ central boogeyman was revealed to be simply some guy with a lawn mower and an ancestral estate that seemed to consist of nothing but negative space.

There were times when True Detective bit off more than it could chew in its first season, but it did so in the way overambitious first-season shows that don’t always know their own limitations often do. Particularly in the season’s lackluster sixth and seventh episodes—when creator and writer of all eight episodes Nic Pizzolatto dropped the mesmerizing framing device that held the first five episodes together and allowed for many a moment of unreliable narration—the show seemed to be solving its central mystery because it felt it had to, not because it had any particular desire to. It hinted and suggested at grand, overarching explanations for everything that happened, then, again, boiled down largely to one guy (albeit a terrifying guy). This sometimes created the sense that the show was two different stories on two different tracks, a surface one where everything was explainable and a deeper one, where everything was terrifyingly inexplicable. Everything about the show—its mystery, its storytelling technique, its approach to character development—was an iceberg, and it could have felt unsatisfying to have the heroes catch only its tip.

The most frequent criticism about this season has been its lack of “well-defined” female characters. This is a misleading statement. That there are no “well-defined” female characters on True Detective is the point. Both Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) are so trapped in a mire of dead bodies and snuffed-out lives that they are unable to see outside of themselves long enough to realize that the other people in their midst—male and female alike—that are living, breathing human beings who still need them. (This is particularly true when it comes to Marty and his wife and daughters.) Think, again, of that black hole. The closer Marty and Rust get to it, the more everybody else they know is a dim smear they can barely see for lack of light.

What I think these criticisms touch on that was a problem with the series was that it seemed slightly too impressed with its own originality, when it wasn’t doing anything (or offering up any characters) that several other series hadn’t already offered before. (Nearly everything here, for instance, is being done with just as much—if not more—panache on NBC’s Hannibal.) Marty and Rust were riffs on types we’ve seen since the cop show became a genre, and though Pizzolatto’s monologues had a beautiful musicality to them, the characters could never escape comparisons to all who had gone before. Thus, it became far too easy to go casting about for other figures within the series and not find them. The purposeful way that Pizzolatto built the supporting characters’ purposelessness was much easier to miss under these circumstances, and one presumes this will be the biggest course correction for season two.

Those complaints also arose, however, because True Detective could be crushingly self-serious. In its weakest hour—its seventh—it was simply a long series of scenes with characters telling each other things without any real humor or verve to lighten the mood. The season was so singularly focused on the evils that men can do—even the ostensibly good ones—that it rarely found time to leaven that tone with other ones. True Detective danced just ahead of being too stupid to believe for most of its first season, and I could understand all of those who looked at the finale and couldn’t get past, say, a long, earnest discussion between Rust and Marty about light versus dark, held underneath the stars. No matter how great the actors, no matter how great the dialogue, no matter how great the direction—it was all a little silly. Throughout the series, there were times—even in the best moments—when it felt like True Detective desperately needed Joel and the robots from Mystery Science Theater 3000 just offscreen to call it on its own bullshit.

And yet I loved True Detective in its best and worst moments, sometimes in spite of myself, and I think the exemplary finale pulled the story together in a way that befitted those first five episodes more than the two that followed. Part of the reason for this was the stellar execution, and part of it was the fact that this was just a fun, pulpy show to watch even when it turned into The Rust Cohle Explains Things Hour. Most of all, though, I think Pizzolatto, Fukunaga, and their actors were aware at all times that this whole thing was just a little ridiculous, and they rode that craziness to many of its logical conclusions. There were times in the season’s best episodes—its fourth and fifth—when it felt like all of the references to the Yellow King and Carcosa were going to lead to Cthulhu himself rising from the deeps, and it wouldn’t have fazed me one bit. The show took this material and sank its teeth into it.

Ultimately, what made this season work was its ability to hold its self-seriousness and its ridiculousness in tension for long stretches of time. It seemed to understand that the line between the heinous and the hilarious, particularly in a work of fiction, is not that hard to cross. It wasn’t a particularly funny show, though both of its stars had a fine time with the handful of one-liners parceled out to them over the course of the season, but it was a show that was able to take pure pulp material, like the idea of a cult of powerful men that preys upon women and children, and treat it with a kind of gravity that it might not get on a lot of other shows. Some part of True Detective understood that all of this was bizarre and maybe even a little goofy; the rest of it demanded that we look at these ideas with the kind of seriousness we might get out of a more straightforward crime procedural. It was a blend that could prove intoxicating.

This allowed the show to sidle up to the sorts of primal ideas that don’t always get talked about in pop culture without somebody winking off to the side to let viewers know they don’t have to take them too seriously. In its season finale, True Detective laid its final card down on the table and revealed that it didn’t want to be about just this story but about all stories—about light versus dark and good versus evil and maybe even a dash of God versus Satan. It not only talked directly about these issues, but it had the audacity to discuss it via a metaphor about stars. It was the sort of thing that would have gotten laughed out of the room in episode one, but in the finale, it was such a breath of ever-so-slight optimism that it felt strangely earned, as if the series had, by being so grim and self-serious and, yes, ridiculous, become one of the few shows on television capable of talking about these things. It wasn’t entirely a detective show; it was like an ersatz reinterpretation of Sunday School Bible stories, filtered through the lens of an incorrigible poonhound and a defeated nihilist.

In the end, that is why I liked the finale of True Detective enough to drag the whole series up significantly in my estimation: The hints of utter rot—mystical, religious, bureaucratic, and otherwise—ultimately boiled down to one man, but that was because that one man was the monster who surfaced. He was the only black hole Marty and Rust could pick out by noticing the absence at his center. (It’s telling that the detectives catch the void through a burst of color: notably, green, the traditional color of renewal.) The detective work fell by the wayside, and the heroes descended into hell, not to grab the Devil himself, but the one guy they could find. Yes, it was just the iceberg’s tip, but Marty and Rust were able to make the world slightly better by latching onto it. But what that tip stood for—the vast, stately, unspeakable bulk just beneath the surface—was ultimately unknowable and uncatchable, a darkness that was anything you wanted it to be. By embracing both its sometimes punishing self-seriousness and its tendency toward the ridiculous, True Detective found a way to season its grim story of man’s inhumanity to man with a sprinkle of optimism. But all the while, it remembers that, limbs churning underwater, Leviathan continues to swim.

http://www.avclub.com/article/void-true-detectives-completely-necessary-ridiculo-202002
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Pubrick

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #106 on: March 10, 2014, 11:37:29 AM »
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nah.

this: slate's recap and debate in particular the paskin position, especially the follwing quotes:

Quote
Boy, did we overthink this thing!
...
Worse was the last character beat. I think maybe True Detective ended with Rust Cohle finding God? Talk me off the ledge.
...
One of the things I have so enjoyed about True Detective—which, let me be clear, is a show I still really love—is how all-enveloping it is. It’s a whole world, and you’re in it: the atmosphere, the green, even that ash and aluminum smell. But something about this episode just cracked that open for me, and all of pop culture came pouring in. The house Errol lived in looks so much like the mansion in The Notebook gone to seed. Having no cell phone reception is very every-horror-movie-ever. It’s like, the spell wore off and suddenly it was just a TV show.
...
I think I would be bothered a little less by this if I didn’t feel like the finale was in some ways very flabby. (It had something like five endings.)
...
And while I’m not super into the idea that major characters have to die for a TV show to be serious, it’s pretty surprising that Marty and Rust both lived, no?

if you read the whole thing i think it does a good overview of the two dominant opinions on the episode. it's funny how the other dude started coming around towards the end, admitting there's a lot about the final episode that didn't add up to anything.

and since diggler brought up LOST i think it's worth noting that this show suffers from a similar problem of initially presenting a potentially much more interesting show than it actually ends up being.
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Cloudy

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #107 on: March 10, 2014, 12:17:46 PM »
+2
I wrote a post in here two episodes ago, but removed it because it was too early to say. But now, it's completely obvious. The show was basically "The Philosophy of Nic Pizzolato". Rather than letting the character's lead the story, Pizzolatto used techniques and devices in the last 3 episodes to get it to where he willed it. The whole show was basically an allegory for this type of philosophy. Which isn't necessarily theist at the end, but more along the lines of pessimistic gnosticism, but in a completely forced way. I not only think the show was cheesy in this last episode, but I thought eps. 1,5,6,7 were equally cheesy in the words/devices/character types (TYPES) forced by the author to unfold his ideas. Here's an example:

If anyone saw "The Counselor" by Cormac McCarthy (an author like Pizzollato) and "No Country For Old Men" and adaptation of McCarthy by Coens, those are two completely bipolar ways of letting the truth seep out of its philosophy. Counselor just felt like McCarthy used his characters as his sadistic philosophical peons, while No Country feels like each character is not serving anything more than who they truly are, which is much more full of depth than philosophical masturbation. I'd say True Detective should be placed in the middle of these two, but leaning more towards the former.

Brando

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #108 on: March 10, 2014, 02:03:23 PM »
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I liked the ending. I'll remember the season as an overall success. I was totally creeped out watching the guy with scars hang around his house and painting schools. Knowing the characters wont be back for upcoming shows really made think one or both not make it out alive. Having Rust survive done more for his character development than anything you could have done.

The episode reminded me of the pilot. After the pilot, there was so much I wanted to learn and know about these characters that finding out who was the killer was of little importance. I think the show cared little about who was the killer was as well. Looking back I realize the show wasn't about a murder investigation. It's about Rust and Marty. It's about their relationship. The murder investigation is almost the B plot.

That's why the criticism about Marty's wife not being a fully formed character were missing the point. Look how little camera time given to Marty with his family compared to the amount of time given to Marty and Rust in the parking lot. Even the short period of time Marty's family is in the room, the camera is on Marty the entire time.  We only see him as he starts to break down. We don't see any reactions or emotions from Maggie or the girls cause it's only about Marty.

I'm really excited about the show moving forward. At first, I was disappointed with the anthology format but now can't wait to hear about the next season. I know Alejandro González Iñárritu was originally attached to direct season 1 so maybe he will direct season 2. I can't wait to meet the new characters.
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polkablues

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #109 on: March 10, 2014, 02:49:27 PM »
+1
I didn't hate it. On its own merits, it was a pretty impressive hour of television horror. It is a little jarring, looking back over the season, how eps 1-6 felt like the same show, then episode 7 felt like a different show, and episode 8 felt like another different show entirely. Evidence of Nicky Pizza's inexperience? Yeah, maybe. It's still one of the best seasons of television ever, so big deal. Season two will blow the world's face right off its face.

That said, the season ended with Rust and Marty bleeding on the ground watching the flare light up overhead. That's it. That was the real ending. All that hospital nonsense was just some weird Christian fan-fic that they got the real actors to shoot for some reason, and should be considered entirely non-canonical.
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Tictacbk

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #110 on: March 10, 2014, 04:22:54 PM »
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Just Keep Livin'

03

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #111 on: March 10, 2014, 04:57:05 PM »
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i admire everyone's optimism, and definitely understand it, but there are few ways that could have been a worse episode. it genuinely felt like fan fiction, enough to the point i wouldn't be surprised if people start writing their own better endings. as said before, it felt like a different show. i would have preferred a disappointing ending that was completely cohesive and similar with the previous episodes to whatever that was. some people tell me i built it up too much for myself, but they didn't feel like the same characters, the logic of prior eps was kind of non existent, all the little details theyve been so careful to stay mindful of were strangely forgotten. that being said, it's still probaly some of the best tv we will ever see, as a whole. redeeming things from the episode? the scene of errol quoting movies and using different accents was genuinely amazing and super creepy. the castle was perfect. so was his lady, i loved the fact that she was just hiding from him when he thought it was going to be a bunch of tied up chicks or something. almost a perfect analogy for how we all felt last night.

Kellen

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #112 on: March 10, 2014, 06:40:08 PM »
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Alexandro

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #113 on: March 11, 2014, 02:06:25 AM »
+2
I liked the season and the ending, I thought it was tense. But I kept my expectations reasonable while some places online (here too) were massively overthinking this. I like the discussions and debates and I like that tv shows can stir up conversation like this, but there are moments when it's just obvious everyone is hungry to sink into something that is aiming for way less. True Detective worked fine, but I don't think it ever thought it was The Sopranos or even The Wire. Those are major works from birth, with a clear point of view and an artistic individual vision, and they miraculously followed it through the end. Not everything wants to be (or can be) that.

However, as a pulpy expertly made detective story, it felt like more than enough.

Axolotl

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #114 on: March 11, 2014, 07:00:00 AM »
+3
My disappointment was lessened because I'd realized that it wasn't the show that I mistook it to be after the first five episodes.
I agree with Alexandro for the most part, but it only became a pulpy detective story two-thirds of the way through. Before that it was so good it could have been anything the writer wanted it to be. It could have been Lovecraftian cosmic-horror stuff( btw I love how they persisted with the King in Yellow stiff till the end with Childress yelling "Take off your mask!") or it could have been a 2666 style study of irresolution and the problem of evil.
By the end it turned into a well-made procedural with a Silence of the Lambs ending.
When someone squaders that level of potential it's legitimate to be disappointed.

It also doesn't help that Pizzicato saved his worst writing for the very last scene, that hospital scene was pretty inexcusable. I almost expected them to turn to the camera and go, "You, dear viewer, are the True Detective."

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #115 on: March 11, 2014, 01:24:35 PM »
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E: This might have been embedded in that link Pubrick posted. It is now, but they might have put it in later. Strange.

A must listen!

Slate writers discuss True Detective

I've been plugging the Slate Spoiler Special podcast forever with zero response, so you know it's good.
"Hunger is the purest sin"

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #116 on: March 11, 2014, 02:04:25 PM »
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I'm having an unexpected response to the finale.

I was highly skeptical of the nihilism that characterized much of the first three episodes and many of Rust's ramblings. Turns out the show itself shares that skepticism. It pushed Rust through his nihilism as if it were an extended adolescence. I completely buy his transformative near-death experience; that is something that happens, and this character was ripe for it.

I even didn't mind all the business about stars and the dark and the light. I was reflexively eye-rolling, but at the same time it kind of got me. McConaughey carried it.

That said, the season ended with Rust and Marty bleeding on the ground watching the flare light up overhead. That's it. That was the real ending. All that hospital nonsense was just some weird Christian fan-fic that they got the real actors to shoot for some reason, and should be considered entirely non-canonical.

I think this is exactly wrong. Killing them off was the obvious choice. I was certainly expecting it to be a suicide mission after they both somberly put their affairs in order. What Pizzolatto did in essence is execute a character plot twist in place of a whodunnit plot twist, genre convention supplanted by what now seems like an inevitable character transformation.

I totally admire what was done with Rust's character. He was denied a heroic death, forced to face life again and work through all his garbage.

I can't help but be on the show's side after that.
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Pubrick

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #117 on: March 11, 2014, 02:39:20 PM »
+2
The ending just failed on every level, especially the most basic mundane logic:

It's a completely ridiculous non sequitur when marty brings up that story about the stars right after rust has given the most emotional monologue of  the series. It feelt awkward and forced.

Even if he was saying it just to distract rust from having a total breakdown, it still makes no sense that after rust takes the bait and immediately calms down, Marty then inexplicably turns the whole thing into a negative metaphor about dark having more territory. What the fuck is he doing that for?

Is he trying to cheer him up or not? He should be ecstatic that for once the weird shit rusts babbling about is almost in line with his own religious beliefs. He should be shocked that, against all expectations from Marty's previous farewell moment in the episode's 4th ending (this episode was the 'Return of the King' of TV finales with endless endings) where he said don't ever change and gave him the finger, rust actually has changed drastically.

It makes absolutely no sense except as a clumsy set up for Rust's hackneyed retort.
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Kellen

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #118 on: March 11, 2014, 03:10:35 PM »
+1
It would've been ok with me if the show ended with Marty and Rust in the catacombs/carcosa. 

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: True Detective
« Reply #119 on: March 11, 2014, 03:13:39 PM »
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It's a completely ridiculous non sequitur when marty brings up that story about the stars right after rust has given the most emotional monologue of  the series. It feelt awkward and forced.

Even if he was saying it just to distract rust from having a total breakdown, it still makes no sense that after rust takes the bait and immediately calms down, Marty then inexplicably turns the whole thing into a negative metaphor about dark having more territory. What the fuck is he doing that for?

Perhaps that bothered me less cause I've always found the show a bit silly. Definitely wasn't the first time the voice of the author audibly stepped in to vocalize a theme.

Is he trying to cheer him up or not? He should be ecstatic that for once the weird shit rusts babbling about is almost in line with his own religious beliefs. He should be shocked that, against all expectations from Marty's previous farewell moment in the episode's 4th ending (this episode was the 'Return of the King' of TV finales with endless endings) where he said don't ever change and gave him the finger, rust actually has changed drastically.

I don't think Rust changed much between the hospital room and the final scene. The character has found himself in a punishing situation. Rust is confused that he was denied a heroic death, and he's frustrated/devastated (in both scenes) that he can't be with his loved ones who he just contacted ("I'm not supposed to be here"). I actually kind of love that we see his sour personality mixed with his new cosmic awareness, which certainly must inherit from his old cosmic awareness.

As for Marty not jumping up and down about Rust's epiphany... that actually rang quite true to me. If I were Marty I'd play it the same way. Just be delicate about it, let this be his own thing, let him figure things out, and be supportive in a general way. He also notably doesn't react to Rust crying. In their relationship, this is a time for sincerity and sensitivity if there ever was one.
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