We watched all of True Detective not because I have any particular interest in crime fiction or serial killer narratives but because I’d heard things about it that suggested something a little more unusual. People were comparing it (wrongly) to Twin Peaks, and they were (rightly) talking about Thomas Ligotti, which is bound to get my attention. And now that I’ve finished the series, I see where they were coming from — Nic Pizzolatto, the show’s lead writer and creator, has clearly done his reading in that area — but I’ve no idea how the plagiarism question could ever possibly be resolved (if it even is a real question). I doubt whether Thomas Ligotti would care about it either way.
I didn’t like that True Detective has no real female characters. The women in the show are either victims or simply exist to belittle and harass the male leads, and their suffering — of which there is a great deal — exists primarily to outline the unknowable darkness in a world of men. It’s a mixed-up version of the madonna-whore complex, and whether or not it is inherited from the show’s origins in generic pulp fiction, I found this aspect regrettable and uninteresting.
But at first it seemed to be different! The starting points were somewhat predictable — the grisly ritualised murder, the straight cop paired up with a dangerous free-thinking maverick, the obsession with investigation as a kind of rarified asceticism — but the look and feel of the thing was incredible. Louisiana cast in sharp blocks of colour, a world towering inside my TV like the set of a giant diorama. I liked the symbols and the ideas more than I liked any promise of a resolution; most of all I liked the idea that there might not even be any resolution.
(spoilers to follow.)