Sunday, 10 August 2014
This show was well put together but not quite as original or intelligent as it seemed. The acting and directing put the story over but the writing definitely had a lot of bumps that could ahve been solved in its development.
I had problems with the following.
1. Plot- The plot was not as complicated as it seemed, nor very well-written, with the central characters were idiots or intelligent depending on plot needs. Some of the acting hid that on a moment to moment basis but stepping back at the end, there was a lot of problems in this area. Most of plot was solved halfway through save for the cliched scary guy in the woods as seen from many a schlocky horror movie. The reason to why this couldn't be investigated after the initial shoot-out were never made strong enough nor was the twist to get the characters back on track intriguing. There was not enough plot detailing to allow the characters to be legitmately lost within the story or to make genuine mistakes. There was a vagueness in all of the plot writing, as if the writer knew what was expected for the gene put couldn't do it properly. In the final section there was lots of supposed mysteries and conspiracies on why they couldn't get the final guy but these were never paid off and were indeed thrown away for a cliched horror ending. The plot kept repeating information from the first half of the story but never twisted it intriguingly. Damningly, the show attempted a Texas chainsaw meets Minatour and the labyrinth sequence, shot prettily, but there was no psychological pay-off. The final episode was a dull and cliched pay-off of many story threads. For a show named True Detective, there needed to be a mystery to live up to the title. There was not.
2. Derivative- Every show is influenced by something else, as any art form is. The influences should be transcended. These were not. The serial killer tropes have been worked for twenty years, and were very influenced by Thomas Harris. The TV show Hannibal, based on the Harris novels, had used many of the same images such as deer heads, backwoods murder pits, as True Detective a year earlier and had worked themes such as identity in a mad and godless world, the emotional needs in killers, self-delusion of hunters and of intelligence, in a far more intriguing way. So the subject of the detection felt second-hand. The detectives themselves were stronger in the story, and were the glue that held many of the shows problems together yet I could not help but see a Homicide influence, from the mixing of the intellectual and existential detective with the down-to-earth cop, the themes of what murder and any kind of belief in rationality means to the police or victims. This was a good model (and the even had a cop kill crook bit). But I never felt that it added anything to what had come before, and was actually simplistic in its conclusions. Themes are taken to a certain point then stepped back from, such as limits of belief or consequences of weakness, left to be a repeating cycle used for thematic point that isnt always dramatised in a way that develops the point. Instead it sits lazily. The acting and directing hides this a lot.
3. Backtracking on show in final few minutes- The show had a good start, with a lead character who talked about theories that for a TV show were unusual. He was blatantly an atheist in a religion-dominated area. This was one of the strongest parts of the show, in its look at how people are defined by and blinded by beliefs of any kind. Yet after all the horror the show back tracks from this theme, suggesting that this anti-religious character felt something supernatural in the final moments. It was meant to come across as a moment of epiphany but instead was a betrayal of an interesting theme, of how to live a moral life without supernatural belief. It betrayed the strongest parts of the character and made most of the previous story feel cheap. Adding that element should have been made earlier, to at least explore it. Instead here it felt like, oh I was wrong. Ignore everything I said. That's terrible and immature writing.
To be fair the show was well written in the character scenes, and placed interesting emphasis on how time affects people. The show worked best when these elements were forefronted. This was where the interest was. But the cliches truly dragged it down from top-tier shows such as Breaking Bad or Deadwood. Despite its flaws I'm glad I watched it. I just wish its better elements weren't dragged down by conventional thinking and lack of ingenuity.