The TV Show is possibly one of this decade’s biggest innovations, not because it’s only now people decided to stretch a story into ten episodes or more but it’s because it’s only now the format is being taken seriously. Back then, TV shows were limited to nothing but repetitive Soap Operas, unfunny Sitcoms (two dated pieces of shit that the local Filipino TV Scene never seems to grow weary of) and a metric fuckton of Melodramatic Procedural Crime CSI knock-offs with few exceptions in between but now, the mature stories that were once limited to Annual Mini-Series are the norm, with audiences demanding for a lot of narrative depth in their television sets/laptop monitors.
With this new take on an old medium, writers are now given more than two hours and a bunch of shitty forced sequels to develop their characters and stories in pretty much any genre they want. From History/War (BAND OF BROTHERS) to Action/Horror (SUPERNATURAL), TV Shows right now are Hot Shit in the Narrative Department. With the amount of freedom and story length TV Shows can offer a genre, it was only a matter of time before the Crime TV Show got the injection of testosterone that the Fantasy Genre got to give birth to GAME OF THRONES (a now iconic series defined by feudal strife, sex, deaths, incest, deaths and memes), which leads us now to HBO’s Neo-Noir series, TRUE DETECTIVE.
Being a true Neo-Noir, TRUE DETECTIVE has all the conventional trappings of a Noir, only in a different time setting and location as seen in the fact that TRUE DETECTIVE takes place in the American South instead of an unnamed Concrete Jungle. Despite the change of typical settings, TRUE DETECTIVE still functions as an effective Noir story, detailing the personal lives of a pair of detectives as the fucked up case they’re handling begins to consume their lives for the better part of a decade as they battle the Powers That Be, Personal Demons and an assortment of Redneck Hicks that range from Politically Powerful Hick to Junkie Cousin Fucking Hicks who you’d expect to yell “SQUEAL LIKE A PIG!!” if given the chance. Considering that this is an HBO show and a Neo-Noir at that, it’s safe to say that it’s bleak and gritty as fuck and definitely not for those who were expecting something as good natured and campy as any of the many CSI spin-offs where each and every fucking scientist/investigator is a Quirky Hipster and the Loner Boss Man has some Weird Kink that defines his character instead of having any actual Character Development.
You see, TRUE DETECTIVE isn’t gritty but rather, it’s TOO fucking gritty to the point where it becomes Grrritty, complete with noisy teeth gnashing. Look, this show was so fucking Grrritty that when my DVD copy of the show fucked up and turned everything black and white, I didn’t think anything was wrong until I went to Google and found screenshots of TRUE DETECTIVE in full color.
Before you accuse me of being a fan of Watered Down Bullshit like the 2014 ROBOCOP remake no one sane wants to remember and before you tell me fuck off back to MY LITTLE PONY, allow me to retort. It’s expected that Neo-Noir stories have to be bleak because that’s the whole fucking point of the genre: a homicide case will ALWAYS turn into dark reflection of Human Nature and/or Power by the story’s end, and that’s something I dig from a symbolic standpoint. TRUE DETECTIVE’s problem is that took one too many of the aforementioned Macho Injection and ended up looking more like the New Kid on the Block who wears the BIG BOY PANTS way too often and then stumbles around like a dumbass. What TRUE DETECTIVE does, for better and worse, is take the typical elements of the Noir Story and amplify them to insane levels to the point where some scenes feel more like Self-Parody than Genre Homage where exaggeration seems to be the norm.
The series open rather slowly with a shitload of Nihilistic Private Dick Monologues courtesy of Rust (which I have to say is the most hardcore name I’ve heard in quite some time) where he does nothing but bitch about how shitty humanity is because he read one too many Nietzsche books while his partner Hart acts as the Audience Surrogate and begs Rust to just shut the fuck up and get back to solving the fucking case. Any tiny annoyance or detail is enough to make Rust launch into his high-and-mighty Nihilistic Rambling, which makes the theory that Rust only exists to be the series writer’s Philosophical Mouthpiece Character, whose only reason for existing is to show off how much crap the author knows, only more plausible as the show goes on. At least Hart, even if he is a big Immoral Asshole, feels more human and grounded than Rust thanks to his depiction as a guy who’s seen a lot of shit and just lives with it instead of bitching about it. Thankfully, Character Development gets the better of the two and they have some really nice interactions and arguments on their way to improving themselves instead of remaining the same throughout the whole fucking show.
The Side Characters aren’t that lucky, though, with each of them checking a box out in the list of Required Noir Characters and nothing more. Here, everyone in a higher position than the Lead Characters is either an Incompetent Asshole or a Corrupt Asshole not worth remembering, the whole fucking town is either Apathetic, Shellshocked or somehow Oblivious, the Innocent Children only exist to either be killed or serve the main characters by being a Walking Conscience and almost all of the onscreen Female Characters can only interact with the story by means of sex. Now I’m not against a Female Character having sex onscreen for whatever reason in the story but that shit has to be fucking justified. What gets me is when the only reason for a good number of the Female Cast to exist is for them to be a Figure Of Lust that tempts the Lead Characters with their Pussy Powers, which is the basically why every other female character who’s not related to Hart’s direct family exists in the story of TRUE DETECTIVE. Yes, it adds some much needed Moral Conflict and hell, it’s hot to look at but Jesus fucking Christ, there’s got to be more than just sex at the heart of every Macho Man’s argument with another equally Macho Man. At least a good majority of the Major Antagonists are Redneck Hicks straight out of THE HILLS HAVE EYES (only this time powered by Demon Worship instead of Radiation) instead of some Generic Mafia Copy. Now that’s some innovation I can get behind.
Speaking of Demon Worship, TRUE DETECTIVE gets the most important part of every Noir Story perfect: the case. Here, the case involves victims who were believed to have been the Human Sacrifices of some fucked up Demon Loving Cult and while this isn’t something that new in the realm of the Crime Story, it’s done pretty fucking well here. Along with the help of the bleak Southern Farmlands that somehow make the fucking sun seem foreboding, TRUE DETECTIVE keeps the tension alive and well with each passing episode as it all builds up to the Season Finale without the use of cheap tactics like Annoying Cliffhangers by, instead, using well written twists and turns that keep viewer interest amped to the point of obsession (“Just one more episode..”). While the pacing takes its time too often and the series itself does take some getting used to due to the fact that the first half of the season is dedicated to Repetitive Character Establishing and Rust’s Uppity Bullshit Lectures that both could’ve been finished a lot faster instead of letting them overshadow the fucking case, TRUE DETECTIVE still manages to tell a good detective story loaded with character development, mystery, grit and even more fucking Grrrit.
It’s flawed and it does feel amateurish at points, where the way the story is told feels like the show’s writers just wanted to impress every fucking Noir Fan out there by incorporating EVERY fucking Noir Element into TRUE DETECTIVE while exaggerating them to such Grrritty Levels that make The Goddamned Frank Miller look subtle but overall TRUE DETECTIVE is a good glimpse at an old genre from today’s perspective. TRUE DETECTIVE may not add anything new to the genre outside of technical advancements used to their full potential (this show is beautiful to look at, no matter how bleak and Grrritty shit can get) and provide proof that Satanic Rednecks can actually function in a Noir Story but as a modern take on the Private Dick, it proves to be a good introduction to the depressing world of Alcoholic Detectives, Whores, Serial Killers and a fuckton of testosterone wrapped in a trench coat.