I sat on my couch, eating cereal. Mondays are my Sundays; I rose late, drank coffee. But as the pot was brewing and I thought about what could possibly happen on this episode of True Detective, I was apathetic. I didn’t really care. In no way did I think I was going to get what we got, and in a way I felt somewhat astonished. Finally, an episode of True Detective that doesn’t talk about action, or the doing, or the in someway getting there. We finally did something; thankfully—mercifully. And it was awesome.
My struggles with this season are well-documented. The pace of play is too slow; the course too convoluted. But at last, as I suppose we have to as the series draws to a close, there appears, however faint, an arc that is bending towards resolution. Frank is finally becoming the badass I hoped he would become, instead of the simpering nobody that was more dominated by circumstance than dominating of it. I always wondered how someone who felt so non-threatening become a mob boss in the first place, and I think last night put those questions to rest. Frank’s still got it; and he’s going out with a fire and a bang.
Last night’s episode did the usual penultimate episode things. People were put into safe places, effectively removing them from the narrative for the remainder. Characters split up, some to shocking results (Woodrugh!). In lots of ways, last night’s episode is the standard set-up episode before the grand finale. I know this; I don’t begrudge the TD team for this. But what I fully appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed is that some level of conclusion is being pushed forward. What could count as a criticism, however, is that there are so many loose ends in the first place that need knotting up, that it would take two episodes to neatly tie them all. Why they couldn’t be unspooled at a more even pace over the past five episodes is beyond me. So much time was spent setting up the dominos, that when they finally start to fall into place it feels rushed and as an afterthought.
Stylistically, the episode was well-done. The script, which often stutters and suffers from some spotty writing at times (Applebee’s manager?), finally got out of its own way to let the characters shine. I think this was wholly in part from the action—characters can’t sit and give each other long diatribes when they are running, shooting—doing something. I’m sure the final episode will be a doozy, but I don’t want to give anyone false hopes or inaccurate assessments. Two, maybe three episodes of quality don’t make up for an entire season of blah. Don’t let the shiny toy in front of you distract.
I thought I had it nailed down who was going to perish, but I was wrong. I always assumed that Woodrugh would be our main protagonist left standing. He was the only one, seemingly, without so much blood on his hands. Now, there’s blood on his shirt. And the pavement. Using him as a plot device to introduce the crooked cop angle was a smart one, and the Caesar-like betrayal was a masterstroke. Now, one could argue how did that guy (whatever his name is) know that Woodrugh would be at that exact exit with all the myriad of tunnels in LA at that exact moment, but I think we can suspend disbelief enough to make it work.
Our protagonists, once only thought to be outsiders, are now locked out of a system that seemingly rejected them from the get-go. They have no place else to go but towards each other. But where this thing is heading should be exciting. It should make the viewing audience, finally, want to cancel plans and rush home, sit down, and watch a little chaos unfold. Each of our characters is on the precipice, and their descent should be appointment viewing. But make no mistake, this episode’s quality and probably next week’s quality as well don’t make up for an entire season of sitting around, apoplectic or not, and looking at each other.
Regardless, I’m (finally) excited to watch True Detective. It was just a shame it took so long to get there.