Wednesday, January 29, 2014

True Detective - Bad Men



"The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door."


Recently I've written about "The Beast Within" from the SyFy show, "Helix" and before that, "Inner Demons" from the previous episode of True Detective.  The dark side of humanity is the underlying theme to all these shows and it's an age old concept that's been explored on stage, in the pages of books and on the silver screen.

That of the mindless primitive, the beast, the denizen of the "Locked Room."

True Detective continues its decent into the maelstrom of the human mind and with it the dance that goes along the razor's edge between criminality and humanity.


 Naturally, the opiate of this internal struggle, religion, leads off this most recent entry.  

Also, naturally, Detective Rust Cohle holds an opinion on religion and the people who practice it.  He dryly observes an old time religion tent meeting by noting the people that habituate it, "won't be splitting the atom" any time soon and goes on to say about religion's role in our existence, "What does it say about life that (religion) violates every law of reality just to get (us) through the day."

Woody Harrelson's Detective, Martin Hart, eventually counters that man needs boundaries.  These boundaries form a natural firewall that keep the beast within locked up.  These boundaries that Hart speaks of are tenuous at best and when broken down, such as seeing your lover dancing with another man, the beast is unleashed and acts out it's worst impulses.  Luckily for Hart those impulses didn't go quite over the edge.


It was funny to watch Rust Cohle at the same dance.  He obviously knew what he was doing on the dance floor and it was much to the delight of the young woman that partnered with him.  Yet despite his artistry he seemed oddly distant and eerily robotic.  He would stare off into the distance and pace himself through the motions instead of engaging in the practice of dance that is often a precursor to the act of love or lovemaking.

Cohle's boundaries and his disdain for the "biological puppets" of humanity have left him on the outside looking in.  So we have to ask ourselves, which boundary is worst to violate?  The one that Hart crosses in his jealous rage or the one that leaves you incapable of human interaction that Cohle resides outside of?


So why all this discussion about boundaries and beasts?

The question has been asked once and believe it was by Cohle, if the murders were solved and their man caught.  Who committed the most recent murder and basically was it Cohle or Hart?

This particular episode offers more insight into the inner workings of each man and while we thrill at the chase of the now named suspect, Reggie LeDoux, we can also marvel at the complexity of Cohle and Hart and whether the locked room of the human mind was opened in one of them and how this will eventually dovetail with solving the crime by the end of the series.


For Cohle's profile, we know his a bit of a sociopath, he's deeply cynical and distrustful.  He tells Hart at one point in this episode, "People incapable of guilt usually have a good time."  Translated, if you can't keep your inner beast locked up inside your morally governed locked room, then trouble awaits.

Cohle also suffers from insomnia and Hart has accused him of being myopic.  This is good if you are in pursuit of a serial killer but it gets bad if you are constantly staring into the eyes of the dead.


If are to believe Cohle is capable of the same crimes he is investigating  then it is revealing that he perceives a look of relief in the eyes of the victims just before they die and captured in their photographs.  Would he commit such a crime if he thought it brought relief to the victim?


 

In going through the reams of information of previous murders Cohle discovers something "archetypal" which for a detective is excellent work but for a killer it sets the base line from which you execute your subsequent crimes.  Cohle shares this with Hart and it represents a big break in the case.  But does this familiarity with criminal archetypes represent good police work or the foundation for crimes to be committed by Cohle in the future?


As for Hart we've seen the pious man reach his breaking point fuel by booze and the sight of his lover with another man.  He forces his way into Lisa's apartment and nearly throttles her date to death.  Fortunately for the date he only had to answer a simple question in order to earn his release.

Lisa is Hart's kept woman.  And to some degree, so is his wife, Maggie.  He demands much of both but gives little in return.  He uses Lisa for his sexual release and when Maggie confronts him once again with whatever secret he is keeping, he breaks down and confesses he is "fucked up.'

This leads to a love making session which is exactly what Maggie shouldn't have done for him.  Hart gets what he wants, to distract Maggie from her suspicions and to use her as a sexual tool.  If you think women are getting short shrift in this series you are wrong.  At least to some degree.  Men are the much weaker and debased gender here.

If you think back to the previous episode.  The madam at the bunny ranch saw right through Hart's sympathies.  She immediately saw him as false and dismissed his efforts to release Beth (Lili Simmons of Banshee) from her so called servitude at the brothel.  Harts good intentions were rejected as projection and pretension. 

Does Hart's low opinion of women translate into a future as a sexual predator?  Maybe, maybe not.  The seed of doubt have been planted.



In my previous post of True Detective I cited the failure of Martin Hart to shield his daughters from the evil that men do.  Somehow the more heinous acts he has to deal with have crept into his family life and were recreated in a creepy doll scene.  

In this episode the eldest of the two girls have been caught drawing crude and  "ugly" pictures of men and women having sex.  Inappropriate for her age and troubling for her parents.  As Maggie tried to relate the earnestness of this situation to Martin he had trouble pulling his eyes from the TV screen as he cradled the girl.  When he combed through the pictures later he seemed as confused as he did when he saw the doll scene.

Did he introduce this debauchery into his family?  Why does he let it fester?  Will this have any implication on the murder ten years hence when the girls are in their teens?  (That's one theory I won't get into quite yet.)



It would be a shame to see either Cohle or Hart commit the copy cat crime that happened in 2012.  Both are sympathetic figures that were obviously damaged by the the very dedication they show to their careers.

While Cohle is distant and odd he's obviously lonely and trapped in the depths of grief.  For his part, Hart knows all the rules and set up the proper life any man would strive for.  He just can't remain faithful to his own rules. 





By the end of this series we can only hope there isn't a monster at the end of their dreams.



Sunday, January 26, 2014

Helix - The Beast Within.


As Charlie Brown would say,


I think we all knew Doreen wasn't long for this world.  (Especially, if you checked her IMDB page.)



But I think her death at the hands of Major Balleseros was bitter indeed.

Murder, mayhem and betrayal stalked the most recent episode of Helix, "Single Strand."  It was the discovery of that "single strand" that ultimately led Major Sergio Balleseros to eliminate Doreen.  He was playing her for a patsy and using her until she confirmed the findings he needed to know.

I think when he said to her, "I like you too" he meant it.  The two seemed to have real chemistry and certainly they were thick as thieves with the little secret they kept from Dr. Alan Farragut.  United with the same goal and seeking to help others, Doreen and Sergio made quite the dynamic duo.

That ended.  (No more snarky quips like that, "Fox Mulder crap" from her!)

As the viewing audience, we had the right to suspect Sergio and as the episode proceeded we got further confirmation that Dr. Hatake and he were working together.  As Sergio noted to Hatake, the virus that was created did not come, "as advertised" and as promised to "our employers."


The betrayal continued as Dr. Hatake, with security man Daniel in tow, met with the three, "not so wise men" and extended an olive branch to them in order to get the oxygen scrubbers back on.  Like Sergio, Hatake was willing to murder the people that trusted him in order to cover up his machinations.

But what is it exactly they are covering up?

We learned a little more about the virus this past episode thanks to Doreen.  She discovered a genetic message that was, "a massive splice job" in a "completely unidentified single strand" that stood to change people, "from the inside out."

Super humans?  Super soldiers? (Very X-Filey.) Super mystery!



I like the byzantine nature of this show.  Not only does the plot have many twists and turns but the facility itself seemingly goes on forever and contains many secret rooms, alcoves and stairwells.  An architecture that lends itself to the paranoid and claustrophobic nature of the show.  I half expect a Minotaur to be guarding the labyrinth of pathways or like in Dante's Inferno, lay in wait near the seventh circle of Hell.





Doesn't it follow logically that we'll come across a beast of such nature in this show?  If the virus looks to change people from the inside out and perhaps convert them to some sort of super human or soldier then shouldn't we expect to see one of our characters converted into such a man/beast?



I have a candidate!  Let's face it, Daniel is a bit brutish already and he'd make a perfect Minotaur to guard Hatake's secrets.


Then again, if we are looking for a super soldier then why not start with one that has the makings already?  (It was certainly beastly what he did to Doreen!)


I suppose if we are going to pursue the metaphor of the beast guarding the gated secrets then Hatake should be the prime suspect.


He doesn't even have to transform himself into some sort of zombified freak much like the one he stared down as he proceeded along the hallways.  As posited before, he may have already infected himself, applied the SODRA cure and survived the consequences.  He has just chosen not to reveal himself.


Speaking of reveals, Dr. Julia Walker found herself not to be alone in her own private circle of Hell.


We meet the lovely, "Jaye" who along with Julia has been separated from the rest and left to fend for herself.  She seems resourceful and every bit the survivor such as "Newt" from the Aliens movie.


It is along with Jaye that Julia discovers one of the real mind benders of this series.  We know Hatake is interested in Julia and we learned from the temporarily cured, Peter, that Hatake has a bit of obsession for her and he relays this on to Alan.

What is the nature of this obsession?  Has Julia been there before?  As what, a child?  How long has this facility been around???!!!

Evil can take on many forms in this show.  Not the least of which is the murderous bent of some of it's characters whether the have been infected or not.  How much further must we descend into the depths of Hell before we find out what is really going on?  The advertising for this series reminds you of the consequences when one attempts to play God.  Perhaps that is a bit of a canard in and of itself.  As Doreen noted, the single strand seeks to manifest a trait.

Maybe it is not God that we'll find at the end of the maze but the Beast that is already within.








 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

True Detective - Inner Demons





We really haven't plumbed the true depths of the mystery behind the crimes in True Detective but after the second installment we have learned a lot more about the detectives investigating it.

I'm fascinated with the acting of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.  As Detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart respectively, the personalities of the lawmen they portray seem just as frightening as any criminal or crime they may be investigating.

We learned a little more about Harrelson's Hart this past entry and as much as Hart was portrayed as a straight arrow in the first episode with deep religious convictions and a solid sense of family.  We found that only to be skin deep by the second.


Despite his moral and religious outrage over Cohle's philosophy of mankind, Hart doesn't seem to have any conviction in his own morality judging from his extra marital affair.  If he does then he's reached the depths of self deception.

Hart has rationalized his affair as a way of burning off steam and safeguarding his family from the malicious nature of his job.  This hasn't fooled his wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) who is sure he is hiding something and is not afraid of calling him out on it.  Hart retreats from the accusations by falsely claiming his is protecting his family and her suspicions are unfounded and irrational.

She's not buying it and basically calls him a coward for hiding behind his job and his family obligations.  Hart steadfastly refutes her revealing himself to just as two faced as she suspects.

His partner isn't buying it either.  It only took a few moments for Cohle to deduce Hart has been fooling around by his "smell" and the fact he is wearing the same clothes as the day before were a dead giveaway.  Once again, Hart retreats behind the moral outrage that Cohle is somehow intruding on his personal life and his relationship with his wife.  Just like Maggie, Cohle is unconvinced and reveals he even a tougher cookie than Hart realizes.  The tables are turned on Hart when Cohle displays a physical prowess Hart did not count on plus the fortitude to reject Hart's weak accusations.


As far as shielding his family from the heinous acts of men, Hart has a cruel lesson to learn.  For his young daughters have made a plaything of his fears and have incorporated it into their fun and games.  Hart didn't look overtly shocked at the sight of the dolls set up to represent a gang rape scene.  But his jaw did drop a little and it must be obvious even to him he has failed to shield his family and probably brought  the evil that men do into his own home himself.


You're probably thankful you didn't learn anymore about Rust Cohle by the end of the first episode.  He is obviously damaged and deeply disturbed.  Yet he functions and he carries out at least his job with the proficiency and expertise of a modern day Sherlock Holmes.  (And we all know Holmes had his demons.)

We also learned some valuable information this past episode. Specifically, how he got his job with Homicide.  We had discovered earlier Cohle has a problem with substance abuse.  Now we've learned Cohle had spent fours years with "Narco" and one doesn't take on that job unless you're willing to swim with the bottom feeders that habituate that world.  He came out of that experience so mentally and physically impaired that he had to be institutionalized.  When he came out, there was virtually no where else to go but to investigate murder. 

We also got a first hand look at his "powers of persuasion" when he "convinced" the two men at the garage to reveal the location of the bunny ranch where Dora Lange once plied her trade.  Cohle has an amazing facility towards outward calm that belies the roiling acrimony that rests in his soul.  This is truly a dangerous man.  To himself and to others.

Yet it was Cohle's expertise that brought them to the abandoned church by the end of the episode.   One marvels at his capacity to function despite the whirlwind that exists not far from the surface.

video

In one amazing sequence as Cohle and Hart near the arrival to their first major break in the case.  Cohle is shown hallucinating a gathering storm of clouds.  We see them form along the reflection of the car window and build as they draw closer.  Cohle looks somewhat overwhelmed yet he follws their progress knowing they ar a figment of his imagination.  As the clouds pass he drops his head in such sadness that it was keenly felt on this side of the TV.  This works metaphorically also as the two detectives inch closer to resolving the crime.  Things are bound to get worse.  McConaughey pulls of this little scence with such conviction that I found it a marvel of his acting skill.



When the two finally arrive at the abandoned church Cohle's visions haven't necessarily left him.  He becomes transfixed at the Starlings as they swirls before him.  Both he and viewing audience don't know whether this is for real or not and this just adds to the deeper pain experienced by both.


Additionally, from a metaphorical point of view, an owl sits atop the rafters of the burned out church as if embodying the wisdom that brought the detectives to this destination.  



Their perseverance has paid off despite the doubt of all that surround them and the doubt they have in themselves.


Beneath the Cross that still sits atop the church and beside the Gospel according to Mark lies the sickening avatar of a perverted religion that preys on women.  Finally progress.  It's a chilling reveal but it is followed by the end scene as the camera pans back and acknowledges there is a road ahead.  It leads into a vast and foreboding swampland where evil resides and our two damaged detectives must go.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sleepy Hollow - Jeremy's Spoken... Again.



Well, I didn't see that coming.  They said they had a surprise for us and I usually scoff at that kind of hype.  But this time the hype was lived up to and then some.

Sleepy Hollow had it's two part season finale Monday night and for the most part it was a tepid affair.  It is oh so difficult to live up to the penultimate episode of any season for any series.  Hollow gave us a shocker of an episode the previous week and I thought it would be difficult to match.

My reservations were pretty much confirmed for the first part of last night's entry.

In, "The Indispensable Man" our Sleepy Hollow Scooby Gang spent much of the episode building a drama that just didn't seem to have legs.


I appreciated the "DaVinci Code" like mythology and the episode had a "Natural Treasure" like feel to it.  Opening the secret tomb of George Washington with all it's fanfare is kibble to a history geek like myself.


And the fact that George Washington had himself turned into a zombie so he could transcribe a map to and from purgatory was pretty awesome.

Sadly, all of this was undercut over the confusion over whether the map was invaluable or not.  Or whether it was a trap laid by the forces of evil.  So, 200 plus years of alternate history went down the tubes because Ichy and Abbie decided their friendship was a lot more important and the map was burned.

Add to this Captain Irving giving himself up to protect Macey and a valuable piece was taken out of play.  (Not to mention his relatively short screen time.)  It seemed like Sleepy Hollow was spinning it's wheels.

That was about to change.


Come to think of it, Jenny got short shrift in this episode also.  I was pleased to see John Noble's character get so much screen time but it seemed like a little much since he really hadn't earned it the way the others had.

Oh dear. What a set up.

The next time Moloch comes up with a prophesy.  LISTEN!



The Witness Wonder Twins were thoroughly played.  Everything started out ok.  Abbie let Ichabod off the hook for his map recreation and we got a very cool "shattered mirror" entrance to the purgatory world.  It quickly went from all sweetness and dreams come true to a soul pulverizing creep fest.




Not quite as creepy as Macey's transformation that oozed with maleficence but pretty ooky none the less.  Ichabod and Abbie had passed their tests of temptation and the seemed to have the upper hand.  As we were to learn it was all part of the plan.

We've seem a lot of shows where there is a master puppeteer.  I'm not sure any of them could match the shrewd machinations of Mr. Moloch.  Divide and conquer are the staples to any successful military campaign and in this Moloch was the supreme commander.


To see Abbies's cozy little dream of a safe place turn into a nightmare of a prison was such a terrible twist.  (Terrible in a fantastically awesome evil way!)  But wait it gets better!


To see Henry Parish revealed to be the long lost Jeremy, son to Ichabod and Katrina was jaw dropping.  So very clever of the people behind Sleepy Hollow.  I bow before their greatness.  John Noble is a fan favorite.  To everyone that followed him from Fringe as the avuncular and beloved Walter Bishop this was indeed a shock.  Genius casting.  I was so played!

This actually follows naturally from "The Vessel" episode where young Macey was possessed and corrupted.  Now we find another youth that is tortured in his own right although Jeremy is corrupted in another way.  His feelings of abandonment were artfully co-opted by Moloch and he was granted the power of revenge. 


Well, not just revenge, the power to wage war against humanity.  How's that for embittered incentive?  Just as Abraham was given the power of the Headless Horseman and the first rider of the Apacalypse.  Now Jeremy is the second rider, War.


Now I know how Andy Brooks feels.  My head was spinning!

I stared at the TV screen in amazement.  I was flush with the excitement at being so completely surprised.  Then it hit me.  The good guys are completely screwed.

  • Ichabod has been banished to Jeremy's former prison (more family roots.)
  • Katrina has been given over to the Headless Horseman which must be worse than purgatory.
  • Abbie is trapped in a Dollhouse born of her own recrimination.
  • Jennie lays broken and vulnerable.
  • Irving is on his way to the big house.
  • Andy Brooks isn't going to be of any help since his own transformation.
  • Sineater Henry Parish has, well, changed jobs.
Who's left?

They.

Are.

Screwed.

I can only imagine Katrina may get her powers back or Macey has been transformed in a way we haven't imagined. 

Screwed.

What are your thoughts?  Do you see a way for good to overcome evil?  Were you as pleasantly blown away as I was? 

Share your thoughts while I get my head twisted back in the right direction!



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Helix - The Trojan Horse Virus



In computer speak aTrojan Horse Virus is a " type of malware program containing malicious code that, when executed, carries out actions determined by the nature of the Trojan, typically causing loss or theft of data, and possible system harm." (Wikipedia.)  

I don't think we have to question the "system harm" aspect of the virus in Helix.  I've been scratching my head on how many forms this virus takes and I stopped counting at three.  Of course it may be less as the symptoms take time to manifest and it may react differently according to the host type.

I thought of this pondering the fate of  Dr. Walker or Julia.  The viewing audience all knew she was infected thanks to Peter's "kiss" at he end of the last episode.  Her ex-husband Dr. Alan Walker discovers her in the shower and naturally she doesn't tell  him anything about her attack.

Naturally!

She's paranoid of course and her paranoia may even be a symptom of her infection.  (Plus, it makes a handy sci-fi trope.)  But I began thinking that her silence and paranoia may be a way of the virus protecting itself in a human host.  That way should could be a silent vector as opposed to Dr. Suliman's violent vector and Peter's passive aggressive vector.


I was a little surprised to see Peter give himself up.  Pleasantly surprised.  How long could he be the "Jaws" of the Arctic circle swimming around in the ducts and waiting to strike.  Now, not only has he given himself up for study but he has retained a modicum of humanity wherein he can actually ask for help instead of bouncing off the walls like Dr. Sulemani. 

Or, his type of Trojan Horse Virus is clever enough to get him into the lab where he can attack and eliminate the very few people positioned to save him and the rest of the infected.  Peter's intelligent vector may allow him prey upon the sympathies of those who love him like Alan and Julia.

Not good.


Dr. Sulemani's vector is the aggressive type.  The "Blue Screen of Death" type.  Too far gone to help and probably beyond saving in any fashion.  This is probably a more primitive form of the virus, one that acts out in order to spread itself as quickly as possible in order to grow and survive.



There is an easy way to stop her type of the virus.  It's hardly a cure but it is effective.  Sadly for Dr. Farragut it is not what he had in mind.  (Such an ironic twist of fate from his earlier stance when Daniel shot Sulemani.)

Is there another form of Vector?


Has Dr. Hitaki been infected and cured?  Is he still a host despite the cure?  The most intelligent vector of them all?  We all know he is hiding something (many things) and he may be one of the 25% that survived the SODRA cure.  He's paranoid which is in keeping with the infection and he is hiding in plain sight, pulling all the strings and in complete control of the facility. 

This is just a guess at this point.  The project is his baby and he may do anything to protect it any case.  But think of this, by giving Alan just enough rope, Alan may be able to perfect the SODRA cure to 100% making Hitaki's virus a complete success and allowing Hitaki to market his invention as he ultimately intended.  Whatever that is.  Now that would be an intelligent host.

It doesn't answer why Hitaki doesn't have any super human powers.  Perhaps he chooses not to exhibit them or perhaps the initial SODRA cure lessens their effectiveness.  In any case, Hitaki needs Farragut to perfect his infection/invention if my theory is proved to be correct.



 We'll have to keep a close eye on Julia.  She's infected but not too far gone.  She's paranoid but intelligent and self aware.  She's not a screaming banshee like Sulemani nor is she dripping with ooze like Peter Farragut. 

Maybe she is "progress" like Hitaki uttered when he first found Peter and forced water into him.

Other odds and ends...
  • Doreen keeping her monkey secret from Alan.  Good or bad paranoia?
  • Sergio blowing up the satellite disk.  Is is not with the Army?
  • The scar on Sarah's back.  What is up with that?