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True Detective's Instant Legacy

The Yellow King? Just a book once read.......

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, March 12, 2014.

I am a huge Tolkien fan, as most English majors in college are likely to be, and tolerated the movies and hated attempts to cash in on the genre he renewed and made universal. It still bugs me that Beowulf is called literature but The Lord of the Rings is called fantasy. So, I hated Game of Thrones when I first heard about it just on principle, because the author affected two middle names started with R as did John Ronald Reul Tolkien. But, I now consider it as essential to my well being. I haven't read a single book and won't because I enjoy the series so much. There have been several great series on HBO, and were I an officer in that company, I'd be damned proud about showing actual quality in concept and that - in general - excellence in presentation can be rewarded by a grateful public. HBO has long been about the only reason I have a television. I even admire the shows I don't like for the effort and attempts to do something new.

HBO has returned excitement and actual anticipation to what is, essentially, story telling. Further, it has demonstrated constructive executive oversight, often leaving an audience wanting more and not providing eleven seasons of what should have been only a one or two season tale. There isn't much theater today where everyone from producers to creators to performers to audience can justifiably feel proud about a shared experience, now ended, but to be recalled often and fondly. This point was hammered home this week.

Tolkien knew the huge and extensive back story gave the Hobbit tales heft, even gravitas, and so did the author of True Detective. Even if you've never seen it, you must know the initial offering of this anthology series created a firestorm. It ended last Sunday. It was incredibly well done, and that's probably because it was an eight hour movie. There was one writer, one director, and the same crew who did the entire show. It made a huge difference. The acting from top to bottom was revelatory of the actors' unexpected depths of talent. Incredible jobs, and deeply thought out. Mathew McConaghy justifiably gets the most credit, but Woody Harrelson was the rock and vehicle that held it together. In characters, it was said by one that the other didn't exist without him. As actors, and the accusation reversed, it was just as true.

It was a male oriented, very Catholic show in many ways that inspired mass reactions to the state of women in the script as in life, and to the fine line, if any, between misogyny and sadism in general. It was about a family producing serial murderers of children and women over the decades and how the existing culture, without much needed effort, covered it up.

I awaited Sunday with great anticipation of the same order as people waited at the docks 170 years ago for the latest installment of a Dickens story or later for Sherlock Holmes, all of which were often offered in magazine as serials. In my youth C. S. Forrester's stories of the Royal Navy's Horatio Hornblower appeared in the Saturday evening Post, a weekly magazine, and they were important to me. I don't recall any American author with that pull, these all seem to be British.

There was predictable trouble in the online version of True Detective's finale, which was due, I'm sure, to those with pirated access to the channel. It only added to the excitement, a word describing a rare emotion I'm surprised to discover I actually felt.

The story told was not all that original except in method, but it was maintained and consistent. The author played the audience well, given it had been subjected to decades of rigid template inculcation about FBI Profilers, and sci-fi forensics, and police that somehow only have one case at a time, and unworldly television reviewers who have taken all that as a form of real life. In True Detective, all things revealed were not all solved. Not everything discovered was relevant, time putters on and events often were no longer important to those who once endured them, and these aspects appear to different people at different times preventing that new and idiotic state of restrained bliss we're supposed to yearn for. The whole Yellow King theme was just due a book the murderer had read. There certainly wasn't universal closure or anything approaching it.

The heroes ended up with the Hearty Handshake from establishment sorts after nearly two decades of excruciating sacrifice that was never admitted as such by either.

That's real life to me.