Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Save me, Jebus.


So, yeah. This will be the last post about True Detective for the foreseeable future or at least until Nick Pizzolatto buries the hatchet with Cary Fukunaga and/or finds a decent casting director and/or rediscovers the mojo that led to a brilliant story in the first season. This season is a trainwreck, interesting only for how bad it can possibly get before the end.

We're both pretending to be Pizzolatto jerking ourselves off.
Let's start with the cliché, since there were plenty to choose from. Ray and Frank square off across the kitchen table, guns drawn, tension high... and trying to make every sentence sound as profound as possible, since only one other person in the world might remember how eloquent you were before you had a hole blown in your chest, presuming that he doesn't a) also die and b) decides to preserve your brilliance for posterity when he staggers away to the ER. I mean, seriously: "If you ever point a gun under a table at me again, you better not let me see you coming." What does that even mean? How does it make sense? Once again: People don't fucking talk like that! Stock characters could. Animated mannequins might. Writers trying to club people over the head with their self-declared brilliance do... Oh, wait. There it is. What happened to the casual pace of last season, where confrontations like this developed out of daily life (as they do), rather than completely artificial staging (as they don't)? What happened to the relationship between the leads that drove the story? What happened to the story?

Apparently that story also includes a key character named "Stan", because Frank has been mourning "Stan" for the last three episodes, including this one, where he spent several minutes delivering bullshit homilies about having a heart of gold. Who the hell is "Stan"?  Oh, right.

That's Stan. On the left. With the breathing problem.
"Stan" was the guy with a whole sixty seconds of screen time before he was ambushed by a couple of Russian heavies and dumped in a drainage pit. And yet Frank has been acting like it's the ides of March and he finally got around to doing "Friends, Romans, countrymen..." to an eight-year-old. Because, you know, "Stan" was that important of a guy. Seriously. Is this where a writer gets stuck on the small details and loses the (many) thread(s) of the plot?

I'm feeling almost as distressed about what I was watching.
But the crowner, of course, was the orgy scene. This is HBO, right? This is the network that isn't afraid of showing realistic events, right? So, they decided to rein it in and didn't show anything explicit. Fine. I don't care about that. If they wanted to paper it over, that's their choice. But to take a lead character, place her in the midst of that kind of event, and then keep everything essentially as background noise does a disservice to the audience and the character. Ani is someone who has some psychological issues around sex. Great. We should be able to follow her into this event and experience her twisting reactions to what she's seeing. But we don't get that. We get a drug reaction that has no connection to reality whatsoever! "Molly" is MDMA, also known as Ecstasy. Ecstasy is an enhancer, like cocaine. It makes you feel really good and like the whole world is a party (I know. I've taken it.), exactly like the other women seemed to be acting. What it doesn't do is cloud your vision and make you feel like someone has just hit you over the head with a shovel. That sounds a lot more like the various "date rape" drugs (Haven't taken'em. Only know secondhand.) So did everyone else get Ecstasy and Ani got something else or did she just have a worse reaction to X than anyone else, like, ever? Couldn't we have gotten this just from the emotional blowback as we now know that her personality has been shaped by a childhood assault? Wouldn't that have been more interesting and made this whole scene (and episode... and season) seem less staged and artificial and stock PG-13 action film?

Incidentally, given the amount of disorientation she was showing, it's obvious that whatever drug she was given had long since entered her bloodstream, which means putting her finger down her throat would do jack-all for her state of mind. But, amazingly, post-bathtub Ani can sprint down a hillside, perfectly lucid, while carrying another woman (her conveniently discovered missing person that she didn't see waiting on the street... or in the bus... or in the front room... until Ani discovers her in the bathroom also having the worst reaction to X ever known (So now there's two. Scientific trend or just shitty plotting? You be the judge.)) Vomiting apparently does more for Ani than any other human alive. And we thought her sister, Athena, was the god...

Wait! It's an actual plot! Hide!
Insult to injury was Ray and Paul doing what cops everywhere do: overhear key conversations while avoiding detection only to break in and steal conveniently placed documents that reveal the whole scheme. That's what being a TRUE detective is all about! It's also an example of a screenplay written by a freshman at USC. It hits the right notes for bog-standard cop flick, but is a far cry from the far more interesting first season, where actual police work (boring, repetitive, takes a long time, with occasional inadvertent discoveries or methodical assembly of testimony) was shown with fewer shortcuts but far more interesting development. You know: not CSI: Vinci.

Kill it, Ani! Kill it with-! OK. Not fire. Just kill it.
So, yeah. We're done here. Given the bookends of The Killing and TD2, I'm feeling relatively safe in saying that TD1 was a fluke of timing, where Pizzolatto had his baby that he'd been nurturing for years and tossed it to two guys (Fukunaga and McConaughey) at the peak of their powers and they made it into a thing. Cut away the latter two and leave Pizzolatto and we're left with this,which isn't something that anyone is going to watch on a regular basis (in addition to the poor casting.) I'll leave the last two on the DVR and watch them someday. Perhaps the next time I score some X so I can take a hit and try to feel good about it, but probably not.

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