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My commentary on HBO’s True Detective (season one) is going to be a bit more incremental than I would have liked.  But hey, such is life.

To begin, I offer some brief reflections on two genres that converge in the series:

Mystery

Nic Pizzolatto, creator/producer/writer of True Detective, is a lapsed Catholic…a fact that intrigues me to no end.  The mystery genre has fascinated Catholic writers for a long time; one thinks of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown series as well as the works of Dorothy Sayers and Msgr. Ronald Knox, to name a few examples.

When we hear “mystery,” we instinctively think of crime — especially murder (morbidity seems to be a perpetual characteristic of human fascinations).  But mystery has a much broader meaning.  It evokes what is, but is not known.  It deals with what is hidden, and yet beckons the searching mind.  And the mind of the detective, in turn, seeks to know.

St. Thomas Aquinas’ theory of human knowledge is of interest here.  The latter said that the human mind is of such a character that it can receive the form — meaning the essential nature — of what it sees, hears, learns about, etc., as the mirror receives the image of what is reflected in it.  So in a certain sense, the mind “becomes” what it knows.

That said, it is not surprising that the protagonists of a mystery story should undergo a journey of self-discovery in searching for answers…nor, on the other hand, that the danger of encountering evil is not merely external.

Moreover, individual mysteries point beyond themselves to a greater Mystery.  We all have some sense — however vague, however much sequestered in the subconscious — that our lives are part of something much bigger, and of much greater consequence.  In this infinitely greater context, there are signs of grace and unseen providence.  We see this in the many Deus ex machina moments in mystery stories.

Southern Gothic

Anyone who has ever visited the American South knows that it has much to recommend it — nice weather, remarkably friendly people, vibrant cultures, and so much more.

But the South is also a place with very troubled memories.  Think of the more than 200 years of slavery that plagued this region of the country.  Think of the untold suffering of millions of souls under the yoke of abject servitude.  Think of the long history of voodoo and the dark arts practiced in many parts of the South (perhaps in some cases stemming from a distrust of the ersatz Christianity of white slaveholders).

And if this is not enough, think of the turmoil occasioned by the Civil War and Reconstruction.

We should not be surprised that many creative minds — Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Johnny Cash, to name just a few examples — would find plentiful material for artistic exploration of the dark side of Southern existence.

What we have in the Southern Gothic genre is a profound insight into the reality and depth of the world’s dysfunction, the acuteness of suffering, and the darkness in the human heart…in a word, sin.

But the Christian mind will also see the mystery of the Cross, by which Jesus Christ has subsumed all evil and conquered it, making even it a vehicle of His Grace.  We do see a something of this more hopeful understanding of suffering and evil at the end of True Detective‘s first season, and I think it’s all the more captivating for the dark corridors the viewer must traverse in order to get to it.

I hope all this makes sense, and that it has garnered your interest.  As I proceed with my analysis of True Detective, these basic observations will inform much of what I have to say.

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Acknowledgements

1. “TrueDetectiveDVDCover” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TrueDetectiveDVDCover.jpg#/media/File:TrueDetectiveDVDCover.jpg

I really have been trying not to over-rely on Youtube videos recently.  But in his commentary on Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Bishop Robert Barron offers a beautifully succinct presentation of the cardinal human virtues.

R.I.P. David Bowie

One of my favorite songs of his (please be warned of an “artistic” image at 2:39 that’s a bit risqué); the world has lost a great artist…

Limitless_PosterSo I finally saw Limitless, the premiere team-up of Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.  Pretty good — definitely different.  It’s one of those relatively (note, relatively) short movies that are pregnant with Continue Reading »

It's_A_Wonderful_Life

(It’s 11:27 on Thursday night — close enough)

Yes, this is traditionally considered a Christmas movie.  But they sing “Auld Lang Syne” at the end, so the clip can work for either holiday.

The best video I could find encompassed the last nine minutes of the film.  For the relevant portion of the clip, click here.

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Acknowledgements

“It’s A Wonderful Life” by National Telefilm Associates – Screenshot of the movie. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:It%27s_A_Wonderful_Life.jpg#/media/File:It%27s_A_Wonderful_Life.jpg

Okay — the long and short of it is that I owe my faithful readers an apology.  You may remember that a couple months ago I published a post titled “A Preview of Coming Attractions,” in which I said I was going to be writing on the following topics:

TrueDetectiveDVDCover

The HBO series True Detective Continue Reading »

It’s film clip Friday again…and also Christmas Day.  Who says you can’t kill two birds — or maybe we should say two turtledoves — with one stone?

Enjoy :)

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