(Spoilers for the show, for those who haven’t seen it.)
I watched True Detective over two nights of four episodes each. By the end of the first night I was itching to finish what looked like it was headed towards a modern version of Twin Peaks or Millennium, set in a Cthulu mythos-favoured world. Kind of like a DARKER and EDGIER version of Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin, to which I would say, “DO WANT!”
Sure, the show wasn’t perfect. It was deeply and casually misogynistic, for starters, and I really just wanted Woody Harrelson’s character to die in a possibly eldritch fire (no offence intended to Mr. Harrelson, who did a fine job, acting-wise). I’ve heard some people opine that the sexism in True Detective is “the point” and I would potentially agree that it is intentional… but I still don’t think it worked. Compare and contrast, for example, something like American Horror Story, which is also about the evil men do to women, but which mitigates that by giving its female characters prominence and agency.
My biggest let-down with True Detective, however, was the finale.
The problem with long-form whodunnits, I think, is that the showrunners are constantly battling with the audience as to who can think up a cooler ending. It’s my considered opinion that this is a battle the former group will never, ever win, for the simple fact that any ending a reader/viewer/whatever thinks up is tailored to him or herself, as opposed to the actual show ending, which is tailored to the writer (or, potentially, a sort of “lowest common denominator” assumption about what the audience wants.
In marathoning TD, I was never convinced either Marty or Rust would turn out to be the killer. The former because I don’t think US audiences would “buy” it–flaws and all, Marty is still the quintessential USian “Man’s Man”–and the latter because I was reading TD as a mythos story, and dogged-but-self-aware atheistic nihilists just aren’t villains in the genre. (Evil in mythos tends to come from willingness to exploit your fellow humans to gain personal power. Given Rust’s disgust with religion, as well as his desire to put his dark nature to the utility of protecting the innocent, I just couldn’t see him as the type.)
The senator was the obvious target from the moment he waddled onto screen, but the show was a bit too keen on pulling out leads within forty minutes of or so their resolution for me to not believe the finale would come out of (a har) left field. Like, someone we’d seen before, but would otherwise have no reason to suspect as being linked due to their involvement being so minimal.
I did like Rust’s trip through “Carcosa”, but I was hoping for a much more supernatural ending; effectively making the show’s “twist” being “surprise! monsters are real!” rather than “surprise! the gardener did it!”. And, yeah, there was the whole swirly-space whatever but.. meh. Everything from the showdown on left me pretty cold.
It was almost like the show was afraid to commit to its influences. The foreshadowing wasn’t quite good enough for a noir, while the finale wasn’t nihilistic and eldritch enough for the mythos. Not to mention Rust’s apparent last-minute conversion to religion and the power of love. As soon as he and Marty started talking about good versus evil and the stars as an allegory for the former, I could practically feel H.P. Lovecraft rolling in his grave. (Again: the point of mythos stories is generally that the universe is vast and unfathomable and amoral and simply uncaring, rather than “evil” per se; good and evil come from the various human reactions to the revelation.)
So… yeah. On the one hand: yay for more horror-themed, high-production value drama series, and I’ll definitely be waiting to see what happens in season two.
On the other… meh. More women–and less cheap Othering of the poor–pls.
(Like, srsly. Why drop the whole plotline hinting the daughter had, if not been abused herself, then at least witnessed it? ‘Cause like legit her story would’ve been about a billion times more interesting than yet another shot of a man having MAAAAAANPAAAAIIIN over not being able to “protect what’s his”. /retch)
(Also: what was the deal with the guy on the bed? I got the impression he was still alive, and maybe the show was hinting that he’s being kept in that state in that house to do some, IDK, “dream of Carcosa” thing or whatever… See, now that would’ve been interesting to explore!)
(Also Spaghetti Face’s split personality thinger. Like, I get this is yet another one of the show’s many allusions to masks… and yet none of that really seemed to go anywhere, either. Guh! C’mon, show! So many Cool and Interesting things you could’ve explored rather than all the time we wasted watching Marty be an asshole.)