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Would True Detective Have Been Better Suited For The Binge Model?
While the debate over the finale rages on, I'm wondering if the reaction to True Detective might have been different were audiences given it all in one batch. Why? First, I've already said my piece on the series, week by week, and, second, if the way that we consume media is changing, we should also be considering the effects, if any, the emerging model has on spectatorship. And I'm willing to bet that the mostly positive reaction to the first season of the HBO anthology series would be even more glowing, especially the seemingly mixed feelings about "Form And Void," had the drama been distributed via the 'Netflix model.'
The release of information is crucial in storytelling and the break between episodes inspired fan(atic)s to start writing their own endings, almost ensuring that whatever Nic Pizzolatto had in store for them would not be satisfying. How could it be? Some people were expecting Cthulhu to rise and swallow up Rust, Marty and all of Louisiana. It's not a competition. It's their story, so let them tell it. It's like they forgot the previous seven hours that also included excellent work on every level. To call the solution simple, is to disregard True Detective's incredibly complex narrative structure not to mention the character study at the heart of the story.
Again, I've already spent thousands of words on my thoughts on the show, this is simply to suggest that these days the distribution model should fit the series and instead of spending hours pouring over the episodes between airings and making their own case for who was the 'Yellow King,' it could have been done retroactively for a piece praising the detailed production design. Or the stunning direction and cinematography. Or the music. Or even the incredible location scouting.
Did those who scoffed at the final showdown with Errol, the monster at the end of the labyrinth, even notice that it was playing out in a terrifying and unique complex? Or remember all those that came before it? It's like True Detective as a whole was riding on whether they 'stuck' the landing and, while any story's conclusion is important, everything else suddenly didn't matter. To flip Emerson, I guess TV is a destination, not a journey. The mystery didn't have a supernatural twist! The resolution was too simple! The show wasn't that deep! Did it ever purport to be any of these things?
Or is this what was built up over the hours and hours spent waiting to find out what was going to happen? Granted, Pizzolatto's choice of genre lends itself to this kind of speculation, however, if consumed on one's own time, everything about the journey would have been much more satisfying. Forget including character or thematic depth in mystery without the spectator expecting that to 'pay-off' in the plot. Why was Robert Chamber's The King in Yellow worked into to the text? Well, besides being creepy and adding atmosphere, it's a narrative about how a story can drive someone mad, reflecting the effects of the case on our detectives.
True Detective is all about storytelling. The ones we tell others. The ones we tell ourselves. And the resolution was fitting and satisfying because of the shift in Rust's perspective. He's no longer bending the narrative towards a 'realist' perspective, he's now optimistic about the world. I also think his previous philosophical diatribes would have read more as a defence mechanism had this not taken nine weeks to play itself out. It's a complete journey and should be consumed as such (or as close to that as your schedule would allow).
Do I think that all series need to be disseminated this way in the future? No. But it's time to recognize that some are better suited for weekly (scheduled) viewing than others. And I'm not advocating 'binge' watching everything either, I simply feel that if some television series are more novelistic (rather than a collection of short stories with the same characters), then audiences should be able to consume it accordingly. When reading a great book, instead of obsessing between chapters about what will happen, you can just keep turning the pages to find out what the author has crafted. Releasing True Detective all at once might not have generated as much discussion, but it probably would have provided a better viewing experience.
Created by Nic Pizzolatto, True Detective returning for a second series seems likely. Expect an official announcement from HBO as soon as they start lining up potential replacements for Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and director Cary Joji Fukunaga.
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