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'True Detective' and the Hilariously Hollow Hubris of Nic Pizzolatto

By Lord Castleton | True Detective | June 29, 2015 |


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(Warning: thar be spoilers in these murky waters. Either ye’ve laid yer cheatin’ eyes on True Detective: Season Two: Episode Two: “Night Finds Ye,” or ye should feel free to kindly read other shit that won’t ruin it fer ye.)

There’s something magically liberating about allowing yourself to enjoy a show you just don’t have the highest expectations for. That’s how season two of True Detective is playing out so far.

Like, last week I would have pointed out that I’ve owned three motorcycles in my life and I’ve never seen one where you could turn off the headlight. Maybe they exist. I don’t know. Every one I’ve had you just turn the key and the light goes on automatically. So did Tim Riggins rewire that bad boy? Is that what we’re saying? He’s like “maybe if I turn off the lights and go fast enough I can forget I ever made John Carter.”

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Like I said, I don’t know. So, what’d you guys think? Anything fun happen on this week’s episode?

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Oh True Detective! You had me at water stains turning into burned out acid gashes. Mmmm. Let’s see, I’ll have the potato skins with just a smidge of sour cream…actually y’know what? I’ve just decided to never eat again.

Fair warning: I’m love/hate-watching this season. Because:

#1) Rust Cohle’s schtick last season eventually irked the everliving shit out of me and I hate that everyone fell for it. Woody Harrelson was the MVP in my mind. Harrelson had to convey these deep, deep entombed emotions. True rage. True loss. True self doubt. True pain. True Detective! Sundays on HBO. Russ Cohle was good, don’t get me wrong, but he wasn’t the main event. His made up drawl was something he kind of flirted with in Mud when they were like “you ain’t takin off yer shirt in this one” and he needed a go-to move. I also hate that Chiwetel Ejiofor’s bookshelf is criminally Oscar-less because his performance in 12 Years a Slave was viewed as less than McConaughey’s in Dallas Buyers Club. I will concede, though that Rust Cohle talkin’ drawl and rollin’ a booger probably sells Lincoln Navigators.

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#2) I feel like I’ve heard too much about Nic Pizzolatto and plagiarism too give him a scot free pass.

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I also think that because Pizzolatto came from academia, there’s a pretty good chance that he should have known better than to even risk something that would give the appearance of impropriety. That’s a real head-scratcher for me. So, I’m watching this season the way people watch when a building implodes. It’s objectively solid, and admire the structure, but I’ll bet you that bitch is a’ comin’ down!

Case in point…this week on True Detective:

Casting 101: Let’s bet on the horses everyone else stopped betting on (not you Rachel McAdams, you are cherished and can do better)/

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Vince Vaughn often comes across as an irritating fast-talking man-penis. I absolutely will not do that. I won’t say that he’s burned a ton of bridges in town and that this might be his last chance. That might seem catty of me.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I used to work with an ex of Colin Farrell’s and that my takeaway from that is that he’s the loveliest, most broken man in the world.

I know virtually nothing about Taylor Kitsch except Texas Forever and that I kinda root for him and hope he turns it around even though his shit is mostly unwatchable.

Something about this casting makes me feel like Pizzolatto knows he’s good enough to get a great performance out of anyone. His words are so iconic, assuming they are his, which I’m sure they are, that he can make any old turkey sing like a songbird.

The problem is that some of these turkeys already be a-gobblin’.

Let’s just get the big turkey out of the way:

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Uh, okay! I was missing Game of Thrones too, so that was pretty sweet. Everybody sing with me! Roll out the barrels! Roll out the barrels of preposterous main character death cliffhangers!

Sorry, I’m a horrible singer. But here’s the thing: that’s a shotgun, folks. That’s a shotgun at close range in what appeared to be his midsection. If it was the face, it’d be game over. But assuming he has a four ply kevlar and iron vest on, and the gun is firing rock salt, then he could conceivably survive that in a fictitious TV world where Ben Caspere’s groin was shot off by this fellow in the back there …

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…using what must be a military-packed precision shot which can shear off a man’s package without leaving any marks on the upper thighs. That’s a shot even Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon couldn’t make. Not that we needed to see it after that lovely eyehole artwork. I was like no no no don’t pull back the sheet and-

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Grrrross. Being shot to death puts good ol’ Ray Velcoro in a tough spot for sure, but not nearly as tough as the Birdman. He used to be a movie star and now he’s doing TV. Such a precipitous fall from grace. And worse than that, now he just has to sit around all day in this soundproofed open air Hollywood sex dungeon and wait around to blow people away with a shotgun. Guh. He used to be somebody. He used to sex up noir-virgins with Edgar Allen Poe! Quoth the me….”nevermore!” That’s what he would say. The honeys from Pine Manor would eat. that. up. And then that life just slowly seemed to fade away and the royalty checks stopped flowing as fast and all of a sudden birds weren’t as ‘scary.’ And then his agent was like:

AGENT: It’s not porn, it’s HBO. You just have to wear a bunch of kick ass black full face turtlenecks and gloves and long pants with boots at all times.

BIRDMAN: Wait, what? It’s Los Angeles. I’m going to die of heat stroke.

AGENT: Please, don’t get emotional on me. Also a hip length jacket. I’d be remiss in not adding that. Hang on I have the creator on the line.

BIRDMAN: What? Now? No I’m on the toilet-

NIC PIZZOLATTO: Greetings, Birdman. I beseech you to be my yellow king of season two. I, creator of all things, Nic Pizzolatto, require bizzarro occult iconography to cement my spot as the foremost genius in American history, and your dark nihilism will be how I juxtapose the innocent butt stuff of Antigone-

BIRDMAN: Antigone? That’s a cool name. Where’d you get that?

NIC PIZZOLATTO: I made it up, why?

BIRDMAN: I’d swear I’d heard that name somewhere…

NIC PIZZOLATTO: I’m sure you have. For the press of every nation is aflutter with tidings of the next phenomenal Nic Pizzolatto masterpiece. In fact, they’re so excited that I’m going to write it entirely about unlikable characters and make you specifically not give a shit about any of them, and then I’m going to give you a real glimpse into the backstory you never asked for about people you wouldn’t cross the street to piss on-

BIRDMAN: Sorry I’m just wiping my ass-

NIC PIZZOLATTO: And it will all culminate in episode two where I’ll have you just blow Ray Velcoro away, but then he’ll magically be resuscitated by the power of my words.

BIRDMAN: So I’m like a bad shot, or?

NIC PIZZOLATTO: Nothing of the sort. You’re Enemy at the Gates accurate, but I control the pen, you see, and while other lesser shows like The Wire and The View have viewers who tune in for the actors, my show, wahre Detektiv has people tune in to sample the bounty of my genius. I piss excitement.

BIRDMAN: You always just refer to your show in German like that?

NIC PIZZOLATTO: I hear the words in my head in German. Then I translate them into Aramaic while I lucid-dream and lastly into English to capture the subtlety of great lines like “I don’t talk about the desert!” It would never be so rich if I hadn’t first bathed it in the language of Jesus.

BIRDMAN: Geez. I don’t know.

NIC PIZZOLATTO: I’ll sweeten the deal. First, I’ll let you peck dead people in the forehead as kind of your own ‘Wet Bandits’ calling card. Second, I’ll fart into a jar and send it to you so you can inhale the contents when you need courage.

BIRDMAN: Okay, I’ll do it.

Now, I’m not claiming that exact conversation happened, but that’s probably almost exactly what Nic Pizzolatto sounds like on a first date. What more did we learn about Ray Velcoro? Well, he got all shot to hell just as we were starting to like him.

“Oh, and this one f*g, at the bank, tried like hittin’ on me. I almost clocked the guy.”

Sigh. Okay. So Officer Paul Woodrugh is a gay feller. Or at least curious. That’s what that mind boggling line was about? In 2015? Ohohohkay! Listen, dude, I was already kind of thinking that there was something amiss when you were waiting for your Cialis to kick in, but I thought it might just be an old war injury or PTSD or something soldier-related. But when you barely noticed that the absolute rocket-hot Adria Argona crawling across the bed on all fours? Well, shiiiiiiiiit.

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I don’t know if this series airs in Japan but I’m pretty sure she could instantly reverse their population trends. Ye gods.

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Makes total sense for a straight gentleman to pass on that.

So what more did we learn about Paul Woodrugh? The Great Gazoo doesn’t watch South Park or he’d know that he’s attacking himself with that filthy word.

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Also he doesn’t cotton to talkin bout what happened in the desert. Either some heinous illegal shit went down when he was with Blackwater or he was in a Santa Fe All Male Thunder Down Under speedo revue. Still kind of unclear.

Give yourself a break, Officer Woodrugh. You’ve got a mom with herpes who wants to bang you and you were still kind enough to bring her KFC. The heart wants what the heart wants.

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Will you even allow yourself to admit what it is that you want? What do you want when this is all over?

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Alllrighty. What else…

Well, Rachel McAdams intentionally shitty dye-job is pretty stellar.

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Whenever she’s on screen it’s like she’s four characters.

Detective ANTIGONE (hahahahahahahahaha) Buenvenedos or whatever
Grown out roots, destroyed split ends dye job sentient Hair being
Lady O’Knives
Her black pajama jeans.

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That’s one of the limitations of television. We don’t get to hear these other key parts of her character speak.

Colin: I support feminism, mostly by having body issues. Eh? Eh?

ANTIGONE: Whatever

HAIR: WHAT? FUCK YOU DUDE. I BURIED TWO SIBLINGS AND THE OTHER TWO ARE IN THE MOTHERFUCKING POKEY. DO I LOOK LIKE I’VE TRIED TO CARE IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS? YOU’RE LUCKY I EVEN GET THE OCCASIONAL FLOWBEE.

LADY O’KNIVES: Keeeeeep glancing over here, Mustache. Just give me a reason.

PAJAMA JEANS: Is it time yet for the bum stuff? Pajama jeans come off like nothing!

HAIR: SHUT THE FUCK UP PAJAMA JEANS.

I’m just saying, you miss a lot when your only conduit for information is Rick Springfield’s spray-tan face pits.

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Though, I have to say, it did make me excited for The Martian. Matt Damon in The Martian, coming to theaters near you in October.

What more did we learn about Antigone? Papa was a rolling stone, and she watches porn for … research?

The thing I should be poking the most fun at is the 39 minute opening of two people lying in a bed talkin’ bout rats.

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I thought this was surprisingly not bad at all, if obviously a bit long, but it wasn’t the acting that was the problem. Or the writing, frankly. It’s that we don’t CARE YET. Yes, that’s a heart-wrenching story and if we had seen more of Frank Seymon then this would be giving us insight into things we’ve wondered about. A) What does a man go through to get like this? B) Oh, he was tortured and eaten by rats as a child. Got it. The problem is that we don’t have A. We only have B. And that’s why usually one dude doesn’t write the whole show.

In any case, I’m enjoying this season of True Detective. It’s very true and somewhat detective. I think episode two was an improvement of sorts over the very confusing opener and you have to hand it to Nic Pizzolatto for staying true to that signature ‘dark’ and ‘moody’ vibe. We’ll call it ‘mark’ or just ‘doody.’ And though I was worried about the move from Louisiana to California, I have to admit, I shouldn’t have been concerned. Nothing turns me on more than exciting locales like ‘Vinci’ and ‘Guerneville.’

There’s a lot we still don’t know. How does Antigone’s dad hide all his hair under that bird mask? Actually I have no idea who the killer is, but I know that we’ve seen this terrifying statue in not so subtle framed shots two weeks running.

Episode 1

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Episode 2

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Both times with Dead Man Walkin’ Ray Velcoro. Or at least ‘wounded’ man walking. You just never know with the might and girth of Nic Pizzolatto’s pen who will be Lazarussed and who won’t.

And I know that this character is the most one note yawn-inducing character on the show so far, but you have to be jealous of that pic of him and Dubya.

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He had a pretty telling line though…”you are industrious, Frank. I wanna see you make it through this.” Almost like he had bet against him from the beginning, or even had a hand in setting Frank up. Like at Goomba Camp he was on the seesaw with Mr, Opulence…

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…and they were like “I’ll bet you one dollar I can take away all of Winthorpe’s money and he will turn to a life of crime” or something like that. I mean, maybe I’ve read too much Pravda but is it too much of stretch to think the Russian mob may have had something to do with a hydrochloric eyewash?

And I know that even with it’s pretty obvious flaws, it’s just TV, and all TV is papier-mâché. And at the end of the day, we are all just minnows in the great pond that is Nic Pizzolatto, and he will do with us what he pleases. I mean, aren’t we being set up to find out that this is what the water stain is really telling us?

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