Westworld Season Two, Episode Eight

west8Its been awhile coming, but finally an episode from season two just ‘clicks’ and we get Westworld at its very best. Possibly its best ever episode over the two seasons so far, and I sincerely hope the show-runners appreciate this and act on it as the series progresses with season three next year.

The irony of big ‘Event’ shows that HBO, Netflix etc produce is that by their very nature they feel the urge to ‘go big’, as if competing with what Hollywood budgets achieve is some badge of honor. But that is not necessarily what they do best. Game of Thrones has gotten exponentially less interesting over the last few seasons as the show has raised the stakes with ever bigger battles and CGI effects sequences. I may be in  the minority in this, but for me a giant Dragon setting people and buildings aflame is much less interesting and dramatic than one character staring into anothers eyes as they betray them and slash their throat/demand their head on a pike. GOT has lost something as it races into a huge biblical climax designed to ‘wow’ the crowds less interested by the political power plays and character arcs the show was successful at earlier.

Tellingly, this episode of Westworld essentially doesn’t even feature any of the main cast, instead telling the story of a background character and getting to the very root of what the series is truly about. Memory, self, what it means to be human and what reality is. “Where’s the door?”, says Logan “There’s got to be a fucking way out of here? This is the wrong world”.

That, my freinds, is Westworld in a nutshell. And in just the same way that Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and its sequel suggested that the Replicants were more than human, and better than us, so this episode of Westworld reinforces its theme that the robots/Hosts are better than their creators who act in deplorable and depraved ways, abusing their creations. God is found wanting and the future belongs to the robots/Hosts (if ever the hosts manage to reproduce as per Blade Runner 2049 the shit well and truly is destined to hit the fan).

In particular, this episode focuses on Akecheta of the Ghost Nation, that strange tribe of American Indian warriors who have appeared and disappeared like ghosts through several of the shows previous episodes. Akecheta shares, like Delores and Maeve, an awakening regards his reality, that things are not right, that he has lived ‘past lives’ and that his true life is one of peaceful and loving existence with his wife, Kohana, a life robbed from him by the mechanisms of the theme park.  His quest for truth, and Kohana, leads him to the very heart of that theme park and the bowels of the Delos HQ, where he discovers the warehouse of lifeless hosts that have been discarded (as presumably too broken for repair?), his beloved Kohana among them.

There is a lyricism to this episode that is heartwarming and irresistible.  Beautifully shot and acted, it ties some remaining threads from the previous episode (what happened to Maeve and MIB William) with surprising subtlety – I particularly appreciated how it gave Maeve a new arc, still leaving her child as an eventual goal but perhaps widening out her story now that she is back in the hands of the lab rats. She still has the ultimate goal of reaching her daughter, but with Akecheta now looking after the child, Maeve will be able to focus on the bigger story, the real fight. At least thats what I think its doing; with Westworld its hard to say for sure, and thats part of the fun.

So here we are, and its just a little bit frustrating that only now, eight episodes in with only two remaining, that this season has finally realised the possibilities of the first season and fulfilled that promise. I do hope that this bodes well for season three, but we’ll just have to see what curve balls the last two episodes throw us as we return to the main character arcs and see where the ‘door’ is and what it is. At least, thats where I think we’re going.

 

Great episode though, and (yay!) we even get Anthony Hopkins back as God. In some ways, this episode had it all.

Westworld Season Two, Episodes Six & Seven

westw7c.jpgIllness precluded me from watching episode six of Westworld last week, so today here’s a double-review following a catch-up session alongside episode seven last night…

There I go. moaning about the show missing God (Anthony Hopkin’s brilliant genius, Robert Ford) and boom, here he is, back from the dead. And there I go moaning about the disparate timelines being annoying and boom,  there they go getting all tied up as season two finally begins to, if not make sense, then at least coalesce into a single story-line and build towards a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion. While it’d be wrong to suggest that season two has been a terrible mess and that these two episodes finally start to save the day, its certainly no stretch to say that they are a step in the right direction after a messy, frustrating season so far.

Not everything works though. I’ve always been a bit concerned that the series seems as hazy about geography as it is about time (just where does it take place – an Island has been hinted at- and just how bloody big are the theme parks?). Maeve has left the central Mesa, wandered across the Western landscape and taken a sojourn in Shogun-World and then after popping back underground comes back up in the West where her old original story-line takes place. She finds her old homestead and, at last, her daughter, but immediately some Ghost Nation warriors turn up and attack, the old scenario from decades ago repeating as if on a whim. We see a host that has taken Maeve’s place in the old story-line but to what end is that story-line being played out, without a human visitor to entertain? It seems too convenient, as is the sudden appearance of MIB William and his sudden ability to apparently soak up bullets and still crawl off like some unkillable bastard. It all feels too simple and sudden and convenient, even unearned.There is, after all, no emotional connect between Maeve and her daughter. And after all her adventures this season, Maeve is ultimately stretchered off back to where she began the season , back at the Mesa, only this time crippled from gunshot her wounds (and didn’t that rescue team just appear out of nowhere?). It rather negates her whole arc this season and feels forced and unsatisfying. Unless, of course, it all leads somewhere next week.

Likewise, one has to wonder what was the point of that whole b-story in Shogun World, fun that it was while it lasted, it seems to have been signed-off without really impacting the whole series. And are really meant to believe MIB WIlliam could just rustle up all his posse and leave without disturbing his sleeping daughter in the camp?

westw7bAlso, the Cradle is a fascinating concept and seemed to offer all sorts of virtual possibilities but no sooner is it revealed than boom that’s suddenly gone, it feels something of a waste. What if it had been suggested that some of the events we’ve seen in the past two seasons were inside the Cradle, i.e. never REALLY happened at all? A lost opportunity I fear.

More successful though is the arc with Bernard meeting his maker, Ford, with Anthony Hopkins proving, again, to be the center of the show. Some of the banter and the asides to the episodes referring to James Delos’ failed bid for immortality are delicious. The hints regards what Delos has really been up to (the whole theme park biz is just a cover for their real experiment) will confirm many viewer’s suspicions/theories, vindicating quite a few of my own that I have written about in previous posts. That said, the ‘reveal’ at the start of episode six, when we realise that Delores has been testing Bernard during all their interview flashbacks rather than the other way around, was wonderful and keyed into those earlier James Delos episodes brilliantly: “a fidelity test” indeed.

You have to love a show that can pull off stunts like that, and I remain hopeful that the final three episodes can bring about a satisfying conclusion. At its best, Westworld is fascinating science fiction and a thought-provoking examination of identity and memory and what is human. Its almost like watching an alternate Blade Runner, so clearly are some of the themes shared.

I also, quite surprisingly, loved seeing what the show did with the new, reprogrammed, thoroughly Terminator-like Teddy. Even Delores seemed surprised by what he got up to.

Its just a pity that it all seems so, well, messy. But art can be like that, and I suppose we should be thankful that this series does, at its best, seem to be performing the same trick as its two big-screen Blade Runner cousins- arthouse masquerading as entertainment.

 

 

 

Westworld Season Two, Episode Five

west5Oh dear, Delores. And oh dear, Westworld. In an episode that does so much right (our trip to Shogun World pretty much everything we might have hoped for, particularly those of us who ever played the Bushido RPG -anybody remember that?), Westworld suddenly displays some shockingly bad writing, with a terribly boring sex scene followed by Delores betraying/destroying/rebooting her ‘beloved’ Teddy in a WTF moment that had me scratching my head.

What is it with Delores this season? Are they hellbent on turning her into the most nonsensical, contrary and unsympathetic character? I just can’t work it out. Still consumed with vengeance and rescuing her ‘father’ (who she knows isn’t her real father, the whole point of her rebellion is that its a revolt against her programming and false memories), she finally has a moment vindicating her love for Teddy/consummating their relationship and then, bang, bye bye Teddy.  I get why she does it- Teddy displayed an ability to think for himself a few episodes back and ignored Delores orders, but really, this isn’t the behavior of Sesaon One Delores and it surely conflicts with her fight for robot rights/freewill, doesn’t it? Its getting so that it feels as if Season Two Delores isn’t the same model as Season One Delores.

That Delores stuff really left a bad taste in my mouth and rather soured what was otherwise a good episode. The visit to Shogun World was a pleasant (ignoring the excessive gore) diversion, as was the glimpse of India (Raj World?) a few weeks back, offering new characters and an interesting comparison to season one events in Saltwater (the scenario being lifted from a Westworld storyline n a clever in-joke).

It rather sums up Westworld’s second season so far- it does some things so right it frustrates when it fumbles so much else. The showrunners were given more time to get season two produced but it actually feels rushed, which can only make me wonder if its suffering from being overthought or perhaps too concerned with confounding fan theories at the expense of doing what would actually make sense. We’re halfway through now and I really can’t say I’m loving it as much as I did last season. Its still very good and some episodes really have got me fired up in places with its ideas and execution but on the whole, as I wrote awhile ago, I’m missing Ford (Anthony Hopkins). I’m sure there are some reveals coming up and threads will get tied together but I’m beginning to wonder how many viewers will care. Contrary to all expectations, I’m rooting for the MIB William, and if he bites the dust this year I’ll be quite at a loss regards season three.

Westworld Season Two, Episode Four

ep4Well, this episode was just utterly fascinating, from start to finish.

At its worst, Westworld is infuriating and apparently deliberately obtuse, throwing multiple timelines at the viewer as if inviting confusion and reduced audience figures. But at its best, the show is something else- its genuinely captivating science fiction with all kinds of subtext and philosophical pondering to leave the viewer ruminating over for days after. Episode four is Westworld at its best.

The fantastic actor Peter Mullan, who I feared had been wasted in a previous episode, returns as James Delos, founder of Delos, the company that runs Westworld and the other parks. Mullan is absolutely terrific in this episode and plays his scenes brilliantly. James wakes in a slick, slightly futuristic-looking apartment, and is told he has a visitor- young William, the one that we know from season one’s main storyline. James wants out of his apartment but William tells him he has to take some more tests. This scene is repeated several times, and decades are evidently passing for in the last version of the scene, William is MIB William played by Ed Harris. James is obviously confused at William appearing so old (as Delos has not aged a day since we initially saw him). We learn that James is a host in which they have implanted the memories/brain patterns of the dying James Delos who since died many years ago. As suggested in the second episode of this season, Delos buying the Westworld tech was partly a stab at the terminally-ill  James using the technology to cheat death and gain immortality.

Unfortunately the technology doesn’t really work, no matter how many years and great expense is taken. The last version of James is the 149th build- each one prior has broken down, the mind apparently rejecting reality and the psyche fragmenting. They have achieved greater success with each build but although the latest hosts manage to ‘live’ for weeks rather than days, they all suffer the same broken state. William has decided that the experiments were a mistake, that trying to achieve immortality for James was wrong and that it might never work. The ‘real’ James is dead, has been for decades, and he should remain dead. Abandoning the project, William instructs a technician to leave this last build operational (all others were incinerated) and sometime later, it is this version of James that Bernard and Elsie (yes, Elsie’s back, tying up a loose thread  from season one!) discover when they enter the lab. Bernard has broken memories of being in the lab earlier (in scenes we saw in the first episode of this season and events prior to that- multiple timelines again rearing their confusing/infuriating/fascinating head).

There’s some really interesting stuff going on here. Host James is only a copy- the ‘real’ James is dead so one has to wonder if the technology ensures real immortality or just a reflection that lingers forever. But if the host James feels that he is real, and thinks and remembers what the original James would, is he in fact ‘real’ after all? What is real? What is self? What is soul?

This is great stuff, and exactly the kind of Philip K Dick philosophising that I find endlessly interesting and really unusual in mainstream material. Indeed, I have to wonder just how long (and how deep) Westworld can go into all this without Joe Public deserting the show in droves. Its funny- originally when this series was announced I expected a simple, violent and gaudy series about robots in theme parks running amok but there is clearly much more than that here.

 

I might have been right about MIB William becoming a surprise hero of this show. The reprehensible bastard of season one suddenly has a world-weary agenda of destroying everything he helped to create, and in particular a secret project that may have something to do with a weapon sought after by Delores. Part of this might be the sheer charisma of Ed Harris, his age-lined face worn and beaten by the sun and the disappointments of his life. But hey ho, here comes yet another twist at the end of the episode- the woman who impressed me so much in the India prelude of episode three turns out to be his daughter.

Events seem to be coming together and hopefully some of the confusion will be sorted. I appreciate that some of the mysteries are being explained, unfolding rather than just left hanging there, and while some stuff still irritates (just how long was Elsie left in that cave, and how the hell does MIB’s daughter escape so easily from the Ghost Nation?) but the rest of the show is so great I’ll continue to cut it some slack and hope for the best. With episodes like this one, Westworld is genuinely great.

Westworld Season Two- Episode 2

west2.jpgWelcome to the second part of this rather unintended series of posts about Westworld Season Two. First of all, I’m very surprised by this episode. I didn’t expect the show to be laying its cards on the table so soon into the second season (in fact I still half expect them to pull the rug from under my feet in episode three) but wow: I think I’ve finally gotten a handle of the meta-story surrounding Westworld, as episode two suddenly seems to have revealed a few of the shows secrets.

Typically, for this show, unfolding its drama across a number of timelines, this episode quite surprised me regards how much it revealed- refreshing indeed as it could have easily become just another tease. For one thing, we actually left the park and saw the real world outside- a pleasant and fairly utopian city, not particularly futuristic (no flying cars or rockets climbing to the heavens) so the show is not set, apparently, in a far-future scenario, regardless of some of the tech in the Westworld park itself.

In a sequence chronologically one of the first we have seen (as it predates the majority of season one) we saw Logan being approached by a representative of the Argos Initiative and taken to a party. The reveal that the party guests are not at all human was a great way to introduce Logan to Westworld and a telling reminder of how amazing the technology is. A subsequent sequence, however, is where the real revelations come. In a scene which takes place following the events of season one, we witness a normal day in the park (Delores bringing some supplies back to her horse and dropping a tin can) which is frozen when a helicopter flies overhead. With the hosts frozen/paused, we see William hinting to Delos Sr (Logan’s father) about the real possibilities that Westworld offers, which is nothing at all to do with simply being an amusement park for the wealthy, famous and powerful. There are, William confides, deeper possibilities.

Westworld offers the chance to take over the world, or at the very least shape and control it.

If I’m seeing it right, a moment in the prior episode featured robots in a hidden subterranean lab taking DNA samples from dead visitors. I didn’t understand why but I think Williams suggestions in this next episode offer a few hints. Are visitors being replaced by robots in the ‘real world’ and is this the weapon that Delores is after (and that Man in Black William seems intent on destroying) and is it the means of controlling those doppelgangers in the outside world? Considering that only the wealthy and powerful can likely afford vacations in Westworld, they would seem important people to copy or control.

There is also a mention that Delos Snr is dying, so maybe William is suggesting that the Westworld tech offers the possibility of immortality for those rich enough to afford it. If human DNA can be incorporated in the Robots or memories and intelligence copied or transferred from a human to one of the robots, then is that immortality the greatest commodity of all?

It occurs to me that some kind of cunning switch may be in the offing- with Delores still in the avenging robot angel mode, killing off (apparently) innocent humans just because they’re organic and dare to be breathing, is it possible that the showrunners are maneuvering MIB William into being the good guy? He certainly seems intent on burning Westworld down and destroying his ‘big mistake’ weapon before it can do greater harm.

Will everything be confirmed in episode three or am I barking up the wrong tree?

Westworld Season Two- Episode 1

west1Just a few observations- firstly, having been enjoying Netflix just over a month now, having to digest a big show in weekly chunks just feels so old-fashioned its almost arcane. I mean, I watch one episode, and then… then I have to wait? WTF? (It occurs to me that I’ve never done a weekly review of a series episode by episode, maybe I should start with this show).

Secondly, when does being intellectually ‘clever’ get in the way of actually telling a story? Don’t get me wrong, I love Westworld and it’s one of my favourite shows of the past few years-  away from the nudity and violence, what I really like is the examinations of what it is to be human, the impact of memory, the possibilities of AI. Its really heady stuff and the idea someone can make such a popular show that is so high concept is just profoundly exciting. BUT…. sometimes a show can risk being too clever for its own good. I enjoyed the ‘twist’ in season one of the separate timelines, and this seems to be carrying on into season two. Fair enough, but I don’t really see what we gain from it at present, with how it’s going. What I’m saying is, it should be there to inform and tell the story, not the story there to support the multiple timelines for their own sake. I fear there may be a danger in that here. Don’t try to confuse me just for the hell of it, tell the story and if the story doesn’t benefit from that confusion, why is it there? Well, time will tell if these multiple timelines serves some purpose.

I’m also a little concerned that Delores is becoming the least interesting character now that she’s slipping into ‘avenging robot angel’ mode. She risks losing her sense of humanity and empathy. Whereas the focus is really shifting towards Bernard, easily now the most interesting character in the show, who on the one hand seems to be dealing with the mindf–k that must be knowing his true robot nature whilst hiding it from his colleagues who are (?) all unaware of it. I always had a soft spot for him in season one and it’s fascinating to imagine where he might take us this season.

Anyway, roll on episode two. Oh yeah, I have to wait….

…and wait….

Outlander Season Two

outs2a2016.86: Outlander Season Two (Amazon VOD)

The first season of Outlander was something of a surprise. I struggled with its initial episodes but the recommendation of a friend got me to stay with it and the show bloomed into something very different to what I had expected, much more dramatic and controversial. Season 2 expands on the scale of the show even more and by seasons end its up there approaching Game of Thrones in my book- indeed, it could be argued that it has become a much more emotionally invested and focused show than the sprawling and labyrinthine GOT.

The weird thing about this series is that, well, is like so many other television experiences these days, it feels like an isolated experience, because of it being on a streaming site (in this case, Amazon). In the old days, had something like this been on BBC 1 or ITV, and the viewing shared by all viewers when it was transmitted, it would feel more of a communal experience. Other than on forums, watching and experiencing shows like this seems very solitary. I cannot, for instance, share my thoughts on this series and exchange views with colleagues at work or freinds and neighbours because either a) no-one else I know has watched it or b) they have little knowledge it exists or have no access to Amazon or c) because of its minor exposure, they feel little interest in ever watching it.  That later point is something very sad, as this is a great show and deserves wider exposure/attention.

But Outlander isn’t alone  in this. So much great television seems to suffer from this, and we seem to have lost ‘event’ television and the sharing of the viewing experience. I would love to watch Netflix’s Daredevil, but haven’t bothered getting access to it yet (either by streaming or the Blu-ray disc release). Or Stranger Things or Jessica Jones. I have been watching HBO’s Westworld but no-one else seems to have so I can’t discuss it with anyone I know. Had shows like these been shown on BBC, say, the viewing figures would be in millions rather than the thousands that they probably actually are. Even a ‘popular’ channel like Sky One, stuck on as a satellite/cable delivery service, only has viewing figures in the hundreds of thousands. Television has become so fragmented it doesn’t feel like the social force it used to be.

Sometimes shows manage to ‘break out’, like Game of Thrones, likely because it is heavily pirated, and later bought in box-sets, rather than watched by millions of subscribers to Sky Atlantic over here. Its an irony that we live in a Golden Age of television, in which television dramas have a quality and intellectual sophistication largely missing from theatrical films, at a time when the transmission and access of them is so fragmented that, by and large, the social impact inevitably diminished by that.

So Outlander is great, if anyone out there is interested. The second series begins, curiously, actually at its end, the series almost a ‘loop within a loop’-  Claire is back in her ‘present’ of 1948, frenziedly asking puzzled people how the battle of Culloden fared centuries before. Naturally, they tell her the Clans were routed by the English. Claire learns that the same amount of time has passed in her ‘present’ as she spent back in the 18th Century- she has been missing for two years and is something of a local mystery. Claire realises with some despair that Jamie and all the people she knew are all long dead.

But of course, this isn’t how we left the story back at the end of season one, with Jamie and Claire fleeing from Scotland and the Battle of Culloden still ahead of them. Its quite disorientating and unexpected, and yes, rather daring storytelling.

This being a Ron Moore show it should be expected- after all, he loved to pull the rug from under the viewers feet with his Battlestar Galactica reboot. Its obvious a lot passed by in the 18th Century we are not yet aware of, but now she is back in 1948 with no way of returning to the past, Claire has to attempt a reconciliation with her husband Frank and he in turn has to somehow deal with the fact she is now pregnant with someone else’s child. After much soul-searching they decide to make a fresh start in America where Frank takes a new job. So much episode time and development happens that one might almost wonder if we have left the 18th century behind forever, but then as they disembark from the plane to their new life in a foreign land, there is a wonderful dissolve and we are transported back to 1745, and Jamie is helping Claire disembark from the boat we saw them in at series one’s conclusion, to step into a new life in a foreign land- only this land is France as opposed to America. Events in 1948 being mirrored by the cut to 1745, her adventure there resumes, eventually leading us to the events that opened the seasons first episode. I know it sounds complicated; its a time travel story after all, but its brilliantly executed and kept more simple than it sounds.

Eventually we will learn what transpires to bring Claire returning to 1948 worrying about the outcome at Culloden and grimly learning that she has left Jamie and the clans to perish there. Its quite a story with many surprising twists and turns. Indeed, in much the same way as season one did, the series sets up all sorts of preconceptions and then undermines them completely.

Outlander Season 2 2016Season two is spread in two halves; the first half spent in the high society of 18th century France, with all sorts of court intrigue as Jamie and Claire attempt to change history and avert the disaster awaiting the clans at Culloden. These episodes are like a breath of fresh air, as if we have stepped out of Braveheart into Barry Lyndon, with France and all its colours and flavours brought vividly to life. The series suddenly transformed into a political tale of the machinations of aristocracy and royalty, as well as a very real tragedy that befalls Jamie and Claire to powerful effect. Their efforts to suitably change events in France unravel and they find themselves pulled back to Scotland for the latter half of the series, the inexorable weight of history bearing down on them as the doom of Culloden awaits and we are back in Braveheart territory. While the return to Scotland is welcome I think I’ll rather miss the intrigues and passions of France.

Certainly there is an added depth to the series by the time the second series ends, with the story returning to the ‘present day.’  Years have passed since Claire and Frank arrived in America, and it is now 1968, Frank has died and  Claire is returning to Scotland with her daughter now a young woman. Herself now middle-aged, Claire revisits some of the places she experienced in the 18th century, haunted by those old ghosts. By the time the last double-length episode closes, the plot takes another leap forwards (and backwards in time) promising a whole new adventure in season three.As someone who has never read the original books, its all quite remarkable stuff and it really benefits from binge-watching. I guess that’s the irony of fragmented portals for television viewing, in that my experience of this show is largely indebted to being able to watch a whole season inside of a week or so of binge-watching. Its like watching a very long movie.

Ron Moore is certainly making another television classic here, but I do wish it were more widely available or the ‘event’ television over here that it deserves to be. Oh well. SIgn of the times, as the Prince song goes.

 

 

True Detective Season 2 (2015)

true12016.5: True Detective Season Two (Blu ray)

Season Two makes the unforgivable (in some eyes) sin of not being True Detective Season One. I think it’s a shame people were so intent on getting more of the same and were so appalled when faced with something else. Me, I’ve no problem with it being different- that’s the genius of these anthology-format shows, each season offers something different, a fresh take on the basic format. It worked for the second season of Fargo and had mixed results with American Horror Story, but I think it worked very well for True Detective.

Season Two is a great piece of work. Its a hard-boiled, pulp-paperback film noir crime drama. Its an urban nightmare of characters trapped in a concrete, neon-drenched world they cannot fully understand and certainly cannot control. Its confusing, its contradictory, its fascinating, its full of incredible performances.

I seem to be in the minority though- a lot of people really REALLY disliked this season. I find that interesting.

Maybe people were made uncomfortable by this season because it wasn’t easy to disseminate; the plot was confusing, yes, but so is real life, and yes, by the series finale some of the good guys died and some of the bad guys prospered, but that’s like real life too. Life doesn’t always have a happy ending- in fact I think it could be argued that by series end, there isn’t a happy ending for anybody but the bad/corrupt people. That frustrates, I know. And yes it is rather labyrinthine over the eight episodes- even though I loved it, I can’t say I fully understood the complicated web of plot and subplot- but that’s such perfect noir, or maybe Hollywood Noir in this case and I’m fine with that.

It would be argued by some that, on the basis of expectations from the first series, the show should simply be a mystery, about a murder to solve. In season two, the murder and the establishment of the task force to solve it is almost incidental, it’s not really what the series is ultimately about. That may have been a step too far for many and evidently upset plenty of fans from season one. While it was certainly a brave move by HBO and the programme makers to make a show that distanced itself so much from the first series, unfortunately the negativity can’t help but impact on an eventual third season. I guess a return to something more akin to the first season is inevitable next time around.

I think the way I watched it may well helped, but that’s the beauty of binge-watching tv boxsets- in this case, two episodes per night over four consecutive nights, the series unfolding like the chapters of a novel. Perhaps weekly airings would have frustrated, weakened its impact; it calls into question how such programmes are aired and consumed by its audience these days. That said, I think this series was so different to season one that part of that audience would never like it however they watched it.

true3The acting is universally excellent- even Vince Vaughn delivers. But Colin Farrell is amazing in this show. Strange to think I was only watching him in the dismal Total Recall remake last week and here he is in such incredible form. I guess its all in the material. There is a scene late in the series -I hesitate to go into detail so as to not spoil anything- when the camera dwells on his face in silence as he reacts to a revelation about something from his past; in his changing expression you can see his mind racing, disintegrating as he feels his world unravelling about him. Its a great performance throughout the season but this moment is a highlight.

Rachel McAdams, too, is pretty amazing. Her character, like the others, is haunted by an event in her past which she cannot escape from without self-destructive action. It puts her in awful danger in one incredibly gripping scene, when she gets herself into a depraved sex party where the rich and powerful use and abuse women, and she has to try escape it and rescue someone (in a final irony typical of this show, that someone didn’t even want saving). Like  the event from her past, the experience is something that will haunt her,  another stone to carry, another weight on her forever. All of the leading characters seem to have seen things or done things that they cannot escape from. Again, that’s just perfect noir.

true2The cinematography is great- its a beautiful show to look at. Crushed blacks, hot reds, deep greens, it’s all those gaudy pulp-paperback covers brought to vivid life. The music is just as dark, reminding me of Twin Peaks at times. Indeed, I wouldn’t be too surprised if next year’s Twin Peaks revival looks and sounds a lot like True Detective Season Two. As a fan of Twin Peaks, maybe that’s why I enjoyed this season so much.

I love Film Noir and I think as an homage to that genre, True Detective Season Two absolutely nailed it.  It’s a modern day Chinatown, a story in which the place and the events within it dwarf the characters, a place full of bent politicians and corrupt cops, and pasts that return to haunt and destroy the protagonists. I think it’s great, remarkable television. I think this was a great series, and I look forward to watching it again.