True Detective: The Great War and Modern Memory
January 14, 2019 3:13 PM - Season 3, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Retired detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali), has a memory problem, and memories of a memory problem, all relating to the case of the missing Purcell children in West Finger, Arkansas, thirty-five year ago.

From the AV Club review:
A missing person, a murder, a touch of Southern gothic. Two stone-faced men driving through a desolate countryside. A narrative jumping from decade to decade, following the detective’s voice as he slowly, so slowly, spills the tale to us, and to the men in the deposition room who already know it. Long overhead shots of roads, always roads. True Detective is back.
posted by fleacircus (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I already love it a lot more than I did season 2, so that’s promising. I do wish they wouldn’t all mumble quite so much, even if it does make for a gritty atmosphere.
posted by lydhre at 6:24 PM on January 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure yet. I feel like they may have been overdoing the ominous atmosphere a bit. I'll keep watching but I hope that that it's not all so dirge-like.
posted by octothorpe at 6:57 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

So far nothing in it is pushing the limits, and there's little things that threaten to balloon into badness. I am not sure what they can do to capture the otherworldly dread. A Leng reference ain't enough. Hays having memory problems could get interesting... they've made things seem too sinister to just tell a replacement level crime story straight up.

Mahershala Ali is carrying the show on his face so far.
posted by fleacircus at 7:06 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I thought it was OK, even though they seem to be reusing a lot of the same beats from Season 1 (maybe because of the overall failure of 2). I agree that Mahershala Ali is far and away the best part of the show. I'm way more interested in him than I have been in any protagonist so far. I have some questions about the 2 episode premier, but can't remember what was shown when, so I'll hold of on asking those.
posted by codacorolla at 8:06 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

I went ahead and posted that episode as well.
posted by fleacircus at 9:40 PM on January 14, 2019

Yeah, lots of familiar elements from season 1. Ominous handicrafts hanging from trees, with seemingly ritualistic murders happening nearby. Detectives being interviewed as we watch through a camcorder’s screen. Detectives that favour cheap Japanese watches.

I loved season 1 and I’m optimistic so far on 3, I just hope it’s not a retread.
posted by good in a vacuum at 10:15 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

A Leng reference ain't enough.

I didn't catch the Leng reference, where was it?

Overall I really liked this as somebody who loved the first season and finally threw up my hands about the second one. (I recently ran across this hilariously convoluted and accurate recap of the state of play just prior to the season 2 finale, spoilers for that season, obviously.) So far I am not just cautiously optimistic but regularly optimistic about season 3.
posted by whir at 10:27 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

When Hays is going through the son's room there's a (fake) AD&D splatbook titled Forest of Leng.
posted by fleacircus at 12:29 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

True Detective Season 3 Horror Diary: The Forest of Leng (Peter Counter for That Shelf, a media review website)
In season one, much ado was made of Carcosa, realm of the King in Yellow — both references to Robert W. Chambers’ 19th century horror stories that H.P. Lovecraft incorporated into his own fiction, and went on to be shared throughout the weird fiction subgenre of horror. This time around, careful viewers will have noticed a Dungeons & Dragons game book in the bedroom of the missing Will Purcell titled “The Forest of Leng.” Putting aside the similarities with a more family-friendly horror series set in the 80s about a lost nerd named Will, the century-old literary reference is easy to trace: Leng is another of those terrible places from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft, but unlike Rust in Carcosa, I don’t think we can bet on our hero having a climactic fight in its literal catacombs.

In the literature, Leng is not a forest, it’s a plateau, but that’s not as important as the fact that it only exists in dreams. A northern region of the dreamlands in Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Leng is only a place you can find in your mind. It is a dark and daemonic place, described in the story as “hideous” and a place “no healthy folk visit and whose evil fires are seen at night from afar.” Allegorically it’s a powerful symbol in True Detective 3, which is all about the ephemeral places in our minds, from which we’ve been separated by that cruel flat circle we call time.
Expanded reading list from the first episode: True Detective: The Crucial Literary Allusions You Might Have Missed in the Premiere (Joanna Robinson for Vanity Fair)
... when Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) stumbles across an Authorized D&D manual in Will Purcell’s room titled THE FORESTS OF LENG, it’s time to sit up and pay attention, because no such manual exists. The Forests of Leng will yield no hits on your Google search—but the Plateau of Leng might. This is a fictional realm created by H.P. Lovecraft that has been alluded to again and again by titans in the fantasy realm, including Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Stephen King, and George R.R. Martin. In Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, for example, Leng is an isolated island inhabited, in part, by a culture that worships the “Old Ones,” who dwell underground in subterranean ruins and labyrinths. In short, Leng is a mysterious, fog-shrouded place where old monsters live. It’s likely no coincidence that the instant Hays found the manual, True Detective director Jeremy Saulnier cut to to Arkansas cops searching a supernatural-looking, misty field.
Robinson also writes about Roland West's name in relationship to Stephen King and a real-life medieval military leader under Charlemagne, and identifies the two Robert Penn Warren as "Tell Me a Story" and "IV. Love and Knowledge," before linking Amelia's novel to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and a more direct parallel in Arkansas investigator and writer Mara Leveritt, who wrote best-selling books about several real-life Arkansas murders that have direct parallels to the fictional Purcell case (more from Vanity Fair).
posted by filthy light thief at 8:35 AM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

After season 2, I'm only watching this because of Mahershala Ali. Not really feeling it yet, pace is a bit slow, hope it picks up.

Dreading the inevitable "Satanist kids did" it plot line.
posted by Pendragon at 12:49 PM on January 15, 2019

My guess is that it's going to get pegged on Satanist Kids (and suspicious Native American outsider), but will actually be closer to the power structures of the small town. That itself is a kind of boring trope, but I doubt they'd go full on santanic panic, since there's already the theme of Hays not being trusted since he's a person of color.
posted by codacorolla at 1:37 PM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

The satanist kids storyline actually seems like it may be a reference Paradise Lost, the HBO documentary series that helped to exonerate "satanist" kids convicted of murder. The section of the interview about the Black Sabbath t-shirt reminded me of that a lot.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:24 PM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

I love it so far, but I knew I would when I saw the posters with morose detective and pretentious quote. I was so pleased when I saw the episode title--it's like the writer thought, how can I make it clear that this will be about WAR and MEMORY and that I like to read books.

I watched True Detective S1 last year unspoiled, absolutely loved it (including the ending), and was surprised when I looked online and saw all the theories. I also watched S2, and, well... MetaFilter warned me about Vince Vaughn's "acting". It wasn't completely terrible, and I think it could have been good if it had focused on Colin and Rachel (can't remember the character names) as mismatched buddy cops investigating bird mask murders and political corruption.

Back to S3... this feels like a remix. A remix of S1, along with the southern gothic, Lovecraft, Dirty Harry, West Memphis 3, satanic panic, and every single noir about damaged men staring down evil. It's a mood piece, not a fair play mystery where you can play along and guess the murderer, and it's obvious that Pizzolatto has absorbed not only the Chandler of "The Simple Art of Murder," but also the Chandler who didn't know or care who killed the chauffeur.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:58 PM on January 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

A really minor criticism of this episode is that the kids' bedrooms are way too neatly staged and tastefully arranged. It seems minor, but they looked so perfect it just threw me out of it.
posted by fleacircus at 3:31 AM on January 19, 2019

I loved this, and am very excited about the season. I watch the first 2 episodes last night and was completely enthralled the whole time. But, to be fair, I'm an absolute sucker for slow, atmospheric, worlds and well-grounded characters.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:38 AM on January 22, 2019

I'm really enjoying the mix of three time periods here. The people responsible for the aging makeup are doing a really impressive job--it looks completely realistic to me.

I also didn't bother to watch more than the first episode or two of season two. Maybe it got better, but it hit the eight deadly words right off the bat.

But we call those fire towers in Mississippi. Do they really call them ranger towers in Arkansas?
posted by asperity at 12:10 PM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, I loved the first meeting between Wayne and Amelia. That was really sweet, and definitely helped sell me on caring what happens to these characters.
posted by asperity at 12:13 PM on January 24, 2019

While we're focusing on the literary references, let's not forget the one in the title: The Great War and Modern Memory (Google Books, where you can read the first 42 pages), by Paul Fussell. I can't remember how I first came across this book, but it is wonderful. Its author describes it as "An Inquiry into the Curious Literariness of Real Life," and it is full of examples and analysis of "the literary dimensions of the trench experience itself," but it also contains fairly stark illustrations of how quickly the reality of modern warfare sank in:
At the beginning of the war, a volunteer had to stand five feet eight to get into the [British] army. By October 11 the need for men was such that the standard was lowered to five feet five. And on November 5, after the thirty thousand casualties of October, one had to be only five feet three to get in.
In one of my favorite parts, the author traces the influence of the chapter "Of the Open Sky" from the first volume of John Ruskin's Modern Painters on descriptions in diaries and letters of the sky as viewed from the trenches. Another favorite is the list of "low" and "high" language used in descriptions of the war (on pages 21-22 of the Google Books version linked above).

The book is too rich for me to try to suss out what (if anything) other than the title served as inspiration for the title of this episode, but it's a highly recommended read.
posted by mabelstreet at 8:20 PM on May 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

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