True Detective Retrospective

True Detective Spoilers ahead.

As the reruns of True Detective season one circulate for anyone who didn’t catch it the first time and might be interested in season two, it is time to ask the important questions, over eight hours of television, was it worth it?

While the first six episodes spent a lot of time establishing characters and developing the Rust/Marty relationship, with a couple of action and sex scenes thrown in, the last two episodes moved quickly without a great deal of tension. Even kidnapping the Sheriff was a little dull, possibly because both Marty and Rust had very little to live for and yet the whole premise was correcting paying their debt. The murder of Ledoux who might have led them to the conspiracy and the yellow king.

So this yellow king, this monster, he certainly was creepy, but was he any more than a seriously messed up guy living a life of isolated and careful debauchery? When you get to the end and journey through the wicker world of an old fort it is creepy and a good idea not to look around. Decades worth of abuse and murder had been piled up in one place ruled over by a brutal and insane individual. The conspiracy plot and the significance of the yellow king seemed to slip away. Rust briefly mentions the men he didn’t get only to be corrected by Marty who tells him they got their man.

Clearly the role of children cannot be undervalued. The loss of Rust’s daughter is a defining moment for his character while Marty’s continued dependence on his family and his inability to maintain the necessary boundaries in order to keep his family led him to destruction. Child abuse and murder then plays a shadowy role in defining and justifying the action of Rust and Marty, but how important was the detective element?

Marty talks about searching databases. Rust spends hours looking through files and visiting rundown buildings. But if detective work led them to the decaying house, it was pretty boring in the last couple of episodes.

The series was exceptionally watchable and well structured. How about a name change? True Obsessions?

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Science Fiction: when backdrop functions in fiction

It is the simplicity of Asimov’s science fiction that makes it so successful. In The Naked Sun, Asimov’s sequel to The Caves of Steel and the return of Elijah Baley, Asimov has taken premises of the consequences of future advancements and integrated a police investigation. What he produces is an outstandingly well crafted piece of fiction.

The sci-fi premise is that on an overpopulated Earth people live in close proximity under large domes, while humans who have moved off world and inhabit worlds like Solaria live in isolation. The lack of space on Earth has led to a fear of open spaces. Human are unable to leave the domes without experiencing debilitating anxiety attacks. Conversely, on Solaria, the vast amount of land available, wealth and artificial control of the population has made the population unable to tolerate physical proximity.

There are no exotic creatures, no antagonistic aliens or malicious supercomputers. It is just human beings in a different situation effected by technological advancements producing a psychological make-up. The Solorians live in physical isolation but have regular contact through holographic projectors allowing them to ‘view’ one another although they can rarely suffer the act of physically ‘seeing’ one another. When they are viewing through the realistic holographic projections they have no sense of modesty. One woman steps out of the shower while viewing. Yet the same woman completely covers herself from neck to foot when she has to physically view a person.

The reason why this is important, apart from a generally interesting investigation into possible outcome for human psychology? It allows Asimov to use a whole world to create a locked room mystery. If humans are physically unable to tolerate the physical presence of another person, how would a murder be committed? In the first instance the answer is there wouldn’t be any murder, but then there is the exception.

Now there is a great piece of prose using sci-fi as more than just backdrop.

Femme Fatale: Poison Ivy

We’ve had femmes fatales in poetry, nineteenth century fiction and James Bond films. What else is there? Comic books for course. With his own brand of dark vigilante justice and personal code of conduct, Batman comics are begging for a great femme fatale and they get their fair share.

Most people might jump straight to Catwoman, but I want to linger for a moment with Poison Ivy. Think about it for a minute. Poison Ivy is your leisured woman. She hangs around in a light covering of tight fitting garments (or just flowers) and has men doing her bidding. She isn’t running around rooftops, working hard to create trouble or steal cat shaped museum artifacts. Poison Ivy is at ease and still dangerous.

Whether it is her natural pheromone, a lipstick created from a variety of flowers or a chemical altered physiology, Poison Ivy is difficult to resist. So difficult to resist that the only man who seems able to fight her is Batman and if Batman can only just do it your normal guy does not stand a chance.

And what does Poison Ivy want? She wants attention and flowers and men cowering at her feet doing her bidding. She is seductive and dangerous. There are usually a few dead guys hanging around and a couple of other guys willing to die for her. Sounds like a femme fatale to enjoy from a distance.

Femme Fatale: Carmilla

Are all female vampires femmes fatales? You might think so, with all the seductive powers, sexual tension and blood-sucking (there will be no mentioning sparkling), but actually no. Some female vampires are light on the seduction and others not very dangerous.

Take Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 Dracula. Interestingly enough, the only male vampire is Dracula himself. On the female side we have Lucy Westenra, a 19 year old socialite who wishes she could marry all three of her suitors, a cowboy, a doctor and an aristocrat. And who could forget the brides of Dracula, three women who ‘entertain’ Jonathan Harker. Lucy is not very seductive and the brides don’t do much damage. However, Stoker’s vampire novel was predated by more than two decades by Sheridan Le Fanu’s story ‘Carmilla’ about a female vampire who has a thing for the daughter of a wealthy widow, Laura.

Carmilla is your femme fatale vampire using the full range of seductive powers with a taste for teenage girls. In the story you have the ‘visit you in your dreams section,’ the ‘befriend you and get close to you section’ and the all out ‘physically attack you in the form of a wild animal section.’ There is a hidden tomb, deserted locations, descendents of heroic Barons and axe-wielding Generals. Stoker’s Dracula is a worthy read. Before you do and if you already have, Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’ is a femme fatale vampire you need to meet.

A full text version of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla is on Project Gutenberg.