HBO’s “True Detective” arrived as TV’s new Golden Age was in full swing.
The 2014 show, starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, stunned audiences and critics alike.
Quality will often do that.
The anthology series continued with stars like Vince Vaughn, Mahershala Ali and Colin Farrell, although subsequence seasons couldn’t capture the greatness of that searing debut.
That was then.
Today’s TV shows are too often infected by woke, the practice of pushing progressive tropes that elbow out thoughtful, engaging stories.
The examples are too numerous to mention but consider the dramatic fall of the “Star Wars” brand as Exhibits A., B., C. and the rest of the alphabet.
Enter “True Detective: Night Country,” the fourth season of the series and the first new “Detective” yarn in five years. The latest installment is anchored by Oscar-winner Jodie Foster. HBO retains a solid reputation for smart, original shows, and Foster doesn’t jump on any ol’ film or TV show.
She’s picky and, more often than not, showcases her good taste in projects.
Not so fast.
Episode one of “Night Country” follows veteran cops (Jodie Foster and Kali Reis) as they untangle the disappearance of a research team and the enduring mystery behind a local activist’s murder
Set in the fictional Ennis, Alaska, the series quickly hits some stodgy woke notes. We meet an “empowered” woman who smacked a domestic abuser in the head with a metal bucket, leaving him unconscious.
She’s proud of her act when the police arrive, and the episode brings up and then dismisses any worries that the woman acted inappropriately. Is the guy dead? Eh, who cares? Domestic abuse is bad. Women are good. Black. White.
The story beat isn’t even necessary. It’s a tell to show how men are crooked and women have had enough. That’s not storytelling. It’s a lecture. And it’s not the only one.
Foster’s character routinely dresses down her male colleagues because she’s super smart and they’re, well, men and therefore not so bright.
The show gets quickly bogged down in melodramatic subplots, including a teen girl filming herself having sex with her lesbian partner.
Later, Reis’ character is seen having sex with a male partner who looks uncomfortable mid-coitus. She ignores his protests and keeps on keeping on, oblivious to his pain and clearly the alpha in the situation.
Multiple times characters are dismissed for being “white,” the new slur enabled by DEI culture.
Need one more woke stroke? Reis’ character sabotages a car’s gas tank because she overheard the owner speaking crudely about women.
Is Ennis, Alaska a hotbed for misogyny? Perhaps. Storytellers can depict that in subtle ways, letting the audience fill in the gaps. Foster’s “Silence of the Lambs” did just that.
The 1991 classic showed how Foster’s character was outnumbered by male FBI agents, and they didn’t hide their disdain for a woman in their midst. One brief visual highlighted her small frame surrounded by larger, unsmiling men in an elevator.
Simple. Clean. Distinctive.
Director Jonathan Demme shared those details without interrupting the story. Foster’s Clarice Starling had to outwit Hannibal Lecter and outpace the bureau’s misogyny.
Brilliant. That’s hardly the case with “Night Country,” at least so far.
All of this distracts from “Night Country’s” chilling opener. An Alaskan research post is suddenly emptied of its all-male crew. The characters have some initial interest in this thread during episode one, but there’s more attention paid to a dead activist apparently silenced by her enemies several years ago.
That’s sad and tragic, but what about the research post with all the missing people?
Showrunner Issa Lopez, who directed and co-wrote all six “Night Country” episodes, is already playing the woke defense for the series after just one installment. New episodes debut at 9 p.m. EST Sunday nights on HBO and Max.
Liberal critics are rallying to Lopez’s side, giving the show a 96 percent “fresh” rating. General audiences aren’t as smitten, but that grade is a not-terrible 71 percent.
That difference proved enough for Lopez to play the Victim Card.
“So, if you liked last night’s [episode] of [‘True Detective: Night Country‘], and have a Rotten Tomatoes account, maybe head over there and leave an audience review?” Lopez wrote to her followers. “The bros and hardcore fanboys of [Season 1] have made it a mission to drag the rating down, and it’s kind of sad, considering all the 5 star ones.”
If you don’t like “Night Country” you’re a sexist. And probably a racist, too.
Variety rode to the rescue, suggesting Lopez is right and audiences are review-bombing the show because there’s no other reason for it to be attacked.
Lopez did not identify the exact reason why “True Detective” fans were trying to drag down the “Night Country” audience rating, but franchise entries led by women and/or an inclusive cast often become targets of review bombing. It happened to Marvel with “Captain Marvel” and to Sony with 2016’s “Ghostbusters” reboot, among other examples.
Meanwhile, some of the negative RT reviews of “Night Country” seem far from unreasonable.
Lazy writing, two dimensional characters and overacting. Complete disappointment, especially as Season 1 is my favourite TV series.
Jodie Foster was quite good, the other lead actor is exceptionally bad, having only one facial expression. I get that she’s a girl boss, but does that really mean she has to also be completely emotionless at all times? Even her most intimate (grape scene!?) felt very bland and flat. Most of the dialogue feels very cringe and unnatural, and the supernatural element is hammy and obvious. Disappointing so far!
I saw the complaints about review bombing, but that is NOT what I’m doing. This season simply doesn’t even come close to S1, or even the other two seasons. It’s weird and seems contrived. Acting not convincing. No like.
As a huge fan of the series, I have to say I’m disappointed with the first episode of the new season. I don’t want to drag this show down, but it was bad. The writing was the worst part, bet even the acting had me scratching my head. I hope this episode is not indicative of how the whole season will be. I will continue to watch and hope it gets better.
It’s possible “Night Country” episodes 2-6 sharpen the story’s focus and drop the virtue signaling. Perhaps.
It’s not a good sign that the show’s creator is attacking anyone who doubts “Night Country” is the best installment since the 2014 debut.