Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Ghost Who Couldn't Believe In Herself

Well, that was all a bit underwhelming, wasn't it?


For a while I was tempted to leave the post there.  I figured if I'm going to ape the impression the show instills, then that would the most appropriate response to the finale.  Let's at least do a little digging, though, and see if we can pinpoint where things went wrong.

(Spoilers follow, unsurprisingly.)

Really, I think it all comes down to a problem of scale. Not necessarily in the way you might think, though.  Given my clear love (at least, it's clear if you've wasted enough of your time here, or with me in general) of the Cthulhu Mythos, you would be forgiven for thinking the bug up my butt had a tentacled head and ate d6 investigators a round.

And that's not entirely incorrect, I suppose.  I'm not going to pretend I'm not disappointed to achieve my dream of seeing a high-quality Cthulhu TV series, or even a reworking of the Twin Peaks model of gradually gathering darkness and insanity growing from the shell of an apparently "normal" show.  But even leaving aside the technicality that the Yellow King and Carcosa are references that predate the works of HP Lovecraft (first appearing in the works of Robert W Chambers in the dying days of the nineteenth century), it became pretty clear after the halfway point of the season that this wasn't a show about dark forces abusing the young, so much as a show demonstrating that the abuse of the young is so horrifica and unspeakable that we've no need to drag supernatural forces into the issue.

Indeed, the final episode rather explicitly suggests that shrugging one's shoulders and blaming things on extra-dimensional horrors can blind you to what you need to see.  If the green-eared spaghetti monster had simply been some king of horror beyond space and time, there would have been no further need to consider it, and the link to fresh paint that finally cracked the case would never have been made. The amount of time this show spent in the mid '90s is rather fittin, actually, considering that this a leaf direct out of the Agent Scully playbook. It doesn't matter whether the evidence seems to suggest something conventionally inexplicable, you have to assume right up until the last possible moment that everything is operating within standard parameters. The deductive process is too important to unnecessarily contaminate with the assumption that it's all just magic, innit? This is a pretty close corollary to Cohle's insistence in the stupidity of assigning events to a divine being, as well as his own failings in generating entirely unprovable theories about the unbearable darkness of all existence.

So far so coherent, then. The problem here isn't the borrowing of the iconography of cosmic horror, but that of the conspiracy theory. For seven episodes we've been told about how no-one can be trusted, about the horrifying extent of the "sprawl" spread over who knows how many parishes and how many decades. A culture of indimidation so deep it can swallow sheriffs and inspire criminals to agonising suicide. A series of crimes so despicable they can drag a man into obsession, and persuade the guy whose wife he's shagged to join up.

Setting all that up and delivering one guy in a dilapidatted house before shrugging and saying "We were never going to get them all" seems tailor-made to be thoroughly unsatisfying - the word "trolling" has appeared in places. It's particularly frustrating given the show's interest elsewhere in demonstrating over-egging the pudding in a crime show is not merely unnecessary, but perhaps counter-productive.  The result is an ending which feels very much unlike the rest of the season, selling out the overall approach in exchange for a pat ending. Boo.

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