Skip to main content

Life’s barely long enough to be good at one thing.

True Detective
1.7: After You’ve Gone

Even though we appeared to be up-to-date, Nic Pizzolatto can’t resist sprinkling a few flashbacks into the penultimate episode. After You’ve Gone is full of great moments, but perhaps a slight step down on the quality of the past couple of weeks. While it’s exciting to see present day Rust and Marty team up, there’s an occasional awkwardness to the character work (how many times do they have to ask what each has been doing for the past ten years?) and it has to be said straight up that the final scene is hopelessly Scooby Doo. Just as long as that’snot a harbinger of the finale.


What’s most interesting is that, and it would be a rather unnecessary gambit for him to lie, Rust really has spent much of his time since 2002 as a (not so old) soak, before snapping back into purposefulness in 2010.  A man remembers his debts”, he tells Marty, echoing Maggie’s remarks about Cohle’s responsible nature in the previous episode. And, for all Marty’s recalcitrance, he recognises the truth of Rust’s urging amid the occasional barb (“You must have really pissed him off” in response to Cohle noting that Time has his way with us all).


Rust’s whistle-stop summary of the investigation to date recaps what we already know, but also adds a few events from two years previously. First, his encounter with abuse survivor Toby Boulez, whose attestation to the goings-on at Tuttle schools confirms Rust’s worst fears. Toby imagined it must be a bad dream, partly due to being drugged and partly due to the animal masks worn by his assailants. And there’s the man with the scars round his mouth again. While the emphasis on long-standing evils perpetrated is effective, less so is the referencing of Hurricane Katrina; it’s a lazy fall-back device designed to invest dramatic resonance (“I think he had a really good year” suggests Rust).


Rust’s conviction isn’t the be-all-and-end-all in persuading Marty. He warily brings his gun along to Rust’s lock-up, and notes of his one-time colleague “It’s like you’ve been alone too long”. Rust’s honesty  at least is reassuring; he too wondered if it was all in his head but, “That time passed”. It’s the other flashback that seals the deal for Marty, who goes from concern over whether Rust offed Tuttle to grim determination to see this thing out (Cohle latter professes not to know the details of Tuttle’s demise, conjecturing that his associates took him out behind the woodshed and put him down when they assumed he would be blackmailed; this isn’t wholly convincing, and we’ve seen before how well Rust is able to lie to Marty).


Harrelson is outstanding in the scene where Marty watches the videotape evidence of abuse Rust took from Tuttle’s safe, any lack of resolve evaporating. Most of the sequence plays out on the actor’s face, and it’s quite sufficient to tell the story. Marty suggests Rust he shouldn’t have the tape (for his own safety, presumably) and Rust replies “Nobody should have this”. If Rust’s sharpness may have been somewhat blunted over the years, or at least his energy, Marty has also changed. Perhaps he hasn’t become a better man, but he’s more conscious of his failings on all levels. No longer a young buck, his evenings are spent alone with a beer and TV dinners. And his visit with Maggie is curious, to say the least. She asks him if he came to say goodbye, as if she has been expecting him to make a final (as in mortal) exit for some time. Unless she just puts two and two together as the likely outcome of reconnecting with Rust. But it’s still a strangely low-key scene. As if Marty is an old cowboy off to his last stand, one that has been heralded before anyone even realised that’s what it was.  And Marty too gets his flashback, a particularly unsavoury reminiscence involving a microwave oven to explain his decision to exit the Force.


It’s actually Marty who does the lion’s share of the gumshoeing. He sets Rust up in his office (business clearly ain’t good) and scours old police files, goes golfing with Sheriff Geraci (Michael J Harney), while Rust (a persona non grata) tends bar. Rust is only called in when its time to break out the car battery and two jumper cables. The interplay between Geraci and Marty, both studying the other’s lies, is almost as strong as between Rust and Tuttle in the previous episode. The overt “True Crime” referencing by Marty was unnecessarily meta when he persuades Lutz to let him look around old police files, but it just about travels.


If After You’ve Gone’s most unsettling scene is the one in which Marty reviews the tape, the one most beholden to the show’s mythology occurs when the duo visit Miss Delores, who worked for the Tuttles (this after another validation of the man with scars from Jimmy Ledoux). She confirms the general dodginess of the Tuttle family, and granddad Sam Tuttle’s “other family’(the Childresses) before recognising Rust’s drawings of the wicker totems. “You know Carcosa?” she asks. “What is it?” questions Rust. “Him who eats time” responds Miss Delores kind of awesomely (time again). Perhaps this eerie occultism will go unexplained, how disparate people have insight into an unknown realm (albeit those who do seem to be in altered states, be they pharmacologically induced or a consequence of neurological diminishment). That might be appropriate; the glimpse at something that may or may not have more to it is frequently more compelling than a clear answer (see also Lost).


When Rust concludes that “She sure made sense to me” her niece responds, “That should worry you, mister”. And the auguries are not promising for the ex-detectives. But if Marty seems almost resigned to his fate, Rust appears to be looking forward to an exit. One with finality attached. Which is why he’s less than keen to hear the old lady promise “Death is not the end, rejoice!” Of course, since she is referencing Carcosa and we’ve already had it implied that existence is some kind of Sisyphean circle, which we are condemned to repeat throughout eternity (notably, Marty would rather she was incorrect), Rust has good reason not to be optimistic. But his intimation that he wants to finish all this up “before getting on with something else” suggests a project or journey; there’s not much planning in just topping yourself, unless there’s an additional passage through the great beyond.


The other notable Rust moment comes with Maggie’s visit to his bar. After the fireworks she set off last week, Monaghan is relegated very much to an incidental role here. Marty at least has no desire to rock boats any more, but time has not tempered Rust’s contempt. His dismissal of her with “It never sat right with me then, and it doesn’t now, you asking me to lie to you about him” is uttered with steely contempt but it still seems like weak sauce. He’s pissed that she wanted his comfort over Marty’s indiscretions, when his caustic insights into human nature really should have accepted her behaviour as elementary and completely comprehensible? I hope Maggie has more screen time next episode, as she’s been too integral to just ebb away. Of course, if speculation regarding Marty’s daughter and extended family are brought home to roost, rather than left to drift (and since they send some viewers on the most extravagant of theories, perhaps that would be just as well), she will inevitably prove to be a vital component (if any such eventuality should come to pass, I expect Woody will be a ringer for Brad in Seven and I don’t mean he’ll find her head in a box).


Which brings me to another circle. The hitherto absent detectives Gilbough and Papania ask directions from a lawnmower man with a scarred face (Glenn Fleshle, another Boardwalk Empire alumni) who appears to be mowing circles (yes, a bit of overkill there but don’t worry there’s even more of that to come) amid a graveyard. So, as with the third episode, the police are too distracted to investigate the prime suspect under their noses. Which does rather raise the question of the quality of the true detective work throughout. Are they just intentionally not very good? Any of them, even Rust with his penchant for eliciting confessions? They break the law, convict the wrong people, and seem to only make progress by having lucky clues fall in their lap before the trail runs cold again. In the space of 17 years continually haunted by an obsession Rust has done bugger all apart from mull it over and mull it over some more. It’s very lucky he never thought to go and chat to the lawnmower man properly, but then I guess there wouldn’t be much mystery. It ties in with Rust’s earlier, “Life’s barely long enough to be good at one thing” (As usual, there are some great lines, usually drawled matter-of-factly by McConaughey as if they’re just been lying in the dirt waiting to be snuffled up and shipped out).


Finally, then, there’s there moment when Pizzolatto and Fukanaga plunge headfirst into a cauldron of fondue. Mower man Errol all but looks into camera as he utters after the retreating police car, “My family’s been here a long, long time”. Yeah, ditch that restraint and classiness on the last lap guys, you’ve earned it! The sad thing about this is, not only is it a silly line, but it’s staged for maximum undermining of menace. There’s nothing ominous, threatening or scary about Errol on his mower. Especially not dribbling crap like that. Still, just as long as he turns into that much-awaited green-eared spaghetti monster next week all will be forgiven.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Must the duck be here?

The Favourite (2018)
(SPOILERS) In my review of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, I suggested The Favourite might be a Yorgos Lanthimos movie for those who don’t like Yorgos Lanthimos movies. At least, that’s what I’d heard. And certainly, it’s more accessible than either of his previous pictures, the first two thirds resembling a kind of Carry On Up the Greenaway, but despite these broader, more slapstick elements and abundant caustic humour, there’s a prevailing detachment on the part of the director, a distancing oversight that rather suggests he doesn’t feel very much for his subjects, no matter how much they emote, suffer or connive. Or pratfall.

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

I'm a sort of travelling time expert.

Doctor Who Season 12 – Worst to Best
Season 12 isn’t the best season of Doctor Who by any means, but it’s rightly recognised as one of the most iconic, and it’s easily one of the most watchable. Not so much for its returning roster of monsters – arguably, only one of them is in finest of fettle – as its line-up of TARDIS crew members. Who may be fellow travellers, but they definitely aren’t “mates”. Thank goodness. Its popularity – and the small matters of it being the earliest season held in its entirety in original broadcast form, and being quite short – make it easy to see why it was picked for the first Blu-ray boxset.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

You look like an angry lizard!

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
(SPOILERS) I can quite see a Queen fan begrudging this latest musical biopic for failing to adhere to the facts of their illustrious career – but then, what biopic does steer a straight and true course? – making it ironic that they're the main fuel for Bohemian Rhapsody's box office success. Most other criticisms – and they're legitimate, on the whole – fall away in the face of a hugely charismatic star turn from Rami Malek as the band's frontman. He's the difference between a standard-issue, episodic, join-the-dots narrative and one that occasionally touches greatness, and most importantly, carries emotional heft.

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.