The stars of last night’s finale of True Detective were Errol Childress’
Cary Grant accent, his mentally challenged stepsister, his creepy labyrinth,
and Rust’s epiphany about love in the universe—which sucked up air time at the
expense of about 90% of the case details—details that, for my money, were far
more interesting than Rust’s epiphany. Will
Rust exact revenge on the Tuttle family? Will Marty and Rust continue to fight crime
together as private dicks? Why was Billy’s mouth sewn shut? If he was dead, why
was he so well-preserved? Will we ever find out why Errol had those burn marks
on his face? What was the song Errol was whistling? While
speculative pairings for Season 2 abound on Twitter, actor Matthew McConaughey
recently told a reporter, “We won’t be back for season two…Season one was
finite. Eight episodes, that’s the [end of conversation].”
So how are you
going to quench that thirst for a tall glass of hardboiled noir topped with a
side order of pedophile rings, smothered in police corruption until season 2—if
there is one? Try Red Riding, based on David Peace’s books, The Red-Riding Quartet. Set against a
backdrop of the Yorkshire Ripper murders, Red Riding’s narrative
complexity combined with grizzly brutality gave birth to a new subset of hardboiled
crime dubbed “Yorkshire Noir.” Three of Peace’s books were made into episodes
for Britain’s Channel 4, which ran in 2009 and were released theatrically in the states in
Detective stole big from Red Riding. It’s a far more savage depiction of
police corruption and poverty with fewer allusions to the occult and philosophy.
The three episodes run from 1.5-1.75 hours each. With all the rewinding you’ll
do to make sure you caught the dialogue, your total viewing time will be about
the same as True Detective—though Red Riding can’t compete with the time
suck of poking around Reddit for Yellow King theories or Googling “capuchon
Mardi Gras.” Sorry. Nothing will fill that hole.
Spoilers abound below, but with Red Riding’s thick-as-Hasty-pudding accents, it
helps to have a leg up. You can read the books first, watch with subtitles,
precede/follow your viewing with episode synopses, or all of the above—the way
some people do with Game of Thrones. It’s worth it.
1. Three Is A Magic Number
Detective and Red Riding jump through three different time periods. In True
Detective: 1995, 2002, and 2012; in Red Riding: 1976, 1980, and 1983. The time
jumps and fractured narrative throughout True Detective, and in the second
two episodes of Red Riding allow us to witness the evolution of the characters—as
well as their cognitive dissonance. We see the mistakes they’re making as they
make them—and that they’re telling lies as they tell them. We watch Marty give the
court reporter a rim job in the past, while his voice over in the present lectures,
“A man without a family can be a bad thing.” But as Rust will tell you,
linear time’s for squares.
Time jumps give
the storylines more ambiguity and slipperiness. In both, every crucial,
case-breaking detail has been reported to, and ignored by, the cops. Files and
evidence have been lost, hidden, and destroyed. But because we’re time jumping,
if it’s an important detail, we’ll touch on it again and again. Most detective
stories trot out their flashbacks at the end, like Murder She Wrote, which
always made clues found in the linear present glint and yell, “Look at me! I’m
a broken fireplace poker!”
2. Location, Location, Location
Place is as
crucial in both True Detective and Red Riding as any of the stories’ characters.
For True Detective, the hurricane-ravaged bayou landscape of Louisiana
reminds us all that men and their machinations inevitably fall victim to nature’s
insatiable maw. Think of all those long aerial shots of the water slicing the
land to lace. If you stand still long enough, kudzu’s gonna choke you out.
Riding takes place in the green-grey drizzle of Yorkshire. Historically, the land’s
awash in blood. One long shot of a doomed little girl wandering home along Yorkshire’s
ancient, narrow streets—flanked by dilapidated shacks that look like Charlie
Bucket’s house in Willie Wonka and the
Chocolate Factory, from which a rheumy set of eyes peers out a toaster-sized
window—says it all: these angelic little moppets have been fodder for the grinding
stone from time immemorial.
3. Cops Gone Wild
says, “I’m police. I can do terrible things to people with impunity,” it
means he’s capable of doing bad
things. When a bunch of cops boisterously toast, “To the North! Where we do
what we bloody want!” we know they are
doing bad things.
In both shows, the gray concrete towers and power lines of factories and plants
loom in the background, reminding us that police and pedophiles aren’t the only
ones killing off the residents. The poor are prey; cops, religious jerkoffs,
and corporations are hunting them for sport. No one’s watching. No one cares. Bludgeoned
on the ground, choked by the air.
5. Thick Regional Accents
all the dick swagger you roll you can’t spot crazy pussy?” was one of True
Detective’s shiniest gems, but if Rianne Olivier’s
crab trappin granddad’s “Ehbuhdy dink
dey gone beh sometin
dey nat” made you swoon, Red Riding is for you. These
lads are not only slogging through Yorkshirese, they’re hardcore mumblers and
furtive whisperers to boot. Subtitles help, but David Morrissey (the Governor
for The Walking Dead and Time Lord Jason Lake on Doctor Who) is especially
incomprehensible—yet one of the most compelling characters in the series. You
just gotta sit back and let his deee-licious chocolate-colored corduroy suit
and tan tie do the talking.
6. ‘Staches Make the Men
sideburns, beards, mutton chops, bugger grips, mouth mirkens, and chin
chocolate. In Red Riding and True Detective’s sea of face pubes, it’s the clean-shaven
characters who seem out-of-step with the world and estranged from their own consciences.
As 2010 Rust gets in the Gregg Allman face lace race , his perceptions of the
case and himself grow clearer (“I know who I am. And after all these years,
there’s a victory in that”) whereas clean-cut Marty doesn’t know who he really
is until he cries in his hospital bed. In Red Riding, the squeaky-cleanest
character, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Hunter, is thoroughly despised
by everyone, including the woman he had an affair with and wants to have an
affair with again (she really doesn’t
In True Detective, bodies are adorned with deer antlers; in Red Riding, severed swan wings are sewn
onto a young victims’ back—and wolves, pigs, and rats figure prominently.
8. Ritualistic Abuse & Murder
I was glad the glimpse we saw of the
video tape recording of Marie Fontenot’s murder was mostly blocked by
Marty’s back—and the grainy black and white snippet we could see looked like an
early episode of Dark Shadows. Most of the violence on True Detective was “witnessed” through
the retelling of people’s stories. We weren’t forced to watch violence
happen—except for shooting Reggie LeDoux—and damn, that felt good. We saw the crime scenes and the
survivors—not the act of violence, but the aftermath. While Red Riding
normally excels in the violence department, it turns the camera away in a similar
scene to the one where Marty discovering the kidnapped children in the storage
shed* at Reggie LeDoux’s cook house. Red
Riding skips the gory visuals on that one, too. The violence perpetuated
against children in Red Riding is seen only in one dimly lit flashback**,
which is as haunting as that scene from The
Shining with the man in the tuxedo and the person (?) in the bear suit.
9. Transsexual Prostitute Survivors of Ritualistic Abuse & Murder
BJ and Johnny Joanie: the boys who
got away grew up very, very gay (and one of them lives in a storage shed*). Just
once, I’d like to see a show in which the boy who survives ritualistic abuse
grows up to be Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Guy Fieri or someone like that.
10. *Storage Sheds & Garages (pronounced gairijiz)
When you need to lay low. How low?
Like Jim Nabors singing “The Impossible Dream” low.
11. Ludicrously One-Dimensional Female Characters
Red Riding and True Detective are both Bechdel Bombs.
Aside from the trailer park madam, (“Girls
walk this earth all the time screwing for free. Why is it you add business to
the mix and boys like you can’t stand the
thought? I’ll tell you: It’s ‘cause suddenly you don’t own it, the way you thought you
did.”), the women
characters in True Detective are
fairly brainless: they’re dead, sluts, dead sluts, guileless children, nagging
wives, or old, sick women.
When Maggie tries to break out of her
dutifully duped wife role by having an affair with Rust, he gives her a taste
of some Real Man Lovin’—without all that fairy tale frosting on top that
Marty’s been keeping her down with. And how does that Real Man Lovin’ taste to
Maggie? Like licking a Port Authority payphone: totally scary and gross. So she
pulls her little pink panties back on and high tails it home—implying good
women can’t handle real male sexuality: it’s too gross. Eeeeeew! Which reminds
me of that Louis CK bit about men being naturally besieged by disgusting sexual
“Women try to compete. [in a woman’s
voice] ‘Well, I’m a pervert. You don’t know. I have really sick sexual
thoughts.’ No, you have no idea. You
have no idea. See, you get to have those thoughts. I have to have them. You’re a tourist in
sexual perversion. I’m a prisoner there. You’re Jane Fonda on a tank. I’m John
McCain in the hut. It’s a nightmare. I can’t lift my arms.”
The most developed female character in Red Riding is the stunned
mother of one of victims who’s playing both sides of the fence and leaking information
to her daughter’s wealthy killer. She’s a blond, breathy, sad, soft-focus
nitwit. The other is a medium who wails a lot. I like her, but she does indeed
wail a lot.
Is it possible to create a similar police
corruption/pedophile ring premise with a female protagonist? Sure. Jane Campion
did it in Top of the Lake, along with bringing other very unique female characters to the story (Holly Hunter plays a
character I’ve never seen anywhere) and lots of unexpected twists. It’s another
great show to alleviate True
Detective withdraw, but Top of the Lake becomes much more about its
cop protagonist (Elisabeth Moss)—and her intimate relationships—than the
criminals she’s chasing. And it lacks the estrangement of noir.
Detective and Red Riding are pure noir—which the
Oxford Dictionary defines as fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and
moral ambiguity. It’s a genre in which women, historically, have been double-D wooden
window dressing. There’s such a complete absence of actualized female
characters in both True
and Red Riding—in the midst of
such intelligent writing—it’s beyond oversight. It’s a kind of willful
blindness: because Marty (and most of the other men on the show) can’t see
women as three-dimensional characters, let’s not have any. But then again, how
many evolved women would be caught dead in the storyline of True
Detective or Red Riding? There’s a reason why smart
women do not attend dog fights. True
Detective might have a season
2, and a chance to redeem itself. I
could easily see the cast of American Horror Story: Coven eatin’ them Tuttle
boys alive. Throw Patricia Arquette in there, and cue a Cajun rendition of the theme
12. Mentally Challenged Men with Physically-challenged Testicles
If you think women get the short end of the stick in True Detective and Red Riding, try being a mentally
challenged man. True
Burt with his bowl cut and Red Riding’s
Michael Mishkin with his finger twisting twitch share 1) a childlike inability
to withstand the violence of poverty, and 2) nonfunctional testicles. They’ve
been unburdened with all that scary sexuality simmering under Cole’s surface
and right on top of Marty’s. In True
Detective Burt has been maimed by criminals, whereas
in Red Riding, Michael’s disfigurement is congenital, but that doesn’t
mean he hasn’t suffered at the hands of cops.
This is a key difference in the shows: when Marty’s beating
the snot out of the skate punks, you can kind
of understand why. They did
double-team his daughter, after all. But in Red Riding, the violence is incomprehensible. No one beats Yorkshire cops
at beating the shit out of people; they’re sadists, and the greatest source of the
city’s pain—if not at their own hands, then by omission, by allowing
others—through their wealth or influence—to inflict pain on the little people.
As Sonchai, the Buddhist cop in Bangkok 8,
tells us, cops are merely a few incarnations away from being criminals. Red Riding’s got a lot
more bad cops on the payroll. Even the good ones are shits.
13. Kings & Crowns
Red Riding’s labyrinth can’t hold a
candle to the Yellow King’s, but we learn that the same kind of games have been
played there for many years. **“Mr.
Piggott is king today. You be nice to Mr. Piggott.”
L. Knox is
the author of three books of poems, The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway, Drunk by
Noon, and A Gringo Like Me—all available from Bloof
Books—and Holliday, a chapbook of
poems written in the voice of Doc Holliday. Her writing has appeared in The
New Yorker, The New York Times, and four
times in the Best American Poetry series. She is at work on
her first novel.
4 thoughts on “13 Ways in Which RED RIDING Can Satisfy Your Jones for TRUE DETECTIVE”
Errol did a James Mason impression from NXNW, not Cary Grant.
oh and bbc's the fall was great,it was on last year.
i prefer it to TD,far more intense and it also does something so original with tired serial killer vs cop tv show.
also has a great female lead who chews up and spits out tough guys
strong female leads?
check out prime suspect,it was on in the uk years ago,helen mirren is the star.and its generally considered to be the forerunner of all this decade and the lasts great drama.sopranos,breaking bad etc.
very bleak,lots of child murders,sex crimes,peado rings and cops with the morals of ted bundy.
and helen mirren is beyond amazing in it.
Red Riding was made for Channel 4 in the UK, nothing to do with the BBC.