Monday, March 10, 2014

(TV) True Detective: Farewell To a Great Show

For all the talk about True Detective, from the comparisons to other shows such as Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad to the myriad of theories as to who exactly is "The Yellow King", one thing is abundantly clear about the show 8 episode run, it is truly great television. From the season long acting masterclass provided by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Rust Cohle and Marty Hart to the excellent penmanship of writer, producer and creator Nic Pizzolato and the outstanding directing of Cary Joji Fukanaga, True Detective has been eight hours of life I look back on as eight hours well spent.

In an age where the idiot box is increasingly populated by cops, spies and criminals, it would have been pretty easy for True detective to become one of the pack but I somehow knew that Hollywood heavyweights like McConaughey (a recent Oscar winner) and Harrelson weren't going to slow their busy schedule and attach themselves to another run of the mill murder mystery with nothing to say. Trailers have a notorious history of condemning a show or film before it gets judged on it merits but just from watching the trailers, the opening credits and finally the eight subsequent episodes. It was clear could become another shining example of what TV can do when done properly.

In truth there nothing really special about the story of True Detective and plot structure is pretty simple with sharp focus on two elements: The Dora Lange case and the lives (or in Rust's case, the lack of one) of the two leads of the piece.From the outset it was clear the plot was always going to be the weaker part of the show as there was an intense focus on the personalities of the Cohle and Hart and the razor sharp contrast between them. 

Later on in the season, we find out that the only real difference between Rust and Marty was Rust knew who he was while Marty, for most of the series, displayed an innate talent for hypocrisy and a notable lack of self knowledge that eventually costs him his marriage and a partner who he may have argued and fought with regularly (mostly because Rust he never missed an opportunity to call him out on his bullshit and rub his face in it ) but when push came to a bullet in the back of the head of a lead suspect, he always had his back. 

There has been much criticism about the show's gender politics as it spectacularly fails the Bechtel test with the show populated with  women who are either one dimensional sexpots objectified to the hilt or less than flattering female archetypes we've seen a hundred times in films and other shows. However I think the criticism is unfair as while the show doesn't even attempt to flesh out a strong female character over the season, I would say this is owed to the show's intense focus on the worldview of it's two protagonists who (Hart in particular) wear their sexism on their sleeves. 

A stronger female would have been good for the show, it wouldn't have rung true in a show dominated by men full of despair and loathing of the world and themselves.In knowledge of this, the sexism of  True Detective in just a result of the two leads with a less than affable relationship with the world and ultimately with the fairer sex as they confront the darkness they regularly encounter on the job.

With this season wrapped up and our heroes still intact despite the "man with the scars" best efforts (chillingly played by the talented and aptly named Glenn Fleshler), All that's let is the agonizing wait for season two which may have go without McConaughey, Harrelson and  Fukunaga who all have a huge role to play in why True Detective is by far the best television this year and will almost definitely earn them honours when the Emmys get handed out later this year.

In sum, 2014 is not over yet but if we get TV as half as good as True Detective has been over the last nine weeks, 2014 cold be the best season of television ever, period. 


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