Just kidding! I don’t really mind that we didn’t get all our questions answered on the finale episode of True Detective. While I enjoyed the finale, I also don’t think it was the best episode of the season. But there’s a still a fair amount to unpack here, so let’s get started, shall we?
I think, fundamentally, the show is about these two characters, Rust and Marty. It has been since the beginning. As fascinating and complicated and twisted as the murder mystery has been, it’s just been a vehicle for us to learn about these characters and what makes them tick. For Rust, it’s nihilism and misanthropy. For Marty, it’s machismo and undiluted id. Yet, for all their shortcomings, they’re what we’ve got. They are the bad men who keep the other bad men from the door.
And let’s talk a little about that other bad man, shall we? The finale opens by introducing us to the profoundly disturbing world of Errol Childress. I confess…these portions of the episode made my skin crawl. The depravity and squalor that Childress and his sister wife just seemed to be wallowing in—it made me feel like I needed to take a shower. When Marty bursts into their house of horrors, his expression was such that I felt I could actually smell the interiors of Nightmare Mansion, with its piles of human filth and old porcelain dolls.
Marty, by the way, is the one with the revelation that essentially breaks the case. The boys know they’re close, but they haven’t found the final connecting thread, even with Geraci’s “under duress” confession about the Fontenot girl, whose horrific demise is chronicled on that infamous VHS. The “Spaghetti Monster,” one little girl’s panicked description of the scarred Errol Childress, is where they finally make that connection. She tells police that he had green ears—a strange detail that sticks in Marty’s mind. That’s when he remembers the house they canvassed in ‘95, that looked very much like it had a fresh coat of green paint. The woman who owned that house is thankfully still living, and able to provide enough information that they can track down the last known address of the scarred man who was part of that painting crew.
And that takes Rust and Marty into a prolonged horror film like sequence that stretched my nerves taut as a viewer. I know there are still many things about this vast criminal conspiracy that we don’t know, and aren’t meant to know, evidently. But since Rust’s hellish descent into Errol’s labyrinthine lair was expertly shot and executed, I have few complaints. The sunken fort, covered with lush Louisiana greenery, is lined on all sides by massive stick sculptures whose smaller cousins have marked our various crime scenes. There also appear to be bones and mummified bodies entangled here. This place is older than Errol, maybe older than his father. It’s evil.
Finally, in the center of the flat circle of Errol’s demented world, is a “throne” draped in yellow and crowned with skulls. And as Rust approaches, gun drawn, the monster is lurking in the darkness. It seems like Rust might be down for the count—Errol gets the jump on him and stabs him through the abdomen, lifting his whole body up on the blade. Rust manages to head butt his way to the ground, and while Errol is reeling Marty arrives to save the day…almost, but not quite. Marty gets in a couple of shots, but like many fictional villains, a few bullets only slow Errol down, and he manages to throw his axe (tomahawk?) at Marty, and it lodges in his chest. Marty’s gun, which he lost in the scuffle with Errol, is grabbed by a rapidly weakening Rust, who manages to shoot a large chunk of Errol’s head off before Errol can kill Marty.
Full disclosure…I didn’t think both Marty and Rust would make it out of this alive. And when Rust slowly pulled that knife out and blood pooled on his stomach, and the two men sat in that hell hole, thrown into sharp relief by the light of one lone flair, I thought particularly we were at the end for Rust.
And yet, in a move that is downright sunshiny for a show like this, both Marty and Rust pull through. The finale ends, in fact, with the two of them in front of the hospital, and Rust tells Marty about the moment he was sure he was slipping into darkness, but how, in that moment he could feel his daughter, and his father, and it felt warm and real. And he starts to weep…and I think (correct me if I’m wrong) that this is the first time we’ve seen him weep on this show. He and Marty may never be buddies in the conventional sense, but they’ve shared a set of experiences that have profoundly changed them both, and although they may not always like each other, the show seems to indicate that they understand each other…better than anyone else understands them, in fact.
It was a finale about light and dark, whether hiding in overgrown shadows or being laid bare in a white hospital bed. Eventually our characters had to stop hiding…from each other, from the insolvable case, from themselves.
We are, indeed, in the midst of a McConaissance. Basking in the afterglow of his Oscar win for Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew can settle in to watch the finale of True Detective and reflect, with extreme satisfaction, on the work he’s done recently. (To be fair, I expect McConaughey reflects on just about everything with extreme satisfaction…his family life, his bongo collection, the sandwich he just ate, Failure to Launch…well, maybe not Failure to Launch.)
And he should feel proud. True Detective is a damn good show, I think because it’s so well executed. It’s very ambitious, so it has very little wiggle room. If they go off the mark even a little, on anything, the show would quickly be ridiculous. But it’s not. It’s taut, suspenseful, shocking, bleak and beautiful, and occasionally even darkly funny. (Marty Hart on match.com, anyone?)
I’m not going to write a lot about this week’s episode, which is setting us up for the finale next week. It’s come too soon! I can’t believe we’re already at the end…partially because I have seriously enjoyed sinking my teeth into it, and partially because I have no fucking idea what’s going to happen next week.
I will say this (SPOILER ALERT)…I knew, I KNEW that there was something up with Lawnmower Man. And then Papania and Gilbough drive off and the camera angle changes so we’re not longer looking right into the sun, and we see those scars! I honestly don’t know if he’s Spaghetti Man, but it seems like he probably is. And Spaghetti Man is how we find the Yellow King, n’est-ce pas?
It was also oddly comforting to see the boys reunited. Marty is a lonely sad sack with shopping center office space and slightly more limited resources, but he’s still a cop at heart. (Hart? Did I miss an opportunity to make a pun there?) In fact, Cohle seems a bit surprised to discover that Marty hasn’t lost his investigatory edge. And Cohle, while seeming more Cohle-y than ever, manages to attempt small talk. Of course, he also casually implies that once this case is wrapped up, he’s more interested in suicide than grabbing a beer, but with Cohle, you take what you can get. (And usually what you get is a rambling monologue about life being a flat circle of fuck-ups.)
So I really don’t know how the case will end…will they find the Yellow King? Will they catch Lawnmower Man? How big is this conspiracy? How old is it? Are both our detectives really “true”?
By the way, this is me when Papania and Gilbough drove away from Lawnmower Man, and then we see his scars…
The Oscars were last night, and the theme was heroes, which is suitably vague and open to interpretation. Let’s just jump straight to the list of highs and lows, shall we?
1. Ellen. Ellen hosted this year, her second time. I like Ellen. Don’t get me wrong. She can be funny and warm, especially on her own show. And she is about as non-threatening as a host can get. But the Oscars NEEDS a host with just a bit more bite. I felt like she let the show get away from her a little, and all the friendly chatter with the celebs in the audience was kind of amusing, but like the pizza bit, it dragged on and lost its novelty quickly. (Stars: they eat pizza just like us! Amazing!)
2. Montages. Oh, the montages. Honest to god, what is the point?! This is already an overstuffed telecast. It runs long every goddamn year. WHY do the producers always think it’s a good idea to include this bullshit? It was literally just clips of movies we all know, strung together with some music, to say things as important as “We make movies about heroes,” or “Animation is a thing that exists.”
3. Lupita! Thrilled for Lupita Nyong’o. She was the one person I really wanted to win. Full disclosure, I’ve seen almost none of the nominated movies. Shameful, I know. (They’re all on my list, I swear!) So, though I’ve not seen 12 Years a Slave, I have seen Lupita in a number of interviews recently, and she’s just lovely. So gracious, articulate and poised. The fact that this is her first movie out of drama school is also pretty freakin’ amazing. And, no shock to anyone, she looked beautiful and gave a really thoughtful speech that gave credit to the devastating experiences of Patsey, the slave girl she portrayed.
4. Other Winners and Losers. Gravity mostly swept the technical categories, which was no surprise to anyone, I suspect. Alfonso Cuaron also won for Best Director, and I know there were people who were hoping Steve McQueen would take home that prize. The Great Gatsby picked up statues for costume and production, which was about the only thing it had any chance of winning statues for. Spike Jonze won his first Oscar (though he’s been nominated previously) for the Her screenplay, which, though I haven’t seen it, I suspect is well-deserved. McConaughey and Leto took the Actor statues for their respective performances in Dallas Buyers Club, and Cate Blanchett walked away with Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. 12 Years a Slave was the Best Picture winner, and McQueen was adorable when he leapt up in the air with excitement on the stage.
5. American Hustle. Sorry, American Hustle. No gold for you!
6. The Music. Was hit or miss…Pharrell’s “Happy” was fun and bouncy and injected a little bit of energy into the auditorium. Karen O’s performance of the song from Her was sweet and soft and not overly long (plus that red dress was gorgeous). Bette Midler sang, of all things, “Wind Beneath My Wings” (what year is this?) after the In Memoriam, and it was…a tiny bit rough. Also rougher than expected, Idina Menzel’s performance of “Let It Go.” The song won, which was a foregone conclusion, but her live rendition was fairly shaky. She looked beautiful, but seemed nervous, and John Travolta absolutely butchered her name when introducing her, poor thing. (Who the fuck is Adele Nazim?) Still, when the songwriters accepted their award, they were suitably overjoyed and excited, and one of them is apparently an EGOT winner now!
7. The Fashion. A lot of nude-y sparkles this year. A few people who, at a glance, I thought just looked really great…Sandra Bullock, Amy Adams, Charlize Theron and Lupita Nyong’o. No out and out disasters, that I could see.
8. Kim Novak. This lady became the Jacqueline Bisset of the night, poor thing. She presented with McConaughey, and she’s in her 80s, god bless her, so I suppose it’s impressive as hell that she even can still present. But she seemed a bit out of it, and it makes me uncomfortable when they trot these people out, because it can get awkward quickly and you feel bad for them. I know she’s a film legend, but I’m not sure trying to get her to read cheesy patter with Matthew McConaughey was the best way to honor her. They paired Sidney Poitier much better, with Angelina Jolie, who walked slowly out with him. They didn’t have to say anything stupid, and Poitier just seemed like the ultimate elder statesman of the night.
So those are my Oscar thoughts…now I need to go back and watch more of the actual movies!
Well, that was a mediocre finish. After a penultimate episode that offered some nice emotional moments, and a few potentially suspenseful leads, the Downton finale, what the Brits get as the Christmas special, was awash in low-stakes parlor drama and underwhelming ends to this season’s story threads.
Spoilers ahead, if you haven’t seen the finale yet.
We’ve jumped ahead, time-wise, to the eve of Rose’s official coming out as a London society debutante. Edith is back in England, sans baby, and the family is preparing for the London season as Cora’s mother and brother arrive from America for the festivities.
My first quibble is that Shirley MacLaine and Paul Giamatti, as the interloping and uncouth Americans, had a lot of potential to ruffle British feathers. I know that Downton has 8,000 characters to service, but it seems sad to bring in MacLaine and Giamatti and underutilize their talents. They were given a fair amount of screen time, but MacLaine didn’t get nearly as many delightful barbs as she did the last time she visited, and Giamatti mostly acted with the daughter of a titled fortune-hunter—a character we’ve never met before and therefore care very little about.
The main intrigue of the story was a letter written by the Prince of Wales to his lover, who is apparently a friend of Rose’s. (And another character I don’t believe we’ve ever met before.) The letter is stolen by Terrence Sampson, the cardsharp we met in an earlier episode. Lord Grantham, a loyal monarchist, is beside himself that Sampson might use the letter for blackmail, possibly leaking to the press that the Prince is anything less than morally perfect. It was all very “much ado about nothing.” Even the sting operation they come up with, Mary and Rose and Blake sneaking into Sampson’s room while he plays cards at the Granthams’ house, is not particularly exciting. They have Bates forge a note from Sampson and his butler lets them in. They walk around his room a little and that’s the end of it. Big whoop.
They can’t find the letter, so when Sampson is getting ready to leave, Bates helps him on with his coat and picks his pocket. Convenient having a criminal in your employ, no, Lord Grantham? The letter is recovered and the story is over. The real question is…so what?
There are parties and balls and a presentation at Buckingham Palace, which was interesting to me only in as much as I didn’t know what “coming out” as a debutante in British society actually entailed. And the clothes were lovely. (Aren’t they always?) But that was basically it. Mary STILL hasn’t decided between her two suitors, and sees no real reason why she should. She learns that Blake is in fact due to inherit a large estate, which opens her eyes a little, but she still doesn’t appear to be leaning more toward either man.
Edith wants her baby back, but can’t have her, so she does make a decision to fetch the baby from the continent so she can be raised by the farmer we met earlier in the season. This way, presumably, Edith can keep an eye on her. However, because this decision took place in private, and nobody else in the family knows about the baby besides Rosamond and the Dowager, and because we still don’t see Edith WITH the baby, it still amounted to little more than Edith being more depressed than usual.
Branson continues his subtle flirtation with the smug school teacher, who I am not a fan of, and gets caught “showing her the house” by Thomas. The rest of the family was already gone to London, and Thomas immediately uses that information to make Branson sound like a knave. But when he tells Lord Grantham, and Grantham confronts Branson in the card game, he basically explains it was nothing, and again…the story fizzles.
Downstairs, the big story is the question of Bates’ presence in London when Anna’s attacker was killed, for a ticket stub is found in his overcoat pocket for a trip to London when he said he was visiting York. This could have potentially lead somewhere, but again…all it ends up amounting to is a series of scenes with Mrs. Hughes and Mary wringing their hands and dropping loaded hints around Bates to see if he’ll offer any explanation. Mary wrestles with the knowledge for a while, then the throws the stub in the fire and vows to leave it alone. So, that’s the end of that.
Daisy is pursued by an American valet and offered a chance to cook for Mr. Levinson in the states, an interesting opportunity which she of course declines, because she’s Daisy, and while she apparently likes to complain about where her life is going, she doesn’t want to actually DO anything ever but work in the kitchen at Downton. Ivy jumps on the opportunity, and I don’t blame her.
Oh, and Carson tries to plan a field trip, and after realizing that nobody on staff wants to go to the science museum or Westminster Abbey, they decide to go to the beach for a day. Really exciting stuff, right?
I mean, honestly…it was just kind of a letdown after a fairly interesting season. And there were no cliffhanger moments that give a clear indication of where next season might be going. Everything either got resolved (somewhat lazily) or was such a non-starter that I didn’t care. I hope Fellowes steps up his game in season five again.
So I’m officially hooked on House of Cards.
I had held off watching the series for no special reason, but I had heard a lot of good things, of course. When season 2 was released, I thought ‘why not?’ I could jump in, and if I didn’t like, fine, but if I did, I wouldn’t be forced to wait the interminable months between seasons.
So…if you haven’t gotten into it yet…SPOILER ALERT. I have watched all of season one and not quite half of season two.
First things first. I wasn’t sure about this breaking-the-fourth-wall business at the beginning. That’s a tricky thing to pull off, and not have it look hacky or like lazy writing. I think the fact that the writing is very sharp (like…it-will-CUT-you sharp), and Kevin Spacey’s unctuous performance combine to make it work. Spacey’s Frank Underwood (initials: FU) is a delightfully diabolical tour guide into the seedier side of Washington politics.
Spacey is well balanced by his wife, Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood, who is classy, restrained verging on cold, and as calculating as her husband. They endure some marital hardships in the first season, but the show takes pains to make their marriage stay grounded in genuine affection and loyalty, even if that manifests in unusual ways sometimes.
The rest of the series is peopled with characters who are polluted to various degrees. Almost no one is “clean.” Claire’s second in command at CWI, Gillian Cole, might have been in the running, but even she is not above lying to throw shade at Claire’s character in a punitive lawsuit. (Not saying the lawsuit was undeserved, only that Gillian proved capable of going dirty when she had an axe to grind.) Perhaps Freddy, who serves up Frank’s daily dose of Souther barbecued ribs, is the only really good man in Washington. (Only one politician, Donald Blythe, has shown himself impervious to the normal machinations that make the wheels of government turn, to the endless frustration of his colleagues.)
In season one, Congressman Peter Russo was one of Frank’s chief puppets. Russo, played brilliantly by Corey Stoll, was a tortured addict, who experienced a brief moment in the sun, only to fall even farther to earth. Pretty much everything about his story arc in season one was tied to Frank’s own ambitious agenda, and when Russo ends up wrapped in a alcohol and drug-induced depression, Frank takes matters into his own hands to rid himself of this hindrance. I won’t say i was surprised, but I was unnerved.
When Frank lulled Peter to sleep and left the car running in the garage, I was like…
But THAT, my friends, is nothing compared to the bombshell of the season two opener. Zoe Barnes, the young reporter who was first colluding with Frank, and then investigating him, was becoming too hard to control. So, despite the fact that Kate Mara is one of the lead characters and top-billed stars (after Spacey and Wright), she had to go. SO FRANK PUSHES HER IN FRONT OF A GODDAMN TRAIN.
When I saw THAT, I was like…
And THEN Claire topped if off by outing her college rapist on a national CNN interview. And that is because Claire, for all her faults, is a fucking bad-ass bitch, and I wanted to stand up and clap when she talked openly about her abortion and sexual assault on national TV. Too bad this is fiction. (sigh)
When Claire name-dropped that military asshole…
So, if you’re not watching House of Cards…well, I just ruined a lot of pivotal plot points for you. But the show is still super fun and tense and insane and you should watch it. If you don’t, you might end up in Frank Underwood’s cross-hairs, and trust me when I say, you don’t want that.
Tonight’s episode of Girls was fantastic. I wasn’t sold on Girls for a long time. In fact, I watched the pilot and actively hated it. It took me a while to give it another chance and watch the rest of season one. And when I did, I learned that it’s possible to find a show engaging and funny and still find the characters completely frustrating and, for the most part, fundamentally unlikeable. I don’t want to fall into the trap of needing characters to always be “likeable,” but I do think it’s easier to hook into a show when you feel invested, and Hannah, Jessa, Marnie and Shoshanna offered me little investment. I could identify with some of their flaws, but I ONLY wanted to spend time with them in the context of this particular little half-hour world. If I knew people like them in real life, and was forced to be around them, I’d wanna poke my eyes out with a fork.
But I still found the show amusing. Sometimes amusing in a car wreck, cringe-worthy style, but hey—I didn’t look away, and I’m still watching. What I loved about tonight’s episode, “Beach House,” was that a day of drinking and fun turned into a classic airing of grievances. This is a trope TV shows will trot out from time to time, where the characters, under a particular set of confined circumstances, and with the help of some sort of truth serum (alcohol, in this case), will tell each other exactly what they really think.
And that’s why I loved it. There’s a lot to annoy viewers when it comes to these four characters, and it was delightfully refreshing to hear them point out those exact flaws to each other. I was able to nod in enthusiastic agreement about everything they said.
Let’s start with Hannah. Shoshanna fires the first real volley, calling out Hannah’s hopeless self-absorption. To her credit, Hannah herself acknowledges that this is something people have been accusing her of her whole life, so she witheringly tells Shosh to be more creative.
Marnie is once again portrayed as excessively controlling. I was surprised at myself tonight, because while I found all of Marnie’s micromanaging to be fucking ridiculous, there is a moment where she’s planned a dinner for four and their extra guests (Elijah and his gay coterie) crash—and then they make fun of her for not having enough food. If I was in Marnie’s place, I would also be pissed off by that, but at the same time, if she had let go of her need for perfection, she might not have landed in that position in the first place. Her way of trying to direct everything would drive me up the fucking wall.
Jessa gets by relatively unscathed, but mostly because her personality is such that she doesn’t seem to really give a fuck one way or another. Shoshanna complains about her spouting of rehab “wisdom,” but to me, that wouldn’t be my issue with Jessa. I just think she’s mean and pretentious. She is honest, though, and she really doesn’t seem to care what other people think.
Shoshanna was the one who really kicked the conflict into high gear. “You’re a mean drunk,” says one of the other characters. She apparently has had it up to here with the other girls, and tonight was the night of venting her spleen. Imagine what she would have done if she knew Marnie had slept with Ray. (Her telling Marnie that her duck tasted like a used condom was one of the high points of the episode.) Not that she dodged any bullets. The others basically called her stupid (or as Hannah phrased it, “not intellectually stimulating”). Jessa gamely tries to come to her defense by pointing out that she has occasionally seen Shoshanna read the newspaper on her phone.
So a lot of really funny stuff here. It’ll be interesting to see where this fight leaves us. The episode ends with a quiet little moment that indicates that things are not irreparable between these four girls, but you can’t drop truth bombs like the ones we heard tonight and not experience some casualties.
The Walking Dead has returned for the back half of its season, and last night’s episode, “After,” focused on only three of our characters—Rick and Carl, traveling together, and Michonne, traveling alone. For those who haven’t yet fled the prison…spoilers ahead.
The episode opens with Michonne surveying the damaged prison and moving almost unconcernedly amongst the zombies that have overtaken it in the wake of that last battle. Glimpses of Herschel and the Governor’s bodies are seen. She deftly leads some zombies into their sharpened stick perimeter and makes herself a couple of new pets. And just like that, we’re back to the Michonne we first met.
Rick and Carl, meanwhile, are having a difficult time of it together. Rick is badly injured, and can only limp along at a snail’s pace. Carl is impatient and upset, and reluctant to slow down at all for his father. (And seriously…Rick looks like shit, y’all.) They eventually hole up in a very nice suburban neighborhood, where Rick collapses onto a couch and passes out. Carl explores the house and eats cereal, but he quickly gets bored.
Carl has fluctuated as a character for me as he’s aged. There was a period, especially when they were on Herschel’s farm, where he drove me crazy. But as he got older he got way more competent with weapons, he toughened up emotionally after the ordeal with his mother, and seems now to have a solid head on his shoulders. But this episode, in a very simple way, reminds us that Carl IS still a kid. He’s well on his way to being a great group leader…but he’s not there yet, and needs a few more years to ripen on the branch before he’s ready.
"After" shows us a Carl who decides to explore alone—always a dangerous proposition. He leads a couple of walkers away from the house where they’re staying, but in his overconfidence he almost gets himself killed. Then he barfs. Still, he’s determined to check out a few of these other houses for more supplies. He encounters a surprise walker in one of them and again, is almost killed. But he’s not. He only loses a shoe, a sure reminder by the writers of his age, since misplacing shoes and the like is such a typical kid thing to do. Finally, he celebrates these brushes with death by sitting on the roof of the house, legs hanging off the edge, eating a giant can of chocolate pudding…again, another quintessentially "childish" moment.
After two close calls, Carl should realize that he’s NOT ready to be without his father, a claim he makes earlier in the episode while yelling at the comatose Rick. But that moment doesn’t sink in until the middle of the night, when Rick stirs. But in the darkness, with his injuries, Rick moves slowly, moans, and Carl backs away in panic, convinced Rick has died and turned on him. And that’s when he breaks, realizing that he cannot shoot his father, even though he knows he should. Rick manages to gasp out Carl’s name and although Carl is relieved, I’m sure Rick is more relieved. You know, because he managed to keep his son from shooting him in the head.
The episode also featured an enlightening dream sequence about Michonne’s background—a rare glimpse of her pre-outbreak, with her boyfriend and her son. The dream prompts her to hit a wall when it comes to the walkers. She had been moving pretty seamlessly among them, thanks to her new pets, but suddenly, indeed VERY suddenly, she’s had enough. And with her superior tracking skills, the episode ends just shy of a very joyful reunion between her and the Grimes boys. I guess we’ll see how our other prison evacuees have fared in the weeks to come.
Me, when Carl decided to go exploring on his own…
Yesterday, I watched the first three episodes of HBO’s new crime drama, True Detective. It’s a dark, gritty, Southern gothic murder mystery that jumps back and forth between the investigation of a highly disturbing, ritualistic murder that occurs in 1995, and a series of interviews with the two lead detectives that are occurring 17 years later in 2012. The detectives, Marty Hart and Rust Cohle, are played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, respectively.
I just wanted to write a quick post praising McConaughey’s work in the series. The two partners are co-leads, but it is clearly McConaughey who has the bigger demons to wrestle with. Hart, while struggling, is dealing with marital and familial issues that, although difficult, are not outside the norm of typical middle America problems. Cohle, on the other hand, is deeply troubled. His past is rife with addiction, loss, and an immersion into darker worlds that exaggerate his own nature.
And it’s that nature that is so striking. It shouldn’t be, really. The misanthropic cop is an archetype that we see all over movies and television. They are usually better policemen because of it, but they aren’t pleasant human beings. Cohle is no different. But then again, he is…if only because McConaughey’s portrayal of him is a series of master strokes. He takes misanthropy to a whole new level. He doesn’t just think all of humanity is capable of great evil—he thinks all of humanity is virtually incapable of any real good.
First of all, even the character name, Rust Cohle, is reminiscent of things that are stained, dirty and used up. Yet the Cohle we see in 1995 is still young and handsome (it’s worth noting that McConaughey still cleans up pretty nicely). He’s already pretty warped, but it’s not necessarily reflected in his outside appearance. By 2012, however, he is bedraggled and unshaven, with long, unkempt hair. He chain smokes and downs beer after beer while he’s interviewed…a self-medicating ritual that shows he has long since abandoned the sobriety he was trying so desperately to cling to in 1995. He’s smart, almost unbelievably smart. And it’s this begrudging admiration for his abilities that allows Hart to even tolerate him. The two men have an uneasy partnership. Hart is the man who can talk to people, who understands the framework that they have to work within. But the man making the real leaps to break the case is Cohle, and Hart knows it.
Cohle is taciturn, until you get him going, and then he spouts lines like, “I think the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing. Walk hand and hand into extinction, one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.” There’s a thread of black humor in the interaction between the two men, as Hart often responds with incredulous looks and lines like, “You’ve got to stop saying shit like that, man.” In another actor’s hands, that kind of dialogue could seem labored and pretentious…but McConaughey has a way of quietly drawling it out that makes it work.
It’s hard to say where the actual mystery is going, and why the two men are being interviewed 17 years later about a case they supposedly closed. But my curiosity is piqued, and even if the murder plotline was not as well crafted as it is, I would still continue to watch just so I could marvel at McConaughey’s incredible performance.
Sherlock wrapped up its third series on Sunday. I could write about the Super Bowl, but I didn’t watch it and I heard it was pretty boring. Sherlock, on the other hand, had some pretty major bombs to drop.
So beware…spoilers ahead.
While “His Last Vow” wasn’t quite another Reichenbach (an admittedly tough act to follow, in terms of a finale), it WAS still pretty damn exciting. Let’s talk first about the biggest reveal of the episode, which is that Mary is not who she seems. I have really liked Mary since she was introduced, but I confess, I didn’t pick up on some of the subtle seeds they were planting that there was a lot more to her. At only the midpoint of “Vow” there is a terrifically exciting and jaw-dropping scene that might have served as a cliffhanger ending on another show. Sherlock, chasing down the mastermind blackmailer Magnussen, is confronted with something that he appears not to have seen coming—namely Mary, dressed all in black, pointing a gun at Magnussen’s head.
When Mary sees that she’s been spotted, she shoots Sherlock in the chest, and as he crumples to the ground, a million thoughts race through his mind. I guess I don’t feel too bad for being surprised that Mary has a dark past…even Sherlock didn’t pick up on it, which says a lot for Mary’s ability—she’s able to fool a man known to have the most faultless deductive powers in the world.
But cut back to Sherlock, clinging to life. This was a well-crafted sequence, highly stylized…the kind the show excels at. Sherlock mentally retreats to his “Mind Palace” (an idea which has come up more than once on the series). There, it’s all hands on deck as Molly, Mycroft and even Moriarty help Sherlock deduce, in his failing state, the best way to stay alive. (This involves rapid fire analysis of his wound and the ways he’s most likely to die—blood loss and shock, respectively.) And stay alive he does.
The rest of the episode is devoted to ferreting out just WHO Mary is, what her motives are, and how to bring down Magnussen, who apparently has all the dirt on Mary’s past.
John is once again forced into the terrible position of realizing that the other of the two people he’s closest to has lied to him, repeatedly, over a long period of time. Mary, it seems, was a secret intelligence operative of some sort, most likely CIA, but then also “freelance,” a word which is used somewhat ominously and implies there are probably quite a few bodies in her wake. Sherlock moves past her deception relatively quickly, recognizing that she’s such an expert marksman, there’s no way she could have missed if she’d really wanted to kill him. Which means she didn’t. She didn’t even kill Magnussen. And in a eerie three way confrontation, she confesses that she never ever wanted to hurt John, and that keeping him in her life is more important to her than anything else.
It was a lot to bring on, adding Mary into the dynamic not just as a romantic partner, but as someone with skill sets that put her on equal footing with the two men (and above them in certain areas). It also prompts a conversation between the three about the fact that John, for all his anger and indignation, is in fact drawn to dark, dangerous people. I think Moffat and Gatiss have done an incredible job with Mary, and I like having a recurring female character who is able to, in some cases, literally beat Sherlock at his own game. (Remember last week’s episode, Mary offhandedly said to Sherlock, “I’m not like John. I can tell when you’re lying.”)
The other interesting character in the episode is the villain, Magnussen. Honestly, he was one of the creepiest dudes I’ve ever seen on a television show. HE LICKED A WOMAN’S FACE, JUST TO FUCK WITH HER. He also urinated in the Baker Street fireplace, dominating others in his presence and marking his territory like some kind of strange, hyper-intelligent animal. In addition, he has a mental capacity that rivals Sherlock’s own. He may not have all the same deductive powers, but his ability to store information goes beyond what Sherlock thinks is possible, leading to a fatal misstep on the part of our heroes when they go to Magnussen’s mansion to trap him. Finally, the scene where he is flicking John’s face is incredibly disturbing for reasons I don’t fully understand, since the actual physical transgression is relatively small. But there’s something about the way he does it, and John’s reaction to it, that just turned my stomach.
In the end, Sherlock is driven to murder to stop Magnussen, a step that forces Mycroft to intercede to keep him from going to prison. And the only way to do that is to send him on a mission that will most likely lead to his own death. This was the only place where I thought the episode faltered just a bit, if only because it was too obvious of a reset. Sherlock has literally just taken off, after bidding goodbye to John and Mary (he is warmly affectionate with Mary, and awkwardly affectionate with John), when he is recalled back to London. A certain Professor has popped back up on TV screens across the country. And naturally, Sherlock is the only one who can get to the bottom of who, or what, could be responsible.
Let’s take a moment to honor a really fucking hilarious episode of Community. Donald Glover is gone, and we shall miss him, but that doesn’t mean this ensemble is slipping in the slightest. Fat Dog it, man. (But whatever you do, for the love of God, don’t BEAR DOWN.)
Here were some of the friendly faces on tonight’s episode:
Along with semi-regulars Jonathan Banks…
And John Oliver…
We also got Kumail Nanjiani…
(That’s right, Kumail…we saw you, being all funny on Community.)
(Most intimidating head of parking EVER.)
(Wow is right…I’ll always love her for Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.)
Nathan Motherfucking Mal Castle Hammer Fillion…booyah.