I Don’t Care: This Is True Detective Fulfilling Its Promises
Promise of True Detective
It says it all in its title. True Detective didn’t do anything other than tell the interesting and provocative story of two detectives in pursuit of a monster. Along the way these detectives shared their different viewpoints on life, had difficulties in their personal lives, and weren’t subtle about their feelings for each other. It rolled out crime genre tropes we’ve seen before, but creator Nick Pizzolatto infused the writing with panache, and director Cary Fukunaga made it all look beautifully dark and sincere. True Detective wasn’t perfect, but it fulfilled its promise by focusing on the detectives, and the truth about the challenges of being immersed in a serial killer case like this, while also showing how it can affect not only the detectives pursuing the case, but also the people closest to them.
I’ve been reading a lot of pieces about True Detective following the season finale, and it’s been a mixed bag, ranging from the show not answering the many questions it introduced, to failing as a season of television, and to being beautiful to look at, but unfulfilled in its completion. I think it was pretty clear from the beginning what Pizzolatto and Fukunaga were trying to do. The idea that the case was the only thing that mattered is preposterous. The crime genre is arguably the most prolific in all of television. It’s likely the simplest genre to pitch to a network and sell to an audience. If Pizzolatto wanted, I truly believe he could have set this show in the medical field or in a grocery store and still tell the same stories about humanity. But he chose the crime genre because it’s ultimately the most alluring way to tell these types of stories.
I think part of the reason there has been a lot of backlash against True Detective is the that there are a lot of television viewers who binge watch reruns of Criminal Minds and are fascinated with the shock value that shows like The Following deliver each week. They think that’s the entirety of what the crime genre has to offer about serial killers. If there’s a show that services the serial killer sub genre the best, it’s NBC’s Hannibal. It’s probably the best show airing on the broadcast networks (It airs Friday’s at 10 p.m. on NBC if you’re curious). But I think the main reason True Detective was so successful in the ratings, and created such a buzz — positive or negative — was the idea that the actual crime was supposed to mean something. It was never supposed to be anything more than a centerpiece to draw us in. We continued to watch because of Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson). We continued to watch because of the detectives. Sound familiar?
Thought and Discussion
Are there things Pizzolatto could’ve done better to service its female characters (which has been an argument I’ve read a lot over the course of the season)? Sure. Could he have answered some of the burning questions about the Yellow King and the larger conspiracy it only began to reveal? Of course he could’ve. In the end, I don’t think he was interested in that. I think he was interested in setting a mood and creating a discussion about humanity and the universe via Cohle and Hart, two men who couldn’t have more divisive viewpoints on life. For me, this was all a beautiful experience as a fan of television. What it means in terms of the cultural significance remains to be seen, since there will definitely be a second season with a different cast of characters and a different world to discover. But for now, I’ll continue to read countless amounts of think pieces and I’ll consider everything each has to say about this show, and I will come to one conclusion: it was always about the detectives.
I also have a casting prediction for season two: Jeremy Renner and Olivia Wilde. That’d be a cool pairing.