True Detective: Other Lives

"I'll let you get back to your process, then, Michelangelo."

It's backslide city on this week's True Detective as our friends struggle to reconfigure in the aftermath of the Vinci Massacre. Luckily, Nic Pizzolatto let's us know that in the second half of the season, it's never too late to start all over again.

I'm given to cheer on this season despite its issues, so agreed upon by the critical masses. I am rooting for the anthology format, for professional reasons, so I'm an attentive student of this series beyond even personal enjoyment. In my opinion, critically speaking, this season is, as a whole, only passable. I suspect the general frustration within the viewing audience gathers steam each week because people realize the show could be so much better (at least so far) if it leaned into any of the special perfectly weird elements it's toyed with.

My biggest quibble (personal, professional, spiritual or otherwise) with this show is why the frak isn't it one million times more tawdry? In that Raymond Chandler Big Sleep/The Long Goodbye kind of way? We been teased with references to raunchy rich-guy orgies, covert damning video tapes, designated bungalows fashioned for avant-garde blackmail-able sex trysts, a torture cabin with arterial spray yet we haven't seen any of it. WHY? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, TRUE DETECTIVE? We are instead given at least three scenes per episode of Frank's shoddy boring club (and not even le poker room!!!) where even the extras look bored at the banality. We're also given any number of two-person scenes that begin then go to another scene with different characters then circle back for the completion of the first one. It's as tedious as the construction of the sentence written to describe it. This is something 'Other Lives' is particularly famous for and it doesn't work because the scenes themselves are not driving any kind of action, nor are they particularly cracking in the dialogue department.

In fact, 'Other Lives' meanders quite a lot. The season does, generally, and, every time we see a pretty overhead shot of the highways, I think it's Pizzolatto's way of justifying the story structure because LA meanders, generally, too. But it's all slow and no burn. For example, there is something satisfying in seeing a (moderately insignificant) hunch come true about Detective Dixon (RIP) but we didn't need a montage of Paul walking into 17 different jewelers to confirm what we already knew -- THEN have another conversation about it with Ani later? I mean, kill me now. And while on the subject, why the long drawn-out meeting with Paul, the actress and the lawyers? What did it serve? Ditto on Paul's dinner with the (new) fam. Am I missing something or is Paul becoming increasingly tedious to watch? I hate to be hard on Paul, he's had some fine moments too, this season. Everyone has, but the key word is some.

And some of those fine moments are actually outstanding. Give me ten more scenes with Ani and Ray or Ani and Paul. I submit that watching these three together, in any constellation, is much more pleasurable than a scene where Frank is spread all over a booth in his club. (Or for that matter the three minutes it took for his wife to walk across the dance floor to the back room -- I don't get it!) Colin Farrell has managed to be compelling throughout these five episodes. Also, thank god for more Rick Springfield (yeah, I watched General Hospital in 5th grade). Dr. Pitlor is still my favorite player, though right beside him is Mayor Chessani, who was also a welcome sight for few moments in 'Other Lives'. And god bless James Frain who is so underrated it's delightful. His swagger is like molasses. Love it. Lolita Davidovich and Michael Hyatt (Katherine Davis) are inspired casting moves as well.

This show isn't easy to review (Josie will be back next week!) yet what I find very interesting in trying to do so is the cultural impact it's had. Specifically, that it's a strong presence in peoples' discussions not only when it's fantastic (aka Season 1), but also lukewarm. In fact, the general discourse about this season might be even more analytical, more complex, at least in its efforts to understand what's not working. That's pretty special, in its own right.

Other Thoughts:

*A Separate Reality

*Loved Colin Farrell's reaction when Ray realizes his ex-wife's attacker was caught. It's one of my favorite acting moments so far this season. He almost choked on his Dentyne.

*Speaking of Dentyne: you know he doesn't chew this one --


He chews THIS one --


*Colin Farrell looks 15 without his mustache.

*I laughed out loud when Ani lit a real cigarette. Yes, girl.

Quotes:

Chessani: "Micro naps, Frank. Michelangelo took 'em."

Chessani: "You deal with pimps, you get pimpish results, Frank."

Cynthia: "If I was a man, I'd have had the world. Dumb bastard."

Ray: "Pain is inexhaustible. It's only people that get exhausted."

Ray: "How you been?"
Ani: "Drinking more. My hands get fucked up. Shake, like. You?"
Ray: "Talking to myself a lot. Sticking to booze, though. That's new."

5 comments:

Docnaz said...

Every week I get the feeling this show is about to turn the corner into something great. So far I just keep enjoying the little moments, like Rick Springfield getting his glasses knocked off so I could really see it was him. Finger crossed for better things with three episodes left.
Next week is going to be great...

Heather said...

Docnaz,
I like your positivity as I, too, am hoping for some TD greatness before the season it over!

Josie Kafka said...

Heather, thank you for reviewing this episode!

I just now got around to watching it, over 10 days after it aired. I agree with you about the tedious quality. Cutting back to rather banal conversations also drove me a bit batty.

Docnaz said...

Well, it finally did it for me with the next episode. I am waiting for the review. I thought it was great!

Heather said...

Josie,
It was my pleasure to get to review one episode.

Docnaz,
I was much more into the most recent one, too.