By Dirk van Sloten, M.S.
This article is in response to the piece written at Thinkprogress.org: http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2014/03/10/3381971/true-detective-failed/
Zack Beauchamp of “Think Progressive” misses the boat on True Detective so much, that I wonder if he has been taking more acid than five Rust Cohle’s combined.
First he demands the show should have a “supernatural” ending. Two days later he claims the show’s finale completely “fails” because he feels that it didn’t live up to its promise to “transcend the cop show’s intellectual horizon,” and that “the show failed utterly to redeem its troubling treatment of female characters.”
Let me preface by saying I’m a huge fan of the horror genre (which to me means, with few exceptions, it needs to have an element of the supernatural, a monster for example). But this show wasn’t setup as such. Nothing supernatural was ever revealed. Not really. Though there are obviously characters who believe in the supernatural; no evidence was ever give that true magic, supernaturalism, deities, etc, were actually involved.
A true supernatural twist (i.e. the Ancient Ones find an entry into this world) revealed only at the end would have pissed off a ton of the show’s fans. And they would have been correct to have been pissed off
in such a scenario. Because we would have been lied to. It would have been cheap. And yet, that’s the ending Zack was praying for.
As far as the treatment of female characters go… The three main women, Marty Hart’s wife and two daughters, turn out to be strong women that rebel against their husband/father, and ultimately take things in their own hands. They choose to step out of the abusive situation. And the fact they still show up at the hospital bed doesn’t mean they’re weak. Quite the opposite; it takes more strength, and yet yields better results, to show compassion and even forgiveness, than it does to condemn someone and walk away without ever looking back.
The standard cop and/or horror show that does what Beauchamp accuses True Detective of when he says “True Detective, then, ended up selling a traditional story about dangerous men saving faceless women as a critique of violent masculinity,” would have had the women abducted by the antagonist, so the big macho heroes could come safe them. This show didn’t do that! At all. Fantastic, I say.
Beauchamp also states that: “Someone who sacrificed his career on the alter of uncovering the Tuttle conspiracy should never be satisfied with simply catching the nastiest, least-powerful member of the clan.” But he did way more than that. And Cohle himself even strongly stresses he’s not satisfied as he caught only one. But both Cohle and Beauchamp miss the point he did so much more than just catch a single guy. For one, he’s been able to re-open a case that had been shut down and forgotten about. The two new detectives, Gilbough and Papania, competent as they may or may not be, were completely tunnel-visioned on Cohle being the antagonist. Given that fact, and given their history with the case, only Hart and Cohle as a team, despite their flaws, could have done that. For another, by re-opening the case and getting one suspect who was truly involved in the Tuttle Conspiracy, other doors are opened that can lead to more people involved being identified and prosecuted.
A real-world detective doesn’t solve every crime he investigates, either. And the ones he or she does aren’t always solved in their entirety.
Should a first season of a show reveal all mysteries? Or should it leave some stuff open for either follow-up seasons, or to allow people to ponder on these questions themselves? (Yes, I’m aware the second season of this show is likely to not have any direct correlation with this first one.)
I’m not a fan of shows where all data are regurgitated ad nauseam, especially in a single and first season. Ergo, I’m very satisfied True Detective didn’t turn into that kind of show. For me, True Detective delivered a very satisfying, intelligent, and strong “conclusion,” that left one hungry for a second course. It more than succeeded.