True Detective: If only we could've detected some respect for women.
Now that we've had a week to process the True Detective finale, it's time to start preparing for season two.
True Detective, which centers on two grizzled detectives (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, respectively) hunting down a serial murderer in Louisiana, did a lot right in its eight-episode run on HBO. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement. If Rust Cohle can go from being a certified pessimist to a cockeyed optimist in two short months, we feminist TV lovers can certainly hope for the best.
Let’s start with what went right the first time around. The showrunner-as-auteur model of TV making has been gaining traction in recent years, and Nic Pizzolato took it to the next level with True Detective. Pizzolato not only created and wrote the show but had Cary Fukunaga direct every episode. This paid off big time. The look, feel, and dialogue remained consistent and compelling throughout the show (well, save for that final scene about the "light beating the darkness," but every writer knows conclusions are tricky) and the characters developed at a depth usually reserved for multi-season series. Rumor has it Pizzolato will stick to this plan in season two, but he’ll work with a different director. Fingers crossed it’s Michelle MacLaren, whose work on Breaking Bad and The X-Files proves she can direct the shit out of a tense drama with complex female characters.
Which brings us to what True Detective: Manly White Men Edition can do better in season two.
Namely: women and characters of color. Also: better depictions of queer characters, disabled characters, or any character who is not a hardboiled white dude. True Detective started out its first episode with a shot of a dead, naked sex worker and its treatment of female characters went downhill from there. For a while we could convince ourselves the misogyny was intentional, meant as critique, but the show never fleshed out the female characters who surround Rust and Marty. As New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum points out, "When a mystery show is about disposable female bodies, and the women in it are eye candy, it’s a drag."
When Rust and Marty walked out of that hospital arm in arm and happily ever after, they took any hope of feminist redemption with them. Their sexism worked like gangbusters! But like Cohle, we too can hope for the light to defeat this particular darkness, because season two is supposedly going to be all about the ladies.
As Pizzolato told Hitfix last week, season two of True Detective, which will likely take place in Southern California, will be about “hard women, bad men, and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system.” I hope I’m right in assuming that means it will star two women as the lead characters, and that those women will enjoy just as much complex character development and fan attention as Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson did this time around.
If you’ll indulge me, here’s my fantasy of what that might look like:
A whip-smart and razor-sharp detective on the LAPD (Octavia Spencer) is constantly dismissed by her supervisors and passed over in favor of her asshole male partner (Brad Pitt). When she catches wind of a bizarre string of occult murders connected to the city bus system, she is warned off the case by the top brass, but our girl keeps digging. Her sleuthing takes her all the way back to the ‘70s, when she learns that another kickass female detective (Angela Lansbury) was fired from the force for pursuing the very same bus cult crime ring. Spencer and Lansbury (the two J.B. Fletchers!) team up, solve the case, and bring the LAPD to its knees TRUE DETECTIVE STYLE.
Hey, a True Detective fan can dream. Now it’s your turn: What would you like to see in True Detective season two?
Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.