On True Detectives And Narrative Programming

by William Skink

While I feel a bit buried by the layers of technical difficulties I keep encountering, there are silver linings to some of the inconveniences I’m navigating, like being consistently out of data by the 10th of each month.

Since end-of-the-night Netflix is not an option for my partner and I for 2/3 of the month, we have relied on DVDs. That’s why I wasted money on the third season of True Detective.

Something I’ve noticed as a consumer of high-production narrative programming is the overall decline in quality. Part of this decline is embodied by the over-reliance of big studios on “the reboot”.

The regular commenters at Moon of Alabama (who can generally be described as astute observers of geopolitics) recently got into a debate over reboots like Disney’s Mulan and the new Dune. Having been influenced by this forum for over a decade, I was impressed with how little value this conversation produced.

Back to True Detective (warning, possible spoilers ahead).

Season 3 of True Detective was absolutely terrible. While this is obviously a subjective claim, it’s coming from someone who was totally blown away by the acting and subject matter of the first season. For a quick summary, here is wikipedia’s breakdown of the first season:

The first season of True Detective, an American anthology crime drama television series created by Nic Pizzolatto, premiered on January 12, 2014, on the premium cable network HBO. The principal cast consisted of Matthew McConaugheyWoody HarrelsonMichelle MonaghanMichael Potts, and Tory Kittles. The season had eight episodes, and its initial airing concluded on March 9, 2014. As an anthology, each True Detective season has its own self-contained story, following a disparate set of characters in various settings.

Important context to consider is when this series first aired. 2014, even though it was only 6 years ago, was a different world. While there had been plenty of exposure of Hollywood as the cesspool that it is, 2014 predated the general public’s awareness of predators like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein.

After trudging through season 3, we re-watched season 1 and are currently watching season 2. Watching all this material again in 2020 is giving me a much different impression than my first go-around.

For me, the decline in fictional storytelling seems to correlate to a growing awareness that the screen is bleeding into real life and the monsters are real. Fiction can no longer compete with what’s actually happening in our fucked up world.

Now, in 2020, this is how I see the series.

Season 1 is the apex of what we can hope to expect from a true detective. Traces of the “buddy cop” motif are still visible as our culture turns to quicksand beneath our feet.

Season 2 plunges the viewer into a totally corrupt industrial armpit called “Vinci”. Here the best thing the corrupt/damaged male detectives can do is martyr themselves as the female detective escapes, mirroring the gender-tensions being promoted at the time, which have fully blossomed today.

Season 3 furthers the cultural commentary with an old detective struggling with dementia as he and his partner try to figure out the case over the decades. It’s so disappointing I have made up a fictional scene in my mind where True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto is brought into a room after season 1 and told explicitly that he got too close for comfort…so here’s the script for season 2, Nicky Baby, and remember what we got on you!

Maybe next time I’m looking for something to watch I should pick a comedy.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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2 Responses to On True Detectives And Narrative Programming

  1. Djinn&Tonic says:

    9/16/2020 — Dept. of Defense Secretary Mark Esper CONFIRMS Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) in space

  2. Eric says:

    Do like I did, and go back to watching reruns from the 80’s of Mike Hammer and Spenser for Hire.

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