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Lasted like 17 days.

Haven't watched 3 yet. Re. 1 and 2: )
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Looks like consensus has coalesced around Fargo as show of the year - I guess those of us unthrilled with the True Detective ending managed to successfully deflate its enthusiasts via tactical whingeing? Fargo was mostly amusing and I'll watch its relaunch whenever, but it was more weird than good, and it meant less than it seemed to think. There were some memorable shots, maybe a few up there with the consistently amazing visuals of True Detective and Hannibal, and as usual Mad Men, but in the end nothing can replace story.

True Detective ... happened. The direction, art direction, McConaughection were undeniably top notch. And the credit sequence was just thrilling, even surviving retrospective self-seriousness given what happened with the show. I could watch cars run across Woody Harrelson's face for hours. And I mean that in a nice way.

That the ending plagiarized a comic book was weird. And consequentially, unlike the even weirder (if less certain and more likely unconscious is real) plagiarism of Donald Duck in Inception. Premises can and should be stolen, significance never. And if you do, Jesus - change something, anything. That the last damn seconds were unoriginal sharpens my suspicions that the ending was written while the show was in production. It's desperate and at a bizarre veer from all that came before. But I'm probably just protecting my dumb theory. Fail's doubtless on me.

Perhaps asking a single person to write so many episodes of one show, even with bits of help here and there, isn't as good an idea as we've been assuming? Or at least leads to some problems we weren't prepared for. Penny Dreadful and Louie, one-man shows also, had some neat high points but also some very draggy ones, much like Fargo. But Fargo was sufficiently invested in a serial plotline that the ending needed to matter. It wasn't as much of a burnout as True Detective's (seemed that it) was, but it was enough of a shrug to make the series itself retroactively shruggier. Julie and I argue about whether the "neat! What next!" feeling is valuable in itself or only as a promise of the feeling that a whole experience has been neat, and I'm on the asking-for-disappointment side. But she was a lot madder than she admits at the latter quarters of True Detective and Lost. Enduring love is possible, is the problem with the never loved vs. loved and lost dispute. Breaking Bad is possible. It's just not here this year. But secretly we're watching all this television looking for it.

Hannibal and Mad Men were good, though, and both of them despite our assumption that we've seen all this before. And maybe requiring that starting point for full appreciation? If the assignment is to find ways to keep Hannibal and Draper even vaguely fresh they both aced it. With the zombie team not far behind them, this year. Just like Game of Thrones becomes a lot more impressive when you ask yourself what you could have done better given those constraints. Heroic writing staffs, all.

Comedy we all differ on, though with some universal overlap, and that's fine. I wonder why it's fine, though? What makes it more like music or old movies or genre fiction where if you grew up with some strain of it or took a random liking-to at some early point it's valuable to you forever, while everyone else is pretty much justified in shrugging? Or maybe "drama" works the same way and we all just assume it doesn't? Maybe it's just how we react to the pain of seeing someone not laugh or not respond to our tunes - if they could get it they'd have got it at once, so we just give up. Whereas maybe with this serious stuff that at some point connects up with ethics or politics or spirituality or something they'll come to get it if they keep trying, just like those who disagree with us about all those matters are only tolerated by us for their potential to someday change and agree with us, a potential surely proved by their ability to tie their shoes. Or perhaps just some of us, but enough to keep the Academy Awards and similar provocations going. Perhaps there's no accounting for accounting for taste.
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The most admirable thing about the show is how well it makes particular moments fit both the least-resistance, initial interpretation of viewers who don't yet know what's really happening, and the "oh right, yeah" realization of what was actually happening when you rewatch or think back. The most admirable thing about this most admirable thing is how the "remainder" is handled, those little bits of occurrence that don't parsimoniously fit the strawman interpretation. These bits are presented as texture, as things that don't happen quite straight because life doesn't happen quite straight; they lend, very ironically, verisimilitude, the belief that we're not being imposed upon by some mind's dry design. Whereas in fact they're straight as hell, and we need them to be, need everything to be pertinent to a sufficiently complex final explanation. Little dialogue, few gestures can be wasted or we lose that feeling of paranoia, of the malignant organization of all happenings, that we seem to love, at least in fiction. When the most random-seeming details turn out to be consequences of a single domino fall, that's just neat, and this method neatly underlines that neat effect. We thought only some things were connected, before. But it's all of them. Is this merely the sublimity proper to plot? Because it seems related to the making of god.
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Spoilers kept vague, but again probably not vague enough:




Because episode 6 didn't alter the several forecasts. It did make some feel so obvious that I now hope they're wrong; if not, the show's inviting severe backlash. It'll probably get some anyway. Big Mystery shows return us to the sunglasses problem: a large number of the most beautiful faces you will ever see, at least in unphotoshoppable and unfilterable person, will be those of strangers wearing sunglasses. Once they remove the sunglasses they're usually still attractive but much less so, humanly so, and the disparity repels. This isn't always the case, just so often that you become more and more annoyed with yourself for continuing to not stop looking.

As for the Goodbye Columbus stuff it's doing - I kind of hope against hope at this point that this too will come together differently than expected. Mostly for variety's sake, as the (mostly sensible) PC digestif that's come to cap the misogyny horrorshow genre - and distinguish its products from misogynist horrorshows - is getting a bit overfamiliar. Getting PC some street cred by putting it in visible relation to what it most seeks to prevent - the stuff at the bottom of the slippery slope - was a neat attempt at cooption, but is in increasing danger of being permanently coopted itself, less by patriarchy per se than by the various ancient, largely amoral gods of narrative.

Cohle's anti-life, contra- (rather than anti) evolution perspective might offer a way out, but isn't in principle opposed to the PC alliance, and the way the show's events have been bearing it out so far any potential opposition has been evaded. Hating life itself tends to mean either a) hating death or b) hating love. Or both, sure, but at least in practice Cohle doesn't seem to mind the death part, or physical pain; at least in the context of the show, he cares most about how people betray one another. Inevitably so: their expectations don't match what will happen, yet they keep having those expectations, are hence constantly hurt, disappointed, outraged, confused. Expectations about what one will do oneself are off-base too, such that against one's own projections one will also hurt, disappoint, outrage etc. Combined with the anti-patriarchal mindset, for which the married male cheating propensity is essentially socially "constructed," this means females on the show basically only betray out of jealousy/vengeance (in all three of the instances shown so far the collateral damage to hapless male accomplices is what's emphasized, since counter-betrayal isn't betrayal but instead just deserts to most of us). The odd problem here is that if no one has a primal betrayal motive then largely accidental social arrangements are the only real problem with life. Which isn't true, among other objections one might make, though I guess the idea that social arrangements are ultimately determined by accident rather than human cooperation is scary enough, and a plausible tie-in with the anti-life argument.

One way the show might still legitimately disturb is by tying in the violence against children to Cohle's beliefs - not necessarily by making him guilty of such acts, but at least by suggesting that those who are might be taking a less humanistic approach to the recognition of the same void he does. Wishing to destroy children as a reaction to realizing they're what really, in several senses, destroy us. Historically, child sacrifice was presumably about giving the gods your most precious possession to prevent their destroying everything else. This would be very different - conceivably the sort of curdled religion someone who administers one of the various daylight religions, theistic or civic, might secretly turn to when they'd seen too much of their own to see it as other than hollow. Detective 2B's assumptions about Cohle may be preparing us to understand the motives of the real guilty party or parties.
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One stupid problem with once you have a guess is that it can be hard to put yourself in the shoes of the show's expected viewer. Who are we supposed to suspect of what at this point? From the writer's point of view, that is.
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Intended this to not (potentially) spoil future episodes, rather than those so far, but it almost certainly does both. So basically don't read it:









Trying to determine if there's anything unfair about the handling of the medium in True Detective - which I now officially love, mostly because it's letting me try to determine things.

Specifically, does it commit The Usual Suspects' sin of not letting us know whether a scene we're watching is footage requisitioned from the infallible Recording Angel, a filmic reenactment of the possibly mistaken memory of a character, or something a character is making another character envision. And worse, does it commit the Sixth Sense's (and Wild Things', if anyone cares about that movie) sin of not having the presentation of relevant facts follow an implied set of rules. An implicit contract about what a movie is, really.

For True Detective, the initial contract between presenter and viewer would seem to be as follows: for everything discussed in two 2012 accounts of what happened in 1995, the true versions will be shown. This presumably works as some partial justification of the show's title, but more importantly it allows quite a bit of leeway for acceptable twists. At times, though, the connection seems to be thematic, such that we're wondering if the speaking character is supposed to be remembering something that he isn't saying, some association brought to mind while overhearing himself. And since presumably the character doesn't fall silent while being overwhelmed by several minutes of cinematic recall, the scene is more of a shorthand for what the character either enduringly knows or more briefly calls to mind. But in that case shouldn't we get shorthand for all other (relevant) things the character knows? One reason to think this is that the show presents itself as though we are getting that, or that we will at least get to each bit in its proper place in the 2012 account of the investigation. It takes a while before you realize that's not quite what's happening.

Contractually, we can't simply be given a story that tells us everything we need to know to solve a mystery except those things that would give it away at once. That's what mystery stories have to virtually do, but they always need some other reason for information to just happen to be limited in that fashion - mere teasing can never be the overt procedure. The most usual method of limitation is to trail an investigator, give the audience only the clues provided to him. The method of a lying or otherwise misleading narrator is the next most common; there, information can plausibly be limited because a character plausibly wants it to be. This setup combines elements of both, but at the end of the day there has to be a hierarchy.

Perhaps you can argue that while putting their stories together the interviewees have to suppress certain facts even from themselves. Some sorts of memories and knowledges intrude viscerally, others, having been more carefully prepared against, are successfully kept out of consciousness. The two are vulnerable to sideways ironies but not their most important secrets.

That lies they told superiors, including ones that would get them in legal trouble, are corrected in their memories is one possible problem with this. While you could say that what's suppressed is even more crucial for them to conceal than facts that could get them jailed, it's less clear how they could pursue their own agenda of planting certain bits of information in their interrogators while gleaning others without their at least occasionally thinking about why they're doing so.

For a while I wondered if what we were seeing was a sort of hybrid: their shared knowledge of those things that occurred during their partnership. But this clearly isn't true - we've seen many things neither would tell the other. The suppression thing is the only possible justification, and it's pretty iffy.

I guess you could use the initial investigation of the crime scene itself as cutoff, making the rule this: anything relevant that happened between that examination and the dissolution of their partnership relevant to either their 2012 answers or thoughts while answering will be shown fully. It's possible that the occurrences both parties are keeping secret were all prior to that moment. But is that rule really justifiable? Conceivably it is as a sort of guiding principle each adopts - you want to know about that investigation? Oh, I'll tell you about THAT (mostly). But either lie or give prepared semantic statements about what went before, refusing to allow myself to picture any of it.
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No details, please, but does anyone else think they've guessed the lion's share of the rest of the True Detective plot, including several key twists, based on this last episode? I feel quite sure, but can't tell if I'm a very special boy this week or it's just being obvious. So much so that I'm now wondering whether enough info was there last week, and the silly Sons of Anarchy field trip distraction worked on me.
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One of the odd things about True Detective is how it jumps the gun. Spoilin':

Noir tends to follow a revelation arc - some initial mystery becomes more sinister and convoluted, involves and endangers the investigator, is seen to connect to a grand, pervasive evil, political or psychological or both, leading to his reassessment of his world and how it can be lived in. Pulling the loose thread in the sweater ends up leaving us naked in the cold. Occasionally the investigator is kept mysterious enough that it's we who feel these things on his behalf, only to find he's known how to handle his reality all along - he's been modeling what we should change into.

Cohle has already completed this arc, has basically lived through a Chinatown and come out with a hardened code of conduct. Which he announces from the start.

Is the viewer supposed to just not believe him, but come to as the story progresses? That would be an interesting variation if so. And does seem to fit how Harrelson responds to him - he doesn't contradict him, he just says to keep those views to himself, that they're depressing, that no one else would understand, that faith and optimism help people live.

But Harrelson's rationalizings of the irrational are related by the show to the sweep things under the rug mindset of Southern whites that enables ongoing human and environmental damage. They fuck up his personal life, make him complicit in the white elites' fucking up of public life. At its halfway point the show's strongly hinting that the Louisiana powers that be are faking Satanic murders to keep the masses afraid, the herd docile and milkable. It may go somewhere else with that later, but it's at least leaving us contemplating how well that would fit.

So maybe the show's showing all of its cards at once, making us see one by one that their pictures fit the landscape. I'd be more interested if it could say something against Cohle, though. There's something tendentious about a narrative having a spokesperson all the way through. Crowned with all the various hero powers.
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Free days are continuing to be assassinated - by weather last week, this week by cleaning for houseguests, next week the actual houseguests then by grading etc. But getting the two I did was enough to restore my patience.

(There's ways to chop up evening time such that people get things done, but you need cooperation for that. Hard to describe how difficult even the tiniest negotiation can be.)

The houseguests are coming to see Niagara Falls, chiefly, which in even non-vortical Februaries is the center of a permanent, omnidirectional ice storm extending a half mile. Not pleasant. And they're from Virginia.

Stuck with one or two tv episodes a day in the meantime, media-wise. We were enthralled by the first True Detective episode, though the second regressed a bit into HBO-show cliches. We snickered our way through Downton Abbey 2. Strange how consistently great production values are these days even on terribly written shows. You'd think tv writing would have enough of a craft basis that scripts could also be made consistently, I dunno, workmanlike at least? We tried The Good Wife, which was that in its way, but merely that, which probably answers my question - a beautifully shot house, no matter how predictable, is still beautiful. Scripts not so much.

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