Saturday, March 15, 2014

TRUE DETECTIVE Ends In Good "Form"

Article first published as TRUE DETECTIVE Ends In Good "Form" on TheTVKing.

HBO's True Detective, essentially an eight episode mini-series since a second season would have a different cast and plot, closes out the initial run this week with "Form and Void." We're now fully in the present part of the story as Rust (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty (Woody Harrelson) finally track down the serial killer that has remained free for the past couple of decades. It's a wonderful, moving conclusion to the dark, engrossing tale.

"Form and Void" serves both those watching the show for the crime plot and those that tune in for character development. Fans of the genre, and television in general, tend to fall generally into one of those two categories. It's always been a struggle for an hour long drama to serve both segments, especially in a series finale, which is typically tight for time, tying up every bit that remains lingering. True Detective strikes this balance better than most.

Some have taken to the internet to complain about how pedestrian this final episode is, and that just goes to show that you can't make everyone happy. True Detective has never been flashy, and the big climax in "Form and Void" is more intense than pretty much anything else in the year, making complaints about it not being huge enough seem ignorant. It's a program that dwells on the characters, and while I think it satisfies those looking for action, that's not been the sole purpose at any time. Nor has the mystery extended into anything beyond the scope shown, much as some might wish for something more complex, with a murderer hiding in plain sight, driven by ritual and insanity, is exactly the guy the detectives find. In my opinion, the last episode matches the others in style and substance in a very satisfying way. 

The meat of the episode is the suspenseful scene in which Rust and Marty track down the villain, Errol (Glenn Fleshler, Boardwalk Empire). Fleshler is a masterful of creepiness, fully developing the role in basically a single hour, and his cat-and-mouse game with our heroes is sure to keep viewers on the edge of their seats throughout the sequence. The setting is beautifully detailed in its grimness and griminess, and the score hits just the right notes at the right time. The production in this part of the installment is extremely impressive, no element left ignored.

It all culminates in a bloody battle that leaves none of the three whole. It's a scary show down, made even more terrifying by the remoteness of the locale and the lack of knowledge that help is on the way. Knowing we're at the end, there are plaguing fears that one or both protagonists could die, and it really builds some high stakes in an already stressful scene.

In the end, the killer is caught, Rust and Marty and vindicated, and bad guy is dead. Everyone goes home happy. Sort of.

Rust and Marty's friendship has drastically and irrevocably changed. This whole time, in the various time periods, they've never really clicked. In fact, at times they've been on opposite sides of a firm line. But this one unsolved case brings them back together with purpose, and finally fully focused on a common cause, they find a strong bond. This is forged even deeper after the traumatic tragedy they endure. Nothing less than what happens in "Form and Void" could cement the two men together, given their past, but now they have been, and True Detective stretches out the ending just a bit to luxuriate in this new dynamic.

What hits home after the dust is settled, as we watch the quiet scenes with Rust and Marty, is just how great these two actors are. Harrelson is known to be fantastic, and always brings the layers and the depth the role requires. McConaughey's talent is more surprising. He exhibits chameleon-like skills as Rust, the actor lost in the part, and he manages to make a couple of distinctly different versions of the man with important, connecting threads. The performances in True Detective are absolutely stellar.

The one sad thing is that Marty doesn't resolve things with his family. Marty doesn't deserve his ex-wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), and though he loves her, his actions have driven her away. I like that Maggie shows up in the hospital to visit, their two daughters in tow. But I also like that Marty and Rust are going home together at the end, sans women, as Marty reconciling with the family he is estranged from so quickly so late in the game would not be realistic. The tie up here is fitting and with a hint of hope, but not the overly neat close that some might wish, and that's a good thing.

I don't know what season two will have in store for the next True Detective, but if it's half as good as season one, count me in.

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