If the lawnmower man does turn out to be the scarred, spaghetti-monstrous, Yellow King, it’ll be yet another instance of the show positing unspeakable evil as a product of the banal, the unassuming, and the hidden-in-plain-sight. Cohle or Marty’s complicity would do the same. I’m holding out for some mind-blowing turn in the finale, something that complicates the picture beyond telling us once more that the crushing scariness of mortality (“Rejoice! Death is not the end!”) makes normal people harm one another. I can’t quite envision it. Can you, Chris?
Orr: Not really. But I’m still hoping. And, like you, Spencer, at this point I have very little idea what to expect. Citing that jukebox shot at the opening of the episode as a metaphor for the show was perfect. It reminded me about a great piece on the subject of setting a film to music a while back by David Thomson (currently the critic in residence at my old haunt The New Republic), which made an eloquent case for the superiority of movies with a powerful, unifying score over what he called “jukebox” movies—that is, ones that focused on catchy-but-eclectic soundtracks. If memory serves (the piece doesn’t appear to be online anymore), his primary examples were two Scorsese films, Taxi Driver (scored by Bernard Herrmann) and Goodfellas. His point was that a powerful score helps knit a film together, whereas a soundtrack, no matter how good (and the Goodfellas soundtrack is a great one) tends to fragment it, to make individual scenes pop more on their own than as parts of a whole.
For the first three episodes of True Detective, it sure looked as though it was going to resemble a well-scored film: the palpable mood, the stately pace, the spectacular use of the watery Louisiana landscape, the immaculate then-and-now structure, and yes, even Cohle’s languid philosophizing—all felt like parts of a coherent, unfolding whole. I know you didn’t much care for it, Spencer, but I fell for it and fell hard. Episode four, the biker neo-noir, seemed like a temporary discursion—and it was, we just never quite returned to where we’d been before. Episode five was the big re-shuffling of the deck, episode six was all tainted love and cycles of wounded vengeance, and now, with episode seven, we’ve entered the relatively familiar territory of the police procedural. So, yes, a jukebox series it is, for better or worse. Maybe the big episode eight finale will play a song we’ve heard before. Maybe it will opt for something from a different genre altogether.
I’ll confess, though, that I’m as much a sucker as anyone for seeing Cohle and Hart back together again following the over-engineered betrayals of the last episode. It’s true that the rapprochement happened a bit quickly. (As a befuddled Maggie notes, “All this time, you two, just—just like that?”) But I guess the videotape was pretty persuasive.