True Detective — Church in Ruins
“Cross that one off the bucket list — a Mexican standoff with actual Mexicans.”
Frank’s sardonic sense of humor not withstanding, I don’t have a lot to say about this week’s True Detective. It was pretty disappointing, poorly written, badly directed, and hilariously predictable. I mean, Ani’s sister alone, literally saying things like, “They’ll take your phone, strip you down before you go in…uh, or so I’ve heard.” Really? You’re going to use the, “Or so I heard” line as foreshadowing? Or Ani’s knife play in her apartment. Wonder if she’ll end up stabbing someone that same way later in the episode. Of course she will. How much more effective would that scene have been if we’d just seen her make this rapid motion, then gradually realized the guy was bleeding and noticed her toss the knife away, without it all being telegraphed 40 minutes earlier?
And let’s not forget our ace detectives who happen to wander up to a window at the exact moment the chief bad guys inside are loudly describing their scheme. “These contracts. Have signatures. All over them.” Thank you for giving us the exact dictionary definition of what a contract is, Paulie. I’m sorry, am I watching CSI: Vinci here?
All that would be whatever, just dumb and boring. But this episode was just lazy and stupid in its treatment of women. I talked a few episodes ago about how it was going to be awkward using Ray’s wife’s rape as his character motivation, but it keeps getting worse, since she’s nothing but a heartless shrew and the whole thing is just an excuse for Farrel to talk in that low mumbly half-whisper that’s supposed to sound manly and threatening. That entire kitchen conversation with Frank (which otherwise had a fun Tarantino suspenseful vibe) was done in that voice. Tough guy voice is cool. Use it sparingly or it becomes laugh out loud funny. By the time he did his whole speech at the prison I was just rolling my eyes.
Last season people gave Pizzolatto shit for having two male leads and no female lead roles. Which is fine. There are stories about men, there are stories about women. (I should clarify here — most stories are about both and are better for it, but if a particular story is really one or the other, it’s ok). If you’ve been reading me for any length of time you know I think diversity in fiction (and fiction creators) is important, but every story doesn’t doesn’t need to be the perfect progressive ideal, ok? So not having a female detective in season one doesn’t make it a bad story, and at the same time having an interesting woman lead in season two is very cool — but that coolness is obliterated by the hackneyed, half-assed treatment of her character this week. Hey, a woman cop, obviously we’re going to have to dress her up sexy and go undercover as a hooker. That is the goddamn worst cliche in cop shows, man. And then, let’s layer on top of that that in the middle of the gig she trips out on Molly (yeah, I don’t think that’s how that drug works) and has flashbacks to being molested as a kid, the second worst cop show cliche. Hey, dudes who write — your women characters aren’t just walking vaginas. They can have things happen to them and be motivated by events that don’t involve sex.
This also returns to a Pizzolatto theme that bugged me in season one — that promiscuity in women is necessarily a result of damage from sexual abuse. Marty’s daughter is busted having a threesome with two boys, shorthand for, “Wow that sex abuse really messed her up, huh?” And we’ve seen throughout this season that Ani likes freaky sex and dirty porn. Not because she’s a willful, interesting woman with her own desires and needs, though. Nope. Because she was sexually abused too.
That’s bullshit. It’s bullshit writing and last night’s episode was bullshit TV.