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Last night we had six friends over to watch the “True Detective,” finale.
At 6:45, over an hour before the finale was set to air, my wife asked me to ensure that True Detective was set to record on our DVR. Because, after all, if you have people over to your house to watch a show, the worst thing you could possibly do is not have the show ready for them to watch. I checked, it was set to record. At the same time my six year old brought down a book about the planets and started asking me questions about space. There is nothing like a six year old asking you questions about space to make you realize how dumb you are about space.
So he starts by asking me what’s the farthest planet from the sun and I say Pluto.
And he says, “That’s not right, daddy.”
Then he opens up his book and flips to the section on our solar system and I’ll be damned, there’s a new planet in our solar system called Eris, which is farther from the sun than Pluto. When the hell did this happen? We’re just adding planets willy nilly now? Is Jupiter still a thing, does Saturn still have rings? Worse than that, there’s a split in scientific authority about whether Pluto is a planet or not. Half of the science books consider Pluto to be a planet and the other half don’t. There’s a split of scientific opinion on Pluto! How am I supposed to answer my kid’s questions about space when scientists can’t even agree on how many planets there actually are in our solar system?
What other knowledge am I missing? Have they found life on other planets too?
This is my problem with science, we don’t know anything. And we think we do and we teach a bunch of idiots like me things and I believe it all — remember when dinosaurs used to be ancestral reptiles until they descended and became birds? Is that still true too? ARE DINOSAURS STILL BIRDS OR HAVE I BEEN WRONG ABOUT THIS TOO?
I don’t even want to answer my kid’s science questions now because I’m already like the old dad who still believes in treating fevers with leeches. (Remember there was always one kid at school with the old dad who told his kid all the wrong information. That kid was screwed.)
So I decided to record “Cosmos,” this new special about the universe on Fox, because if you can’t trust Fox to be honest about science, who can you trust?
I figured I could watch “Cosmos,” with my six year old and when the show was over at least I’d know as much as he does. Or, at an absolute minimum, at least my scientific knowledge would be current. So I set the DVR to record “Cosmos.” I idly noticed that Cosmos was on at the exact same time as True Detective, but I thought to myself, “This won’t be an issue, I can record 4 billion channels at once on my new Comcast DVR box. You’ll be fine.”
Everyone arrived and while they ate dinner and drank, I went upstairs and put both boys to bed. Then I gave them kisses and told them the same thing I always tell them, “Do not come back downstairs unless someone is bleeding.”
My six year old giggled and said, “Daddy, you didn’t know about Planet Eris.”
At 8:15, dinner was over and everyone gathered around the television to watch the “True Detective,” finale. That’s when we realized the DVR didn’t record “True Detective.”
Instead, somehow, my DVR is simultaneously recording “Cosmos,” on three different channels.
I don’t even know how this is possible. Somehow by recording Cosmso on three different channels, I’ve lost True Detective on the only channel that matters.
Seven upset faces immediately turn and look at me.
My wife is not pleased.
“How did you do this?” she asks. (Like all wives my wife expected me to somehow screw up not recording the series finale of “True Detective.” This is because all wives expect their husbands to screw up everything.) I still have no idea what happened. This is what happens when we add a fu—– planet to the solar system, we miss True Detective because of the fu—— planet Eris.
Later, she’ll say, “Well, we can’t have people over to watch “Game of Thrones,” they won’t trust us to able to record it.”
Anyway, we start recording the show 14 minutes into the finale, so we immediately try to pull up HBO Go to stream the first 14 minutes of the show. This way we can still salvage the group viewing for 46 minutes. We pull out three different iPads and attempt to stream the first 14 minutes of the show there.
Only, that doesn’t work either. Because HBO Go collapsed under the stress of so many people trying to stream the “True Detective,” finale. So everyone leaves my house to go back to their own houses to watch the show. As he leaves Chad Withrow says, “So basically I just drove over to your house and brought you beer.”
“That’s not true,” I say, “you got stuffed peppers.”
Eventually, after everyone is gone, we stream the first 14 minutes through Comcast XFinity — HBOGo didn’t work all night long — and catch up with the rest of the show on DVR.
If anyone missed out on Cosmos, I’ve got three different versions recorded on my DVR.
In the meantime, here are my thoughts on True Detective:
1. The show’s unfinished.
After about six episodes, the writer realized he had something larger than an eight episode story arc, but decided it needed to fit in an eight episode story arc. So we got a resolution…of sorts.
But there’s still much more to tell here.
This feels almost like the conclusion of the case in 1995, when the two guys are killed and we think we’ve ended the story by finding the killers. Only, we haven’t. It’s just begun. I see True Detective as a three act play, so far we’ve only finished two plays. The third act still remains. (I know that the plan is for an entirely new season next year. But why can’t this story be resolved as well?)
2. If that tape showing a child being sacrificed in a devil worshipping service hits the news, do you really think the story ends here?
Think about this for a minute, this story takes over everything in the news media. A child was murdered by five people during a devil worshipping event and we just let that go? Oh, and one of the people involved might be a United States senator. Are you kidding me? This is what I’m talking about when I say the story was artificially shortened.
This story would lead the news for months.
Plus, can you imagine what might be uncovered at the serial killer’s house tying him to the others? This ending rings hollow.
3. Rust Cohle’s redemption was forced and rushed.
Do you really think that after dedicating his life to this case that Cohle is walking away because they got one of the guys at the center of the case and he got a warm feeling of pure love from his dead daughter? Come on, that’s not going to fly.
This guy is obsessive. He didn’t develop his nihilistic world view in one day, it’s not vanishing in one day either. What’s Cohle going to do now, move back to Alaska and spend the rest of his life staring at the stars? Of course not. He’s going to continue to chase the people with power, for the rest of his life if necessary. Until there’s a resolution.
Put it this way, you can’t stare into the deep abyss of evil for decades and then decide it’s not an abyss at all, it’s just a swimming pool.
4. Several open questions for me that all tie together and lead to the third act:
a. Why did the struggles of Marty’s oldest daughter happen?
What resolution occurred here? Why was she necessary to the story at all? It feels as if there’s still more to be uncovered here, a deeper story that was buried. As is, other than showing how angry Marty was when she was picked up for sleeping with two boys at once, what does her story bring us?
b. Who did Maggie marry, why linger the camera on the size of her ring in her final screen appearance?
It’s clear that some wealthy men were involved in these crimes. Could Maggie’s husband be one of them? Otherwise, why does her second husband’s wealth matter? Why does the fact that she married at all matter?
c. Who were all the men involved in the satanic practices?
This is the biggest question, and the one that proves this story isn’t finished. I think all three of these threads tie together in a third act.
5. Could the premium cable miniseries become the new movie?
Every year TV leaves the movies further behind. If you’re a writer, director, or actor, why wouldn’t you prefer an eight hour narrative arc on premium cable over a two hour one in a movie? Especially when movies, due to the nature of their global appeal, become more and more formulaic and simplistic every year. I love movies, don’t get me wrong, but if you told me that I had to give up TV or movies, I’d give up movies. Would any of us have said that growing up?
With HBO Go shuttng down due to the intense interest, an eight or ten episodic story arc like this might be the best perfect story to fit our times. It’s just short enough to hold everyone’s attention, but just long enough to allow the feverish interest to build.
6. We’re approaching the point where the best TV writers are as good as the best novelists.
Or maybe “as good as,” is the wrong phrase, we’re approaching an era when the distinction between good writing on either TV or in a book is virtually indistiguishable. That’s because television now has the time to spend on a character’s interior life that only books used to have.
I still prefer books to television, but the fact that this is even a debate speaks to how spectacular the best television has become.
Put it this way, if Shakespeare was alive today, there’s zero doubt he’d be writing television, not novels.
7. While I really liked the show, it brought home how good James Lee Burke’s novels are.
If you liked “True Detective,” and you haven’t read James Lee Burke, you need to do so.
Burke is fabulous, a living legend whose Dave Robicheaux novels are a more evocative slice of the Louisiana bayou than anything we saw on “True Detective.”
If you like Southern writers who dwell in the murky land between good and evil, sinner and saint, powerful and the powerless, you need to be reading Burke.
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