Take a hefty bit of weird Americana music, communing with desert cacti and looking for UFO's under bright peyote skies, there's the Handsome Family who despite being in my radar for a time just hit big because of the obsessive compulsive nature of True Detective show-runner Nic Pizzolatto and my favourite white viejito T-Bone Burnette. Good to see more people grabbing wilfully at the intersecting branches of noir and weird-fiction, murder ballads and bat-shit alt-country.
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True Detective is one brilliant show. If anyone was worried about Breaking Bad being off the air, this is one show that will satiate that need. There are two timelines, two investigations that might be linked and who knows what is really going on. Yes, it is another tired serial killer drama but there are many details that separate it from its peers. It stars two disparate detectives on a trail of murders committed in rural Louisiana. It is an anthology show where one neo-noirish storyline will dominate the plot per season and the show will have, at least for the moment, one authorial vision, that of virtually unknown author Nic Pizzolatto. It it is his first foray into show-running for a prestigious network known for highly literate and challenging shows.

As the show follows its well-worn path we come to realize however that the expected procedural, investigation and dissection of the victims lives and deaths, the intersection of casual murder and escalating violence is not the main part of the storyline. That's the skeleton by which Pizzolatto hangs his characters. One is a nihilist train-wreck with a guarded past and the other is a philandering shit-heel with a much abused family. They search for a monster that lurks just beyond the marshes, the refineries, and ghost-towns wracked by poverty, crime and the elements while the politicians and preachers circle in to quash the case. Except for the directorial style which is long and languid and the performances which are nuanced beyond the usual it's all pretty standard fare. Except that there's a rabbit-hole in the center of this labyrinth. It's an interactive show with red herrings all around to drive our expectations and send us to our favorite social media platform, but the show is much more subversive.

It's an existential horror show masquerading as a police procedural or that's the implication obviously. It's not about Satan or a religious war or Christians for that matter. It's not even about the nihilist iconography of a 100 year old collection of weird-fiction written by Robert W. Chambers called the King in Yellow: the titular King, the black stars and being lost in time, but other than sharing a similar world-view that the universe is cold and uncaring and that people use religion as a means of social control, this is something else entirely.

Religion in this show is just the tool. Power is the key. There is a wealthy guy here that we have already met by the way. He is connected to one of the main characters and he is like Kurtz at the center of the labyrinth. He's the metaphorical Yellow King; and elected officials, policemen, the system, including protagonists and antagonists by the way are just pawns in his game and if we realized that was what was actually behind the curtain we would all go mad. In other words a nice family comedy.

After Hannibal, The Killing, The Bridge, The Following and any number of other recent shows, I really thought I was done with the whole serial killer dramas on television, but this has got some other psychological thing going on. Catching the killer isn't even the point anymore. They've already gone down that road and reached a dead-end. I hesitate to even mention that the twitterverse has their sights on one of the two protagonists. I think Pizzolatto will subvert even that old cliche.

No, I think he'll hold off on catching the King in Yellow. Remember, this is an anthology show and the over-arching mythology may not be resolved for another few years. One thing is certain. The end is near for Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Their prospects don't look good.
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Luther, written by one of new favorite writers Neil Cross, is my new favorite show. Bar none. 

For anyone drawn to this novel by the Scandinavian mystery novel publishing sensation Steig Larsson's Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, thinking you'll get more of the same, well you'll be disappointed. Oh, you'll recognize the landscape and the people are the same, this a bit more rural or small-town and less urbane, but Sweden and its people are well-represented in both. Mankell's narrative is slower and its protagonist less super-human, less likable, than Larsson's but far more rewarding I think. Wallander is a deeply flawed detective, but his humanity and doggedness are what drive the plot, ultimately the plot is secondary, more a means to illuminate the human condition, the protagonist's struggles and triumphs. Wonderful book


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