My friends at the freewheeling Abysmal Brutes podcast did an episode devoted to discussing True Detective, and I was compelled to leave a very long -in fact, almost embarrassingly long- comment. Since it took me a minute or 20 to string together and I dig the show so much, I figured I would repost it here, is as the prerogative of everyone with their own internet forum. Hey, some people post pics of their lunch, I do this. Don’t need this if you haven’t seen the show.
True Detective is the best show I’ve ever seen. I should’ve been on this episode, but since I wasn’t, I’ll leave a long comment.
I do believe that the best stories and art come from collaboration, but I don’t believe the only good stories and art come from collaboration. It’s impossible to imagine this show being what it was with any of its central pieces missing, especially the new Mconaughey, finally living up to his potential. He wrote a 500 page essay about Rust Cohle before they even began shooting, so devoted was he to the cause. He truly brought his A game to this, and I think it’s raised the bar dramatically for everyone. I fathom much of Hollywood is clamoring to be involved in Season 2. I expect top level stars to be involved.
Did the characters evolve? Well, I looked up “evolution” in the dictionary in order to get as solid a handle I could grasp. The result: “develop gradually, esp. from a simple to a more complex form.” By that strict definition, I’m not sure many of us truly evolve, but I would say that present day Rust had, most certainly by the end. Remember- the daily drunk burnout that was interrogated on camera was not the actual Rust, it was who he wanted the investigators to think he was. A bit of subtext, by drinking on camera, his entire testimony was made inadmissible in court, should it have come to that.
Marty? Maybe not. He seemed to be stagnating a bit, but that’s right in line with the kind of guy he is., content to coast a bit through life. I don’t think the reconciliation at the hospital was an indication of romance rekindled with his ex. The cut scenes when the DVDs come out will include one in which Marty meets her new husband when he visits the house.
What the guys got up to once their story ends is, as with all characters left alive after the credits roll on any fictional story, up for any interpretation. Maybe they became a crimefighting duo. Maybe they moved to California and got married. Maybe they murdered each other. My personal version would be that Marty would write a book about the case or at least have one ghostwritten, Rust would drift. The case did both have a great degree of media attention on it after the barkeep mailed out those packages, one could imagine that the two would have higher than the typical Q score. Marty would enjoy that much more than Rust, but it would stand to reason that they would remain friends on some level, as no one else on earth had done what they had done and seen what they had seen.
I don’t begrudge either of them for not continuing to pursue the cult. After all, it was made apparent that it was tied to something very sinister, very old, and that ran very deep. I think the message at the end is “evil exists, it is lurking all around us, and although we can combat it to a standstill, we can never fully vanquish it.” It would be the dominion of a much lesser show to depict all that child molestation, rape, murder, and every manner of illicit behavior depicted and hinted at as being something that could be eliminated entirely by these two rogue agents. Marty is quicker to call it a day then Rust, but I think even Rust was past that point of saturation, as evidenced by his initial disappointment at waking from the coma. Fight the good fight, but the fact is, you can’t save them all.
As for the idea that women were poorly represented, I call bullshit. Women like those depicted exist. They are quite “real.” Police encounter them. Frequently. It’s not every show’s job to represent every single different type of person in the world, and develop all of them completely. I’m not into Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” but I feel the same about the sentiments expressed about that one. There was a specific story told here, one right in line with the style of tale woven in the old pulp magazines the show took its name from, and we were watching the detectives. Not the housewives, hookers, or children.
I think once we get to watch the show all over again, we’ll see that Marty wasn’t much help at all, until towards the end when he noted the house paint. He was of little assistance to Rust beyond keeping Rust from getting canned at a few twists in the road. And I think Rust’s nihilism was real, born from his despair and fine tuned by his undercover work, but somewhere in him, he still had the drive to do good. Why? Well, that’s what makes him interesting.