|Fuck Yeah Bolo Ties|
I am finally caught up, fresh as a daisy, to watch the newest episode, #7, of True Detective tonight. I’m still not sure why I did this. I think the main reason is that I’d like to be part of the cultural conversation on Monday morning. Read too many think pieces, and waste the workday with things that don’t matter.
The reason I’m writing this article is because I would like to process my feelings about True Detective, and this seemed like the simplest way. The first thing you need to know is how much I ardently, fervently, nearly religiously, hate season 1 of True Detective. Here is why, the ending episode that we all despised, proved to me that Nic Pizzolatto is a schumuck.
What frustrated me about the finale was that all of this information had been teased throughout the season. There were all of the cult hints, the vague Yellow King mythology. There was that shoot out in the swamp with, what seemed to be, the killer’s acolytes. We had that amazing scene with the bikers in Texas. There was the part where Woody Harrelson’s daughter sleeps with the two guys in the car, the odd drawings the one daughter kept drawing, and that scene where the daughters danced underneath a crown that had been caught in a tree. Hell, it appears that there was a vast conspiracy, over decades, to hide the criminal doings of a poisoned branch of the family tree. Add to this Matthew McConaughey faux Buddhist ramblings and I thought we were working towards some kind point. Something that worked the mysticism, with the ritual murders together. In the end it was just a Deliverance rip-off, with an overplayed overgrown Louisiana mansion inhabited by inbred, incest-loving murderers.
After watching this ending it appeared to me that Pizzolatto can’t keep track of all of the separate threads he is working with. Any piece of writing is a product. The writer takes in information, processes it, and generates a new story through his own filters. With any luck, it is derivative in a way that evokes good work, and not in a way that lacks interest. Pizzolatto is working with many themes. The modern South, references to the Yellow King, to classic horror, the occult, race, substance abuse, sex, gangs, redemption, failure, broken humanity and the list continues, on and on. All of these are great things to write about, all of them can be themes that he is interested in, wants to express, and wants to write. However, not all of them need to be in every work he writes all of the time.
I had thought I was watching a meticulously crafted show, but I believe that feeling was really created by the others working on the show. (And the fact that Harrelson and McConaughey could read the phone book and it would be a compelling performance.) A friend of mine was so enamored of the show he even read Pizzolatto’s collection of short stories, Between Here and the Yellow Sea. He told me that many of the scenes in season 1 had also been in the book. The scene where the flock of birds in the sky becomes a spiraling shape, the scene where the daughter sleeps with the young men in the car. Because those scenes were ripped from his previous work it just further cemented my belief that Pizzolatto threw it all in. He couldn’t leave out a single thing. Those around him managed to bring those loose threads together, at least until the end. Then we were all just holding a matted ball of yarn.
I think this, shall we say, lack of pruning, is more evident in this season. Take the mystery, who is Stan? Stan is a mystery to us because, firstly, there are too many things happening this season, I can’t keep track of what is important, and secondly, because this storyline appeared and disappeared. Without a better introduction, and better focus, Stan and his storyline is just there, dangling out in the wind. There needs to be more of, hell, an overarching game plan if you want me to care about this guy. Give me a reason, otherwise I can’t tell him apart from the endless dead from the world’s worst shootout.
That being said, I am enjoying this season because it’s discussing things I like. I love California politics, the Vernon storyline (I refuse to call it Vinci) the high-speed rail. The corruption of our state is well documented and long lasting. I’m really loving the jurisdictional pissing contest each office gets into. California is like that. On your commute home you can drive through 10 different police departments, and how the politics of that closeness play out is really interesting. While is acting is subpar, I love Vince Vaughn’s character as a gangster who is drawn back in to the game. I think he is as much a “True Detective” as the rest of the trio. Plus his personal storyline is evocative. (I like his wife too even though she has about 3 notes to work with, baby, crime, and Vaughn’s limp dick.)
I’m really enjoying Rachel McAdams’ character. I love that she is a hardscrabble police woman with an obsession for knives. I also like that it was revealed that she was a victim of sexual assault, it explains her issues with sex, with relationships, with her sister. It was also sufficiently foreshadowed so that I didn’t feel like I had whiplash when it was revealed. Of course I also think having her sleep with various men in Ventura County’s Sheriff’s office is out of character, and merely a way to show she plays just as hard as the boys.
Tim Riggins can go. Secretly gay warhero with the weird incest trailer mom is just too much. I just have a hard time caring about him, and it wasn’t until episodes 5 & 6 that he really did any policing at all. Besides emote, badly, I was having a hard time figuring out why he is here or what’s going on.
I waffle back and forth on Colin Farrell’s character. I can’t decide what I want out of him. I think it’s noble that he wants to be a good father and I think it’s interesting seeing this season as either his redemption or further decent into darkness. I still don’t see it when he’s with his son. Maybe it’s the child actor, maybe it’s me, but I just don’t see why he cares so much. It’s hard for me to believe that he desperately wants to be in this kid’s life when I don’t think Farrell knows why either.
Everyone else fades into the background. I have a hard time remembering who is who, why they care and what their problems are. All that being said, let’s see how this shakes out. I’m ready to know who killed Caspere. I’m ready to reach some kind of resolution. Of course, that will probably be the problem.