True Detective and The Good Wife

Sugar Cane Refinery

Sugar Cane Refinery by Richard Misrach

 Last Sunday was the finale of True Detective and the first Good Wife in several weeks. Good Wife showing times being so erratic, made watching True Detective on HBO much easier. Not that it wasn’t easy to start with, True Detective was on HBO – the adult channel – and that screams Serious television. It turned out, though, that the easy decision was the wrong decision. The last episode of True Detective has left me dissatisfied. The total was less than the sum of True Detective’s parts. I should probably say Spoiler Alert here although I don’t particularly want to talk about any plot points.

True Detective has lots to like: the photography was great, giving me a genuine sense of place; the music was superb and haunting; and the acting, by two actors I like alot, was outstanding. However, it was all to almost no avail. Michele said that True Detective was a story about telling stories, but the stories were like somebody who keeps telling us that this story is going to be great and then it turns out to be about a crushed ping pong ball à la Auntie Mame. I loved the way the scenes took place at three different, distinct times, mid nineties, early oughts, and now, but – in the end – the different times did not really add anything. In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s mixing up of the times was a big factor. If the time were linear, one of the last scenes, would be when Vincent Vega got killed by Butch Coolidge. But True Detective seems to be, in the end, a buddy movie, and if the scenes were presented in a chronological order, I don’t think much would have changed.

I am not a big fan of conspiracy movies – you know, the kind where the little paperboy is killed because he saw the President kill his mistress – but I found myself hoping for it in True Detective. Nevertheless, in the end, True Detective was just about some crazy loon. Not that that couldn’t have made a good story, but everything about True Detective hinted at something bigger.

On the other hand, The Good Wife, is almost always about something bigger idea. As an aside, the producer of The Good Wife, is Ridley Scott who is one of Hollywood’d most ardent feminists – think Thelma and Louise, Ripley in Alien, or Elizabeth Shaw in Prometheus – and the main character, Alicia Florrick, is the wife of the guy who is cheating (unlike True Detective in which the cheated-upon wife, played by the underused Michelle Monaghan, is just a plot device).  End aside. In Perry Mason style, every week is centered around a different court case and the cases are usually fascinating in their own right.

Often the case will turn on some cutting-edge legal or technological question. Last week, it was illegal wiretaps which turned out to be collateral damage from NSA wiretaps. There have been cases on  online currency  and the Treasury Department, a software manufacturer accused of helping the Syrian government spy on protesters, a test case to overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, and an athletic doping case. All this against the backdrop of Alicia’s relationship with her husband and with her two kids and their relationship with their father. It is all fascinating stuff.

The next day, The Good Wife is still fascinating and True Detective has disappeared, like a phantasma.

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