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Friday, February 2, 2024

True Detective 4.1-4.3: Alaska, With A Touch of Science Fiction



True Detective is back with its fourth season.  So far, as of the first three episodes, it's quite good.  Not as brilliant as the first season, which was a masterpiece, but at least as good as the second and third seasons, each in their way memorable.  And this fourth season has something which is always especially appealing to me, a touch of science fiction.

The crime involves the disappearance of eight scientists from the fictional Tsalal Research Station in Alaska.  In the second episode, it's briefly noted that those scientists were trying to sequence the DNA of an extinct microorganism that could have enormous health benefits for we humans, stopping "cellular decay," "curing cancer, autoimmune diseases, genetic disorders, an absolute fucking game-changer."  This sure sounds like some welcome science fiction to me.  It's also  something that harkens back a little to the not-bad Helix series, which had two seasons on the SyFy Channel back in 2014-2015.

The placement in Alaska also calls forth recollections of all kinds of movies and TV series, ranging from the superb Christopher Nolan 2002 Insomnia with Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank (what a cast!) to the 2022 ABC-TV series Alaska Daily, also starring Hilary Swank, which was wisely cancelled after one season (I stopped watching it after three episodes).  

I've been glued to screen of this season of True Detective, on HBO Max.  In Insomnia, the sun never left the sky as Pacino's Detective Dormer struggles to investigate a murder way up north without getting a decent night's sleep.  In True Detective, detectives Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) struggle to solve the crime in just the reverse situation in which the sun in December never rises in Alaska.  It's great to see Foster back on the screen, she hasn't lost a beat.  This is the first time I recall seeing Reis, and she's putting in a strong performance, too. The supporting cast is good, as well, with Finn Bennett as Peter Prior the rookie cop and Isabella LeBlanc as Danver's daughter Leah especially notable. I also for some reason liked Donnie Keshawarz as James Bryce, the high school teacher and Danver's former lover, maybe because he delivered the incredible news about what DNA from the extinct microorganism could do.

The key to the incandescence of the first season was the chemistry between the two detective partners, played Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.   This fourth season of True Detective starts with just the opposite of that between Danvers and Navarro.  They have a history, which we gradually learn about, which nearly makes them enemies, and they have to bury the hatchet, at least temporarily, and combine their expertise to work this case.  

Like all the seasons of True Detective, there's a degree of gore which I could live without in a TV series or a movie.  Also an element of mystical horror which is not my cup of tea, either.  But the science fictional element makes up for that in this fourth season, and I'm very much looking forward to the rest.

And ... hey, I didn't even have to warn you about spoilers.

See also True Detective 3.1-2: Humanistic Disturbances of the Soul ...True Detective 3.3: Unquestioned Witnesses ... True Detective 3.4: All Hat, No Answers ... True Detective 3.5: Tour de Force Scene in the Present ...True Detective 3.6: Great Conversations ... True Detective 3.7: Merge! ... True Detective 3.8: The Best Ending

And see also Season Two: True Detective: All New ... True Detective 2.2: Pulling a Game of Thrones ... True Detective 2.3: Buckshot and Twitty ...True Detective 2.4: Shoot-out ... True Detective 2.7: Death and the Anti-Hero ... True Detective Season 2 Finale: Good Smoke but No Cigar



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