I’m one of the lone defenders of True Detective’s second season. So far, I can count on one hand the people I know who actually liked it.
While I disagree with many of the complaints and criticisms that have been leveled and hurled against it, I’ll admit that some of the complaints were grounded in a truth I also see: too many main characters. The pilot felt cluttered, as did many of the episodes. The death of one protagonist (of the four) at the end of the seventh episode came almost as a relief, as it meant we would have fewer plotlines, fewer threads, fewer scenes to cut between in the finale.
There are those who say that, whether or not True Detective was good, you cannot say that it moved the detective genre forward in any meaningful way. I don’t necessarily get on board with that, as I think that this season had moments of devastating brilliance which I’ve already discussed.
What I do think is that the third season, in order to move forward, needs to look back. A story that is more classically noir, in which one character is the detective and this one detective is at the center of every scene. Something that resembles the works of Raymond Chandler or Dashell Hammett, the kind of first person hardboiled narrative emulated by Jonathan Lethem and Bret Easton Ellis, the kind of story where the only facts we get are the ones that we get through the eyes and ears of the protagonist.
People love complaining about how confusing the plot of this season was. And I won’t disagree. The show’s storylines sprawled and overlapped, losing its audience. Some moments lingered, while other plotlines appeared and disappeared without explanation.
But why is this a bad thing? Are we supposed to understand all the media we consume? Do things have to make immediate sense in order to be good?
TD’s second season and its response reminds me of a famous anecdote about William Faulkner and Raymond Chandler. Faulkner had adapted Chandler’s novel The Big Sleep into a film, and during filming he and director Howard Hawks realized there was something they didn’t understand. Had a certain character committed suicide or was he murdered and, if murdered, who did the murdering? And the best part, the part that makes it an anecdote worth repeating, is that Chandler couldn’t figure out the answer either. Chandler didn’t understand the plot of his own novel. Continue reading “What Would Faulkner Say About True Detective Season Two?”→
Well, Season Two is over. Whether you are satisfied with the ending or not, chances are that you are a little bummed that you don’t get to watch it next week. Lucky for you, we have a list of things to watch and read if you are a fan of True Detective. Time might be a flat circle, but it doesn’t mean it all has to be the same thing.
Watch David Lynch’s Twin Peaks
If you’re trying to jump straight into another show, especially one with a murder and detectives and dream sequences and unconventional storylines, then here you go. The show is created by genius David Lynch, who also wrote and directed many of the episodes. It’s also populated with dark humor and strange mysteries, some of which, like the mysteries in True Detective, will remain unsolved.
Watch Bored to Death on HBO
If, on the other hand, you still want mystery but you’re craving some levity after all the murder and collusion and darkness, try Bored to Death. It stars Jason Schwartzman as Jonathan Ames, a struggling writer and Craigslist-using unlicensed private detective, Zach Galifinakis as his illustrator best friend, and Ted Danson as his wealthy, childish, editor boss. Like True Detective, there are disappearances and blackmailers, but the tone is lighter and the jokes abundant. Continue reading “Thirteen Ways to Fill the Flat Circle After Season Two of True Detective”→
A recent scene in True Detective got me thinking about something I haven’t thought about in a long time: Friends. In probably the saddest scene of the second season, Ray Velcoro and his son Chad eat pizza in silence while watching the famous sitcom. It’s Chad’s idea.
Friends strongly contrasts poor little Chad’s reality. Friends is about a group of six, fun-loving twenty-somethings in Manhattan in the 1990s and early ’00s. Chad, on the other hand, gets bullied at school and has supervised visits with his father, a corrupt cop with a penchant for cocaine and at least one murder in his past.
But as I watched Ray Velcoro get overly-intoxicated alone and destroy his apartment, I started to think harder about how much this reality really is different from that of the Friends friends. Sure, the antics on Friends were slightly more cheeky and fun. The guys had a menagerie of fun pets. Monica dated Tom Selleck. Phoebe wrote jingles about cats. Ray Velcoro, on the other hand, threatens children and promises to “buttfuck your father with your mom’s headless corpse on this goddamn lawn.”
In a previous post, I mentioned Herodotus’s lesson, to “call no man happy until he is dead.” My specific application of his lesson in that case was to say that the biggest issue with HBO’s Ballers is the tendency for the episodes to end on soft, conflict-free notes.
Herodotus told us to call no man happy until he is dead. The same is true of television: no series, no season, no episode can be called good until it is over. All endings matter. And it is for this reason that the first episode of HBO’s Ballers is good, while the subsequent two are bad.
The three things that you need to know before you keep reading are a) Ballers is the new Entourage, b) I do not like Entourage, but c) I kinda like Ballers.
Point A is not debatable. Everyone agrees that it is the new Entourage. To be more specific, it’s the “Entourage of the NFL,” and remember that Entourage was always “Sex and the City for men.” Which makes Ballers the “(Sex and the City for men) of the NFL.” (Sex and the City, if you cannot remember it, was the Girls of the late ’90s and early oughts.)
Regarding my dislike for Entourage: I have only seen two episodes. The first two. There was not a single moment during those first two during which I thought to myself that I should continue watching. I gave it two, rather than one, out of a sense of fairness,and because I’d finished The Wire and needed something else to watch. The second episode of Entourage is the worst episode of television that I can recall finishing. It’s a terrible way to spend thirty minutes. I would rather spend thirty minutes on an episode of Duck Dynasty or the first ninety pages of a Dan Brown novel.
The reason that Entourage is so bad is that it is nothing but watching good things happen to bad people. (I am aware enough of Entourage to know that, yes, the show continues within the mold of bad people, good things, throughout its run). There is nothing more boring than a television show in which the characters continually get what they want. But enough about Entourage. Let’s discuss the trouble with Ballers. Continue reading “What exactly is Ballers supposed to be?”→
So far, so good, for Season Two of True Detective. Except for one aspect of the first episode that didn’t work for me.
There are four main characters in this season, double the number of the first season. None deserve the label of protagonist. And of the four, none serve less of a purpose in the first episode than Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitch)… right up until the very end of the episode, when he serves a crucial role. That pivotal moment serves as the apparent catalyst for the upcoming season of television: after driving his motorcycle very very fast, Woodrugh decides to stop driving it so fast and pulls off the highway. Then, he finds a dead guy. The dead guy is what brings together the plotlines of our four main characters (although the first two, Colin Farrell’s Ray Valcoro and Vince Vaughn’s Frank Semyon, have been connected since Vaughn’s first scene.)
We all know what the Bechdel Test is. Or, if you don’t, it’s that rule, invented by Alison Bechdel in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, about fiction which describes whether or not a work approaches gender in an appropriate way. Among the many works that fail the test are Star Wars (not a single film in the series passes it so far), The Lord of the Rings, almost anything involving Batman, and roughly 90% of other popular movies, television shows, novels, comic books, etc.
The test is simple. First, does the work contain more than one female character? Second, if there are two female characters, do they have a conversation? And finally, is their conversation about something, anything, other than a man?
Am I the only person disappointed that the episode didn’t end with Matthew McConaughey showing up to the crime scene, winking at the camera, and saying “All right, all right, all right. Turns out time really is a flat circle.”
Other than that, pretty good episode. Very different from the first season, but if it was too similar it would probably feel stale, expected, redundant.
Let’s just hope that they find appropriate cameo moments for Marty and Rust.