True Detective s1 ep 8

This final episode is pretty much everything you might expect from True Detective. There’s no real mystery to be solved: we see the killer with the scarred face at home, and what a home it is: the stuff of a set designer’s dreams, and everyone else’s nightmares. Cluttered and labyrinthine, with his father tied to a table in one room, and his half-sister/wife requesting sexual gratification in another. It would be easy to call him evil, and perhaps he is, but he’s clearly remarkably damaged as well; the show doesn’t make it too easy for us.

Anyway Hart and Cohle track him down and chase him through his maze-like complex of buildings in a dazzling, hallucinogenic sequence. It perhaps went on for too long, but there’s genuine suspense at work: we really don’t know who, if anyone, is walking away from the approaching confrontation. In any event, we get as much of a happy ending as can reasonably be expected from a show which featured a videotape of child abuse so shocking that people screamed on watching it, and the whole thing concludes with a moral from Cohle about darkness and light which, like the show itself, you can regard as enigmatic and profound if you’re a devotee, trite and hollow if you’re not.

At the conclusion of the season, it seems churlish to mention the show’s shortcomings, when so much of it – the acting (particularly the astounding Matthew McConaughey), the directing, the complex structure, the ambition – has been memorably good. But the occasionally portentous dialogue, the attitude to women, and the overall feeling that it wasn’t quite as profound as it thought it was, all need to be weighed in the balance as well. For the avoidance of doubt I liked it a lot, and I would watch the shit out of a second season (as yet unconfirmed, but a racing certainty). Adding it all up, though, I’d have to say that I thought this to be a very good show which fell just short of the greatness for which it was striving. But it’ll live with me for quite a while.

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4 thoughts on “True Detective s1 ep 8

  1. CJ Cregg April 16, 2014 / 11:43 pm

    I never did get past the 3rd episode. The acting and direction were exquisite, I agree, but the show’s portrayal of women was appalling and the dialogue regularly woeful. I think the show itself has been wildly critically over-rated as a result of the acting which I can understand, but my most insurmountable problem with it was, while I saw a lot of technical merit in it, I never actually enjoyed watching the 3 episodes I managed. I just didn’t like them. I did mean to keep watching, but I read up on what happened in the rest of the season and it made me 100% sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed the remaining 5 either, so I gave up.

  2. Snoskred April 17, 2014 / 11:19 am

    You will likely remember me saying I wasn’t ready for this to end and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters.

    Somehow, the way they did it, I was able to let these two characters go their merry way without being upset or angry or annoyed or anything. It was just beautifully done. I think because I seriously thought that Rusty was not going to survive the labyrinth and so for him to survive was a bit of a win and I was just glad neither of them were dead in the end because it seemed like that ending would have been an easy way to go.

    I think the show was wrongly named and this sent people off on the weirdest tangents, it was never so much about the crime as it was about the two leads. I also think it was over-hyped.

    I sometimes think hype makes me not like shows or movies I would have liked otherwise. From the get go with this show I was on board and ready to watch it just purely based on it being Matthew and Woody working together which has always been a winner as far as I am concerned.

    Unlike Avatar which I had to be dragged along to because it was *so* over-hyped and I thought it was lame and I was going to hate it only to find I absolutely adored it.. this show I was on board from the start and while there may have been disappointments, there was a lot of great stuff which I will not soon forget, most of all the amazing performances of the two leads.

    I totally think there is a spin off here where Matthew McConaughey is in Sons of Anarchy two, I loved the part where he was with the biker gang. I think a series where the gang he was undercover in faces off with Jax and co would be another fascinating character study.

    As far as the women stuff, well, I clearly am an epic fail on this front because I did not see anything wrong here. I personally think if you are looking for a show that portrays women inappropriately you need look no further than Mad Men. However I also believe that show portrays women in line with how they were treated at the time, and you cannot rewrite history to treat them differently – that would be very wrong.

    Looking forward to Season 2. 🙂

  3. Jed Bartlet April 17, 2014 / 2:16 pm

    I’d managed to avoid spoilers, but knew that if there was to be a second season it would be with different actors, so I genuinely had no idea whether the leads would survive. I was expecting at least one of them to die, but I’m kind of glad they didn’t.

    On the women issue. I have no monopoly of wisdom on this, and there are plenty of other (and more reasoned) opinions available. I’m also not, I don’t think, hyper-sensitive on the point.

    For example: I agree about Mad Men, but the difference between that and True Detective in my view is that it’s possible to portray sexism without being sexist, if that makes sense. Mad Men shows a world in which women were generally regarded as inferior, and had to put up with a lot of ill-treatment both in and out of the workplace. Pretending that didn’t happen would be pointless and dishonest.

    Equally I have no great difficulty – perhaps I should, but in all honesty I don’t – with shows which portray a largely male world, and tend not to side with the criticism that there aren’t enough female characters in those shows. (The answer is to make more shows with female characters in them, rather than pretend that a drama about, say, professional football needs an equal number of female characters.)

    My problem with True Detective wasn’t that it portrayed sexism, or that it showed a male world, it was that in doing so it (a) denied such female characters as it did have any agency: wives, prostitutes (adult or child), victims, mistresses, pole-dancers etc.; and (b) the women had to strip off while the men kept their clothes on (e.g. Hart’s lover, who in episode 2 was a clothes-free zone), both of which were indicative, in my view, of a weakness in the show’s approach. In Mad Men, on the other hand, the victims of casual or systemic sexism are nonetheless fully-rounded characters who are, generally speaking, allowed to keep their clothes on as best I can recall.

  4. CJ Cregg April 17, 2014 / 5:22 pm

    Jed, that’s exactly what I mean. Since I only saw three episodes, it may be that it’s unfair of me to comment at all, but you’ve pretty much encapsulated my problem with True Detective’s portrayal of women.

    I too have no problem with a programme portraying sexism and attitudes of the time – although we are talking about 1995 here rather than the 1950s or 1960s – but, to paraphrase what you said, just because the characters in a show have no respect for women doesn’t mean the show as a whole doesn’t have to either. Mad Men isn’t without its flaws, but Peggy and Joan for instance are interesting, strong, three-dimensional characters in their own right, with their own minds, actions and choices. Their storylines and growth are as compelling as the men’s, sometimes more so. From what I saw of True Detective, by contrast, every female character exists solely as some kind of sexual object to be abused/mistreated by the men. Their only function is to drive the men’s storylines forward in as passive a fashion as possible.

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