True Detective S1E8 Review, “Form and Void”


So we’ve closed out the first season of True Detective.  Turns out none of my predictions from last week came to fruition.  The True Detectives made it out alive, there was no super-trippy mindfuck, and the conspiracy has (apparently) been brought to its knees.  Are you not entertained?

Well, I can’t really say that I am.  After all of the exposition, did we really come any closer to understanding the meaning of life, see the final battle between good and evil, or bear witness to momentous events that shook the very core of our world?  For me, a resounding no.  The creator of the series took a big swing, and what we ended up getting was an 8-hour-long episode of Law & Order SVU, set in the Bayou, with big name actors standing in for Richard Belzer and Ice-T.

What’s most disappointing to me about the finale is that some incredibly interesting visual themes were present that hadn’t really been examined at in the previous seven installments.  Several times during the episode, the camera panned back from Rust to reveal how far outside civilization he was, showing just how a monster of a man is able to hide himself from society for two decades.  As mankind has used various forms of technology to shorten the distances between itself over the past century, we’ve begun to assume that there are no longer remote places for people to hide away.

THAT’S a story I’d like to see told!  Man isn’t everywhere in the age of The Global Village, there are still hiding places, there are still places and people that the Internet or governments or social media can’t touch.  And this episode brought that to the surface, but the series as a whole was so focused on making Rust Cohle an unwilling Jesus Christ, the Yellow King an unworthy Lucifer, and Woody Harrelson somewhere in the middle, that I think it missed it’s true calling.  I think the director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, was getting there, as evidenced by the multiple gorgeous shots of the beautiful desolation that is the Louisiana Bayou that don’t really exist to anyone except those that live there or have lived there in the past.  But writer Nic Pizzolatto wanted to tell a story so big that it imploded on itself.  It’s not quite True Crime, it’s not quite cutting edge sci-fi, and it’s not quite a metaphor for anything bigger than the story at hand, even if it presents itself as exactly that.  And the in-between nature of the narrative made everything fall flat.  Especially all of the “I’m not supposed to be here” hocus pocus-ish nonsense at the end.  The logical conclusion was Marty and Rust, dead from the blade wounds that obviously would have killed them, right?  Can we agree that they probably SHOULD be dead, all metaphysical commentary from Rust aside?  That was a knife wound to the bowels and a hatchet to the chest.  That happens on Game of Thrones, best believe those motherfuckers be dead.

Add to that that maybe this past Sunday, a large section of the Internet thought to itself, “wait, that’s it?”  None of the easter eggs that the TD Defender Unit had latched onto as evidence of the show’s depth ended up meaning jack shit!  This wasn’t Lost, not even a little bit, which is doubly deflating, since the show’s most prominent and hardcore defenders now have so much less to point to to prove the greatness of the show.  The possible swirls in random pictures hanging on random walls didn’t mean anything!  None of your crackpot theories mean shit!  (Honestly, I fall for this kind of shit too, all the time.  I’ve admittedly dedicated far too many hours of my life reading up on something called The Grand Tyrell Conspiracy to make fun of anyone else.  But it is fun when I don’t fall for this kind of shit, and then NOTHING HAPPENS.)

Admittedly, the season had it’s moments.  The tracking shot that closed episode 4 is one of the standout technical achievements in television history.  Casting Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in a limited television series gave the show an immediate gravitas that has never been realized on TV before.  And some of the shots captured of the Bayou are flawless pieces of cinematography, better than most feature film quality.  But the story was presented to us as if it was the definitive tale from which the various branches of the crime mythos tree grows from, and it just wasn’t that.  It was just another serial killer story, and ironically, if it would have been presented that way, I think it would have been dramatically more effective and enjoyable!  I didn’t need Rust Cohle to be the BEST. CHARACTER. EVER.  I’d have liked him to just be Rust Cohle.  Or how about Jim Cohle, or Ricky Cohle, or Stephen Cohle-Bear, did it have to be RUST FUCKING COHLE?!?!?

I’m also still excited for season 2.  I hope the hype-train doesn’t set it up for failure.  I feel like we’re all going to bed on Christmas Eve expecting a new car, or an X-Box, or a fucking iPhone, and yeah, a new winter coat is still a great gift Mom, but it’s not a fucking iPhone.  I don’t wanna be that kid, but it might be too late.  I want Harvey Keitel and Robert Duvall, dammit!  Or Frances McDormand and Naomi Watts!  But what if we get Black Detective #1 and #2?  That would be great, but would probably still be a let down at this point.  Regardless, even though I didn’t fall in love with the show this season, I will be happy to come back for more next time around!

Episode 6/10 Hatchet Wounds

Season 7/10 Yellow Kings