Wednesday, April 30, 2014

True Detective vs. The Fall: My Foolish Attempt to Describe Why My Show is Better Than Yours, Nah!

It is foolish to compare works of art but who doesn’t loving doing it anyway?  Those who declare themselves above such practices can stop reading now and go back to whatever the hell they do when not measuring one artist against another.  Okay, now that I have cleared out no one at all, let me begin.

Recently I, like so many other premium cable subscribers and internet thieves, have watched, digested, enjoyed, and moved on from True Detective.  A fine show, for the most part; it offered up some dark, brooding charm and naked asses as well as anti-hero heroes and the odd product placement for Jameson.  What’s not to love?  Well…

It seems the feminists of the world united in their opposition to the show or, at the very least, their grudging enjoyment of the adventures of Rust and Marty among the crazy pussy.  Can’t say I blame them.  The women are so secondary you might as well be scraping them off your shoe.  While this bothered me only mildly and did not deter me from my TV each Sunday, I still understood then, and understand now, their objections to the objectification. 

Let me state for whatever record there is that I, as a drooling male, recognize my constraints and, therefore, am maybe not the best person to be dwelling on the issue of adequate feminine representations in a seedy cable show, especially one on HBO, a medium that that demands tits and ass aplenty.  Neverthefuckingless, I can say that True Detective, which killed it for five straight episodes, dropped the goddamn ball at the end.  I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, much more than I should and much less than your average True Detective fan.  But lazily drop the ball they did.  Search your feelings, you know it to be true. 

With all the fanfare and feminist debate, what gets lost in the discussion (though I am sure if I searched the internet for a millisecond I would find a cadre of nerds who’d back me up) is the criticism that True Detective deserves.  And this criticism should be grounded in the admission that the show, expertly directed and acted, flopped at the end.  Bummer.  But I still liked seeing McConaughey sculpt little men out of Lone Star tall boys and spout nihilistic bullshit. 

So it’s fair to say I liked the show, misogynistic warts and all, and that a couple of dud episodes at the end did not diminish my love of that much discussed 6 minute tracking shot.  I am sure season two will bring equally good things.  But why wait for season two when season one of the superior program The Fall is currently streaming on Netflix? 

What?  You don’t know The Fall?  I do, thanks to the lovely Cassandra who sniffed out this feminist friendly and well crafted little gem.  You should check that shit out.  Gillian Anderson (remember her?) with a British accent in Belfast investigating a string of murders.  The murderer stalking his prey and living his seemingly normal life as a father and husband and—get this shit—working as a grief counselor.  Yep—there’s no mystery here; you know who the murderer is immediately and that just makes the show better.  Where True Detective tacked on some facile mystery and redneck cult that was picked up and put down without much consideration, The Fall eschews such easy gimmicks and just tells you who the killer is and lets you walk many dark miles in his shoes.  While watching The Fall, it occurred to me that I really don’t give a fuck about mysteries most of the time.  They are usually great at first and disappointing at the end.  This may speak to something in me more than the culture at large or the genre itself, but I’d be willing to guess that I am not alone.  Think of the great whodunits.  Few and far between, right?  It’s hard to sustain much interest in their 4th acts which inevitably are nothing more than chase scenes and confrontations/confessions.  At the end of True Detective, we have Rust literally walking through every motif the show tried hard to develop, voices around him whispering about yellow kings and other such red herrings.  But they were not intended to be red herrings.  No, they were supposed to contain some meaning that really only added creepy flavor to a sleazy cop show.  I know there are many who read a lot of supplementary books and Tumblr theories about all of this, but what did any of the Lovecraftian touches really do for the story aside from make it a dash more bizarre?  Nada.  In comparison, every note of The Fall feels perfect and not a moment seems unnecessary.  It too is a trim show—five episodes—but I imagine the writer/producers were aware of that when they started, whereas I get the impression that Nic Pizzolatto envisioned a longer narrative arc that got snipped by HBO.  Why else would he get viewers so invested just to rush to a dissatisfying finish? 

And for you feminists out there: The Fall offers a female character every bit as compelling and complicated as its male antihero.  That seems to be the point of the show, to give us a peek at two hunters, female and male, one a cop and one a serial rapist/killer.  We witness their chilling calculation and detachment and, sure, get the idea rather quickly that they are almost one and the same, but there’s a darkness in The Fall that excels beyond the high school posturing of True Detective.  Rust and Marty are the equivalent of suburban goth kids with Nine Inch Nails posters on their bedroom walls, Front 242 on their iPods, and fashionable angst coming out of their mouths.  The Fall evokes despair on a level of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, the sort of dread that fills the soul and makes you lay awake asking difficult questions.  Maybe when the suburban kid grows up they will be ready for The Fall.  Until then, season two of True Detective is coming, tits and all.