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Well before the second season premiere, it was widely hyped that the current iteration of True Detective was going to take on a more female-friendly tone. Show creator Nic Pizzolatto hinted at it on Twitter and in interviews and, more explicitly, actress Abigail Spencer—who played Gena Velcoro—told Deadline that season two would feature “incredibly strong” women. As last night’s finale proved, Spencer (who had about 10 lines in the entire season) was absolutely right. The women of True Detective are awesomely powerful—when it comes to having the male characters’ babies.
In many ways, True Detective Season 2 was a failed experiment in, well, everything, but—more to our purposes—what happens when you push a limited male writer to create complex female characters. Showrunner Nic Pizzolatto’s women—even the seemingly tough ones like Rachel McAdams’ Ani Bezzerides—end up falling into the same tired old camps where female characters always get stuck. They’re Marilyns or Jackies, virgins or whores, mothers or entirely discardable sideline hoes.
Laura, the little girl from the jewelry store that the True Detectives have been searching for, grew up to be a streetwalker. Or, as her brother Leonard (who, SHOCKINGLY, is also Ray’s raven-masked shooter and Caspere’s killer) growls, “[They] turned my sister into a whore” and now she’s worth nothing. Ani, despite her childhood abduction and molestation, is more fortunate because she’s still “innocent” and “a lady” and therefore worthy of an ending. (“A lady cop,” Vince Vaughn’s Frank Semyon remarks. “I meant you’re a lady. You have dignity.”)
I suppose it’s lucky for the leading women of True Detective that, while their male counterparts get to go out in a blaze of gunfire and glory, they’re allowed to live and carry on their men’s legacies. The girlfriend of the now deceased Paul (Taylor Kitsch) has his son. Ray (Colin Farrell) bravely dies in a shootout in the woods, while his love Ani, unwittingly knocked up with his baby and QUITE wittingly wearing the same haircut as Selina Meyer on Veep, goes to “a better place”—i.e. Venezuela.
Similarly, while Frank bleeds out and hallucinates visions of his abusive father, the black kids who were mean to him once, and his wife Jordan (dressed like the Bachelorette during her final rose ceremony) in the middle of the desert, the real Jordan has also fled to Venezuela, an exotic land where there’s ALWAYS an outdoor street festival and she—a BARREN WOMAN—gets to live out her days slinking around in maxi dresses and helping Ani take care of Ray’s latest progeny. (By the way, Gena got the paternity test done and Ray is Chad’s father.) GIRL POWER.
What an elegant and wide display of complex female characters.
Very subtle stuff.
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Images via HBO.