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Saturday, 15 August 2015

TRUE DETECTIVE 2 WAS A MASTERWORK

I will not go into the roll call of A-list names who wrote, directed, and acted in, True Detective Season 2, except to say that the 8-part film noir cop drama set in the 21st century recently aired to mainly hostile, at times hectoring reviews. These can be divided into two categories - those that pined for the brilliant Season 1, and those that found Season 2 poor in its own right.  We can dispense with the first easily - you cannot claim Lear is not Hamlet and act all sad.  This is a new work.  Move on.

The second complaint was nuanced, but mainly revolved around the themes and structure of the new season - that it lacked drama, interesting character dynamics, that the dialogue was artificial, stilted and sometimes absurd, and that the finale lacked punch. The kindest words suggested it was High Camp - so bad it was good, a romping mess.

I beg to disagree.  This season was a complete dramatic work of Intertextual accomplishment - a very mature Tradition and the Individual Talent moment.  The youngish author (we know his name), who is a student of literature, did his genre homework. TD2 had all the bent cops, twisted hookers, tortured mobsters, hauntingly wasted lives, fatal desires, and double-crosses of the best hardboiled shows, pulp novels, and movies of yore. It also traded in the occult and anti-natalist subtexts of Season 1, for an Oedipal (Greek drama/Freud) skeleton. This entire season was in fact an expose of what a jouissance of classic and genre tropes unleashed would achieve - an experiment of deadly abandon.

As such, it was deliciously literary, post-modern, and artificial, a daring remake of Touch of Evil not in style but in theatrical panache and verve - the most complex genre exploration of the effects of sexual crime and suffering on humans seeking fathers and children in an American mystery story since perhaps Chinatown (another touchstone). Allusive to the max, often witty when most contrived, TD2 never claimed to be real.  Instead it offered the textual and cinematic pleasures of a fully contrived experiment - a theatre of tough guy alienation, with Brecht's wall torn down and sold for parts, after Mac the Knife was invited in.

I revelled in its glee, its bravura tics, and perhaps most of all its oddly controlled weirdness. A dignity and pathos bathed its five central characters in an eerie neon glow, and its OTT villains ran a mad gamut of creeps and cretins. Fathers never leave us, as a poet once wrote.

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