Last week, after making some assumptions that perhaps were more hopeful aspirations than anything else, I can’t help but wonder why I bother to continue on with a show that, quite frankly, doesn’t make a ton of sense anymore. There are significantly more juicy opportunities to be entertained, the shockingly good Mr. Robot and reinvigorated Halt and Catch Fire among them, that True Detective no longer is able to be the set-piece of my Sunday night entertainment that I look forward to and plan my TV watching around.
It’s a grind. And last night’s episode typified everything that is wrong with this season. In no particular order:
Why are there so many plotlines?
There feels like an unnecessary amount of plotlines going on here, none of which seems to intersect or could possibly be effectively resolved in a useful time frame. The Can We Have a Baby Plotline, The Illegitimate Child Plotline, The Am I Gay? Plotline (with the Abusive Mother Plotline), The Corruption, in and out of the police, Plotline. Why only mention these? There are quite a few more. Because these have absolutely nothing to do with the main plotline here—Ben Caspere’s murder, and how that affects…well something I guess. Money? We still don’t know. But we sure did spend a lot of time giving hugs to the baseball playing youth of Greater Los Angeles, and it was important to log some quality pizza and model time with dear old dad. True Detective, a show largely themed on movement and travel, has stalled on the tracks. Nothing really happens, and in retrospect, the entire Vinci shootout was just another deft red herring. There was very little connection to the greater plot as a whole, and didn’t quite get us any closer to finding out about the guy in the Crow Outfit. Yeah? Remember him? Exactly.
Unrelated sidebar: My wife posed the best question last night. How much money can this poker room possibly make if Frank has to sell his house and begin a descent back into the club scene? Obviously not a ton, and if it’s so little, why do these foreign investors even want it?
Credibility is strained at best, simple untenable at worst
Who cares who works the crime scene, and what does this crime scene have to do with anything? Someone was murdered there, but the narrative thrust of this entire scene was a throwaway character Police Sheriff, who’s name I don’t even feel like looking up because we will never see that guy again. There’s simply too much going on; I had to respond to several text requests (and in-house questions) just to straighten out basic plot points that we should all know by now related to basic characters. This is a writing error. I can’t blast Vaughn or McAdams or Kitsch anymore when they are offered a buffet of SAT vocab (apoplectic?) and a plot that simply doesn’t make sense. Last season, the caliber of directing and acting helped make the overwarm language really set fire to the landscape. This time around it’s just a noisome distraction.
Furthermore, the entire heist scene didn’t quite look or feel real. In a place crawling with security, two armed and well-lit men can sneak up to a house, bust in with a knife, and abscond with all sorts of useful and apparently easy to find documents? Hunh? Furthermore, if the MDMA was an aerosol, why did Bezzarides go try to throw it up? That makes no sense.
Additionally, how can a man get murdered in the middle of a party without any other security personnel thinking to check in on their fellow guards? Furthermore, if these guards were going to shoot at our heroes while they were running away, why didn’t the guards start shooting when they were ten feet from them? Only after running in the woods and falling behind it was time to start shooting? This whole scene was less Eyes Wide Shut creepy and more lame porno shoot. There was no lewd creepiness; if anything, it seemed a decently logical way to make some extra cash. No one was coerced or forced to do anything, so really, we are asked to negatively judge consenting adults? Why?
The characters are uninteresting
I can’t take any more scenes of people just looking at each other, and when they do speak, it’s all double entendre without any connection. Sometimes, dialogue just needs to advance plot, but in service of making “theme” and “atmosphere,” we are left with a big bag of nothing but air. This is the tough challenge when working with well-known tropes, particularly of the California noir scene—without a deft hand, they get pushed to the realm of cliché. And then their long-winded speeches, actions, or even motivations seems hackneyed and lame. There’s simply too much going on, without any coherence. In the writing biz it’s called a through line—the main narrative action that other actions are hung on. Here it’s Caspere’s murder. Or it is money? Or is it becoming a father? Or is it the tension between family? Or is it this sex scene? Crow guy? Who the hell knows anymore. We don’t get too spend enough time with any character to develop a deep understanding of them, except maybe Velcoro. In the effort to be deep, there’s just a larger pit that’s more shallow.
I rarely bail on shows. I rarely put down books I’ve started, simply because the effort to finish is easier than the effort to quit and throw away time I’ve spent at least in some way trying to understand the work in question. I’m not advocating quitting True Detective. But I am advocating a switch at least until you can just binge watch the final two episodes. Maybe go outside? Take your spouse on a date? Go swimming, or simply sit in a dark room not watching TV at all. Because any other option at this point seems to be better than finishing this season up, which is the ultimate tragedy for me as a person who capital “L” Loved this Show. I guess you always hurt the ones you love.