To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. – William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Dreams, depending upon whom you ask, are either important or not important. Dreams can be a window into a person’s soul, or merely a troublesome bit of hamburger from a late night meal. Dreams are everything; dreams, nothing. Television often uses dreams as a deus ex machina, a way out of a troublesome plotline or a confusing bit of writing. Dream sequences, for the most part, can be looked at with scorn. They are often cheap—but not always.
True Detective’s sequence last night, with a blue leisure suit singer and Ray Velcoro’s dad, was more akin to David Lynch than Carl Jung. The callback to the famous midget scene in Twin Peaks shouldn’t be overlooked and its direct references were striking. Blue took the place of red for True Detective, but the oddity of the scene still resonated. Finally, the trademark Pizzolatto creepiness came through, but unfortunately for the episode and the viewing audience, this off-kilter look into reality wasn’t sustained. Pizzolatto sings most brightly when we enter his tangled web, and starting the episode with this odd and often staggering dream sequence finally set the tone that (I, at least) have been looking forward to in my Sunday Night TV Viewing.
I was expecting the worst, and I guess narratively it seemed somewhat “fair” to have Velcoro being wasted by riot bullets, rather than actual bullets. The dialogue here is a bit too on the nose, in that the rubber bullets were “the kind that cops use,” but only time will tell if your masked Crow is indeed a capital P Police. Characters behave a certain way based on values, and we have to assume from this scene that our murderous bird isn’t in it just to off people. Larger things, or at least money, are at stake and maybe murdering a police officer isn’t always a smart play.
As our episode unfolded, this episode suffers the same problems that will more than likely plague the entire season, and depending on much more we get of this self-celebratory investigation of “LA Culture,” might submarine the entire narrative. The entire episode was rife with clichés that were never clever, nor insightful, nor cliché for cliché sake: The Gold Digger Foreign Wife; The Over-Rich Hollywood Kid Who’s an Asshole; The Gruff Retired Police Dad. These are characters we know. These are characters we’ve seen a hundred times, behaving in the same way we have seem them behave a hundred times. The beginning dream sequence only further highlighted the disparity of something interesting and something not.
Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh, I suppose, is finally getting something to do. Some less than subtle hints towards some war-time homosexuality I’m not sure warranted an entire scene with an entirely brand new character, but at least something is (kind-of) happening. Velcoro continues his nihilistic descent, and Rachel McAdams’ Bezzerides still is tough, still smokes an e-cig, still drives. But my interest unfortunately could use a hit off Mr. Velcoro’s “medicine” in order to suffer through another slog of a dialogue dump in a poorly faked green screen driving sequence. There’s always so much driving, so much talking and yet no one says anything or ever arrives. Last night’s episode would have been better titled “Main Characters Grab a New Buddy to Talk To.” While the flexing and bending of unusual relationships is usually a recipe for success, it doesn’t quite work when it doesn’t matter who is doing the talking. Each character, still, largely functions in the same way.
Rust and Marty worked in Season One because they were different. Each had a distinct mien that collided with the other, and the effluvium that spiraled off this collision (largely of worldview and philosophy) provided for things worth talking about in a car for long periods of time. What’s the central tension in this story? A rich guy lost some money, and some sad cops are trying to solve a murder? In Season One, a decision on how to live life and interpret the insanity of the world was at stake. It was a battle for the inside of men’s souls—one man within the system, the other without.
In this season, which I think is largely more palatable for the Average American Viewer (and thus more simple, cliché, and obvious), it’s a standard whodunit. This plot would work on CSI, Law & Order, and any number of cop shows. But shouldn’t we expect more? Is there a certain level of laurel-resting that is going on here? Is this trend toward the middle in an effort to catch the widest audience, and if so, what does that say about the state of art, decaying or not? Other than the dream sequence mentioned supra, there is nothing being risked.
When every turn is expected, every twist easily identifiable, what drives the narrative to the next destination?