Posts Tagged ‘ tv ’

TV show endings and why people always hate them

True Detective‘s finale pretty much left the world cold. All the pre-planning and theories and meanings and subtext were rolled up into an extended chase through a labyrinth of twigs and bodies and some mumbled dialog about lightness and darkness. The world shrugs, but wasn’t this always what the show was about?

Told from three timelines and multiple perspectives, True Detective had always been about closure. After all, those who don’t learn from their past are doomed to repeat it, because time is a flat circle. Structurally, the show was always about detectives looking into the past to shine a light on the future. New detectives interrogate older ones to solve a case, so past trauma seeps into the present. 

Trauma defines Rust and Marty’s character. Rust’s arc was based around past trauma. Rust in 1995 tried to overcome the loss of his daughter by obsessively taking down a killer who preyed on children. After the killer was supposedly caught, he fell off the map and his life lost meaning. His obsession, however, never faltered. Marty’s traumas happens in ’95, so he relives them in 2012 in his interviews. His past trauma continues to alter his character. Marty continues to change his personality to win back that which he lost. Past trauma alters their character. 

These are two greatly flawed character that need catharsis in order to create a full arc. They need to be healed, so when they finally take out The Yellow King, it’s no surprise that Rust and Marty find the solace he had been looking for. Symbolically, the Yellow King is their trauma, and by getting their man, they are able to strike a balance between outright objectors of society and regain their humanity. The whole show was pushing towards that ending. There was no way a character as nihilistic as Rust was going to have a story arc where he didn’t grow a little, especially when your  pessimistic atheist sleeps under a crucifix. Rust Cohle was a lot of things, but more than anything else, he was very confused. 

TV shows have the ability to make bigger arguments for their points than movies. True Detective could dive into the many ways Rust Cohle rejected the whole of society, and audiences began to respect and enjoy his hatred. It was what they connected to for nearly 10 hours. However, the things we like about a character become part of a bigger whole, and might turn into something unexpected. Once writers make good on that argument, many times it alters the character so greatly that audiences reject it. True Detective was always a show about finding a balance, but once that balance was struck, the things people like about the show dissipate. We don’t want to see these character grow or change, because ultimately, it’s the things that we like about them that are changing. 

Serial television has a difficult task when finding the right ending. How can we keep enough of the old character while making room for something new. Most of the time, this results in death, because too quick a change kills the character, but can a character grow and leave in a way that satisfies audiences? 


Rust Cohle, The New Mike Hammer — True Detective Takes on Its Influences

So many words have been spilled about True Detective in the last few months, it’s hard to get one in. Whether you’re taken by the show’s red herrings (or yellow herrings, as it were) or disgusted by the lack of strong female characters, there’s no escaping that something about the show’s dark world view has grabbed people, much like the middling abyss we all desperately stare into awaiting the answers.

One of the things that seems amiss, though, in all the conversation about the show is where it sits in the pantheon of detective fiction. Obviously, for a show called True Detective this would be an obvious place to start. Rarely does the conversation shift over to genre traits or character archetypes. The show’s darkness comes from pushing  the ideas of Raymond Chandler, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mickey Spiliane, and, hell, Dick Wolf and Shane Black onto premium cable. All of detective fiction plays a role in HBO’s hit series, which is part of what makes it so compelling. Continue reading

Four Ways to Get Boardwalk Empire Back on Track

In lieu of another recap, which I’m already late on, I’ve decided to take a look at  Boardwalk Empire‘s problematic fourth season. Uneven in every sense of the word, the show has overwritten the plot and underwritten the characters. Here’s how the show can get back to doing what it does best: blowing beautiful set pieces up. Continue reading

Review Repost: Brilliantly Canceled: The IT Crowd

Earlier today, Splitsider published my review of The I.T. Crowd‘s American pilot. And now I’m reposting it here. What an age to be alive?

So, without further adieu, here’s a look back to the alternate past that almost was, an alternate past without Community. 

Here’s a taste:

An American version of The IT Crowd was never a bad idea. With American audiences already going “bazinga” over nerd-based and workplace comedies, the combination seemed like a homerun. But it’s all in the execution, and The IT Crowd has a hard time letting go of its British base. Of course, while it uses the same script as the pilot, it also keeps the mix of multi- and single camera footage found in the British version, star Richard Ayoade, and the cluttered sets of the original. The show has a decidedly British look and feel to it with nothing to distinguish itself from its source.

Based on series creator Graham Linehan’s original script, the American pilot follows Jen’s first day as manager of her company’s IT department. When the department’s only two workers, Roy and Moss, find out she doesn’t know anything about computers, they attempt to undermine her position and get her fired. The script made the trip across the Atlantic remarkably well. Despite the new accents, many of the jokes that kill in the original, still work here. Most importantly, we get clear sense of who these characters are and why they’re acting this way. As far as pilots go, the script for “Jen’s First Day” holds up.

Read the rest here.

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “The North Star”


To say that Boardwalk Empire‘s fourth season has been spotty would be an understatement. While the former intrigue and weight of the old show glimmers through every once and a while, season four comes and goes in waves. A thematically rich and engaging episode followed by several disparate scenes lassoed together without any rhyme or reason. “The North Star” is the latter. Following one of this seasons most original and interesting episodes, “The North Star” brings its characters as far from home as possible, anchoring them to plot lines that neither intersect nor advance.  Continue reading

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “Erlkönig”

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“Erlkönig” is the episode I’ve been waiting for, one that erupts in change for all of the cast. The cause and effect that made the first few seasons of Boardwalk Empire so engrossing returns with a bizarrely directed and universe changing installment. People die, people pay, and halfway through season four, Boardwalk finally reveals its characters.

Throughout Boardwalk‘s run, we have watched characters create their own systems of operation. Within those systems, they run things a certain way, some through violence, others through cunning, and some through sex. Season four aims to change this up and has done so in the past few episodes. For instance, the sharpshooting phantom of the opera who feels nothing for the lives of criminals, Richard Harrow, buried his gun after failing to kill his sick dog. He can no longer get the job done, a far cry from the dependable assassin of previous seasons.

Continue reading

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “All In”

There are specific beats a good season of television should hit. Just like any narrative, a seasonal story arc has moments of rising action, a climax, falling action, and resolution. With the initial over-arching relationships and themes of the show far behind us, Boardwalk Empire has made attempts to make these moments count the best it can.

Last season worked as a Deus-Ex machina, a reset button for the world. Gyp Rosetti presented an element of catastrophic violence to help the audience move on from the Darmody dilemma and Nucky’s relationship to Margaret. While these were some of the show’s strongest anchors, the show must continue to move forward without them, even if they put the show’s star, Nucky Thompson in a bind and Buscemi nothing to do.

Left with very few places to go, Boardwalk has made a strong point early in the season to turn the supporting players into the show’s central interest. While Nucky remains the sun in this universe, episodes like “Resignation” and last Sunday’s “All In” show how integral Nucky’s minions and minions in general are to these operations. Piggybacking off the themes of “Resignation,” episode four examines why picking your partners remains the most important part of the game. For Nucky, his inability to do so in the past, with Jimmy, Margaret, and Owen, has cost him, and it looks like this time should be no different.

Many characters reveal their inability to handle the responsibility of crime in “All In.” Willy learns that boyhood pranks can be deadly if you don’t have a partner that knows his science, Van Alden passively joyrides with Capone, and Arnold Rothstein proves that simply looking for action isn’t the best way to do business. “All In” shows characters for who they really are (a child, a thug, a habitual gambler) in a way that’s tense and weighty. Actions have consequences no matter how harmless they seem and napping on the job can lead you to some uncomfortable situations. 

Boardwalk works best when it links themes through different characters and pushes them on clear path. The editing of the episode makes a distinct path from one thread to the other. By cutting from the FBI meeting about Nucky’s weakest link to Eddie or the violent jokes of Daniel O’Bannon to Willy Thompson, the show constructs a clean episode of rising action, a slow build to the problems the rest of the season will deal with.