I’ve watched some stuff! Amazingly, I have opinions!
Silicon Valley has been fantastic. On the whole I think I like it even better than Season 1, which is saying a lot. It continues to be rather frighteningly accurate about the lives and concerns of people like me… down to matters of company culture and the nature of innovation and collaboration and how bad news gets suppressed until it explored. The loss of Peter Gregory has been rather hard, but the show has actually improved in some other areas, and I’m very happy with how the story has developed.
Game of Thrones has been ROUGH this season. Previous seasons have done a great job at the “shocking” aspect that the show is so well known for, with sudden acts of almost unimaginable violence, but this season has shown a harsher, borderline sadistic sensibility where we receive ample warning of what horrific thing is going to occur, and then need to endure it. It’s also notable in that it has largely caught up to the plot in the books, and so I’m actually getting “spoiled” on some plot points for the first time. The spoiling actually feels pretty good! I’m happy to join the ranks that show-only folks have been in for the last four years.
Most of my viewing lately has been on HBO Now, as you can certainly guess from the shows under discussion here. After finishing my abbreviated repeat viewing of The Wire (jumping from the Season 3 finale to the last episode of Season 5), I watched through the first season of True Detective. It was good… darker than I had imagined, and with a surprisingly pronounced supernatural angle. It reminded me a little of The X-Files: there’s a conspiracy, unexplainable phenomena, and two detectives with clashing personalities who solve mysteries. The detectives here are considerably more flawed than Scully and Mulder, though; while they remain heroic, they demonstrate much more severe negatives than I’m used to seeing.
I’ve remarked on this before, but one of my favorite aspects of any television show (or, really, fiction in general) is ambiguity. I’m happiest when we’re presented with information and are left uncertain of how to interpret it, as in the first season of Lost or the last episode of Battlestar Galactica or any Haruki Murakami novel. True Detective has some great examples of this that are drawn into especially sharp relief in the final episode. Cohle sees hallucinations, thanks to his refusal to sleep and history of drug use; based on this history, we can’t be sure whether he “really” sees the galactic vision in Carcosa, or if it’s just an invention of his brain. Likewise, we get a pretty good idea of what Errol believes his sacrifices accomplish, but can’t really prove one way or another whether those beliefs are accurate or not. I love that perverse frustration of not knowing.
I had fun with a couple of things in the final episode that I got wrong. (Spoilers, obviously.) When Cohle breaks in to the shed, he sees a dead old man on the bed. It turns out to be William Childress’s corpse, but in the couple of seconds you see the body, I thought it was a super-old version of himself. (Similar-looking mustache.) Shortly after this, the dog chases Errol around the back of the house; when Rust follows, he finds that the dog is dead. Based on this, I came up with an elaborate and fully incorrect hypothesis about how the nature of time in Carcosa is circular, and now that the detectives have arrived, they’re bound to the flattened circle: Rust will be captured, tortured, and then discovered by his younger self, who will go on to be captured, and tortured, and so on, in an eternal hellish cycle. Likewise, I thought that the dog was stuck out of time, its life and death occurring in a cycle that didn’t line up with the one experienced by Marty and Rust.
There was also a brief moment (still spoilers!) after Errol stabbed Rust, when you could see the two of them struggling. The camera jumps, and then we’re seeing that scene again, but the positions are reversed: Rust is on the other side of the frame, and seems to be bearing down on Errol. The cult’s activities had seemed to be related to immortality of some sort, and I quickly seized on the (erroneous!) idea that the power from their sacrifices allowed their souls to transmigrate into other bodies. So, Errol’s spirit would inhabit Rust’s body, and even as the rest of the world thought that the killer had been stopped, he would have escaped justice, into the most secure position possible. This would be especially ironic, given that the state investigators had suspected Cohle of being behind the killings. Errol would absolve and damn Cohle in the same action.
None of that turned out to be true, of course. Still, it’s a good sign of how rich and twisty the show can be that it would lead my mind in those directions.
Speaking of murder: I also watched The Jinx, the documentary about Robert Durst. Wow! I’d read some news stories back when it initially came out, and so hadn’t felt particularly compelled to watch the show, since I felt like I already basically got what it was about. It turned out to be far weirder and more gripping than I expected… partly in terms of the factual events, and even more from the spectacle of actually seeing Durst. He’s such a strange guy; you could never call him charismatic, but there’s still something undeniably compelling about him. Anyways. After seeing this, I can understand why so many people were so taken by it.
And, wrapping up the HBO playlist, I’ve just started watching Veep, starting from Season 1 Episode 1. It’s been really fantastic so far. I enjoyed Arnando Ianucci’s other political projects, and Veep has a sensibility that feels recognizably similar to that of stuff like The Thick Of It. The performers are uniformly strong across the board. Everyone plays a caricature, but a DEEPLY COMMITTED caricature, and the show pushes into less-comfortable territory than I would expect. So far my favorites are probably Tony Hale’s pallid Gary and Timothy Simmons’ wholeheartedly unpleasant Jonah. The relationship between the Presidential and Vice-Presidential office is an obvious one, but no less funny for it.
Hrm. I think that’s it. Oh, and since I haven’t had a chance yet to say elsewhere on the blog, Mad Max: Fury Road is amazing. I highly recommend watching it.