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‘True Detective’s’ Woke Makeover, Explained

Jodie Foster headlines fourth season of once-mighty HBO anthology series

HBO’s “True Detective” arrived as TV’s new Golden Age was in full swing.

The 2014 show, starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, stunned audiences and critics alike.

Quality will often do that.

The anthology series continued with stars like Vince Vaughn, Mahershala Ali and Colin Farrell, although subsequence seasons couldn’t capture the greatness of that searing debut.

True Detective - Season 1: Trailer - Official HBO UK

That was then.

Today’s TV shows are too often infected by woke, the practice of pushing progressive tropes that elbow out thoughtful, engaging stories.

The examples are too numerous to mention but consider the dramatic fall of the “Star Wars” brand as Exhibits A., B., C. and the rest of the alphabet.

Enter “True Detective: Night Country,” the fourth season of the series and the first new “Detective” yarn in five years. The latest installment is anchored by Oscar-winner Jodie Foster. HBO retains a solid reputation for smart, original shows, and Foster doesn’t jump on any ol’ film or TV show.

She’s picky and, more often than not, showcases her good taste in projects.

Not so fast.

True Detective: Night Country | Official Trailer | Max

Episode one of “Night Country” follows veteran cops (Jodie Foster and Kali Reis) as they untangle the disappearance of a research team and the enduring mystery behind a local activist’s murder

Set in the fictional Ennis, Alaska, the series quickly hits some stodgy woke notes. We meet an “empowered” woman who smacked a domestic abuser in the head with a metal bucket, leaving him unconscious.

She’s proud of her act when the police arrive, and the episode brings up and then dismisses any worries that the woman acted inappropriately. Is the guy dead? Eh, who cares? Domestic abuse is bad. Women are good. Black. White.

Weak.

The story beat isn’t even necessary. It’s a tell to show how men are crooked and women have had enough. That’s not storytelling. It’s a lecture. And it’s not the only one.

Foster’s character routinely dresses down her male colleagues because she’s super smart and they’re, well, men and therefore not so bright.

The show gets quickly bogged down in melodramatic subplots, including a teen girl filming herself having sex with her lesbian partner.

Because inclusion.

Later, Reis’ character is seen having sex with a male partner who looks uncomfortable mid-coitus. She ignores his protests and keeps on keeping on, oblivious to his pain and clearly the alpha in the situation.

Because empowerment.

Multiple times characters are dismissed for being “white,” the new slur enabled by DEI culture.

Need one more woke stroke? Reis’ character sabotages a car’s gas tank because she overheard the owner speaking crudely about women.

Is Ennis, Alaska a hotbed for misogyny? Perhaps. Storytellers can depict that in subtle ways, letting the audience fill in the gaps. Foster’s “Silence of the Lambs” did just that.

The 1991 classic showed how Foster’s character was outnumbered by male FBI agents, and they didn’t hide their disdain for a woman in their midst. One brief visual highlighted her small frame surrounded by larger, unsmiling men in an elevator.

Simple. Clean. Distinctive.

Feminist Forensics in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Director Jonathan Demme shared those details without interrupting the story. Foster’s Clarice Starling had to outwit Hannibal Lecter and outpace the bureau’s misogyny.

Brilliant. That’s hardly the case with “Night Country,” at least so far.

All of this distracts from “Night Country’s” chilling opener. An Alaskan research post is suddenly emptied of its all-male crew. The characters have some initial interest in this thread during episode one, but there’s more attention paid to a dead activist apparently silenced by her enemies several years ago.

That’s sad and tragic, but what about the research post with all the missing people? 

True Detective: Night Country Podcast | Episode 1 | Max

Showrunner Issa Lopez, who directed and co-wrote all six “Night Country” episodes, is already playing the woke defense for the series after just one installment. New episodes debut at 9 p.m. EST Sunday nights on HBO and Max.

Liberal critics are rallying to Lopez’s side, giving the show a 96 percent “fresh” rating. General audiences aren’t as smitten, but that grade is a not-terrible 71 percent.

That difference proved enough for Lopez to play the Victim Card.

“So, if you liked last night’s [episode] of [‘True Detective: Night Country‘], and have a Rotten Tomatoes account, maybe head over there and leave an audience review?” Lopez wrote to her followers. “The bros and hardcore fanboys of [Season 1] have made it a mission to drag the rating down, and it’s kind of sad, considering all the 5 star ones.”

If you don’t like “Night Country” you’re a sexist. And probably a racist, too.

Of course.

Variety rode to the rescue, suggesting Lopez is right and audiences are review-bombing the show because there’s no other reason for it to be attacked.

Lopez did not identify the exact reason why “True Detective” fans were trying to drag down the “Night Country” audience rating, but franchise entries led by women and/or an inclusive cast often become targets of review bombing. It happened to Marvel with “Captain Marvel” and to Sony with 2016’s “Ghostbusters” reboot, among other examples.

Meanwhile, some of the negative RT reviews of “Night Country” seem far from unreasonable.

Lazy writing, two dimensional characters and overacting. Complete disappointment, especially as Season 1 is my favourite TV series.

Jodie Foster was quite good, the other lead actor is exceptionally bad, having only one facial expression. I get that she’s a girl boss, but does that really mean she has to also be completely emotionless at all times? Even her most intimate (grape scene!?) felt very bland and flat. Most of the dialogue feels very cringe and unnatural, and the supernatural element is hammy and obvious. Disappointing so far!

I saw the complaints about review bombing, but that is NOT what I’m doing. This season simply doesn’t even come close to S1, or even the other two seasons. It’s weird and seems contrived. Acting not convincing. No like.

As a huge fan of the series, I have to say I’m disappointed with the first episode of the new season. I don’t want to drag this show down, but it was bad. The writing was the worst part, bet even the acting had me scratching my head. I hope this episode is not indicative of how the whole season will be. I will continue to watch and hope it gets better.

It’s possible “Night Country” episodes 2-6 sharpen the story’s focus and drop the virtue signaling. Perhaps.

It’s not a good sign that the show’s creator is attacking anyone who doubts “Night Country” is the best installment since the 2014 debut.

53 Comments

    1. Like Rep Crenshaw once said, I try not to be offended by things such as the author cited, and, instead, focus on the story, which has so far been intriguing enough to get me back for episode 2. I can probably offer reasonable counterpoints to his complaints, which BY THE WAY doesn’t make me woke. Dressing down male cops? C’mon, she’s old, she’s menopausal, she’s tired after a lifetime of crime, and she’s got two problems on her plate, the unsolved crime (tell me cops don’t get bitchy over unsolveds, old cold cases), and the baffling current one. Plus it’s cold and dark, day after day.

      Like I said, I’ll rate the story; I watch these things (and read novels) because I like stories. Period.

    2. The role reversal in this show is so concentrated it’s cringe. It’s obviously forced. Outside of that, it’s just a terrible show, the CGI, that opening scene with the elk jumping off the cliff with one of them getting a Vogue shot in before he falls for his death. Like WTF is this garbage…then the lesbian daughter pedophile? The women that goes over to the guys place, dominates him in bed, then leaves him? The complete masculin roles these women play… It’s like, just make them men FFS. It’s basically a man’s role but a women playing it. Just film a TV show .. why do you have to force this garbage agenda…

  1. The author of this article lacks critical thinking skills. Foster dresses down her male colleagues, and comes off as an overbearing and unfair boss. She also comes off as a terrible parent lacking communication skills. Further, Reis’ character sabotages a car’s gas tank of the guy who had hit the woman earlier, not just because of some random comment. The author of this article didn’t even comprehend the basic story.

    Not sure if the author, Christian Toto, is one of those overly fragile men, screaming “woke” whenever a strong female character is presented, but he sure isn’t very smart.

    1. Strong female characters are fine. Cartoonish, unbelievable, strong female characters make for a sucky show. This show has em in spades. And how many drunken abusive weak male characters are there? 3, 4? And the rest are weak, stupid or both. The show just sucks.

  2. It sounds so man hating in the first episode. What a waste of talent that should have been easily exploited for ratings. Woke always disappoints. Is Hollywood now going cover up it’s mistakes by giving it an award?

  3. The first episode is very over wokeified. Every single male character is weak in one form or another. Only the women are strong. Because only strong women and weak men want to live inside the artic circle you know. ??

  4. Yawn another red pulled moron. I’ve never met an objective thinker who uses the word woke. So in 1865, the woke people would be those who advocated for slavery to be abolished. Think about that, moron.

      1. The word moron is inaproppriate but he did defend his position with an example. You don’t have to agree with it but it’s there.

        1. The example he gave was just his opinion and was completely irrelevant. Opposition to slavery is no where near the same thing as the virtue signaling identity politics crap today.

    1. Actually, in 1865 the ones who mainly advocated for slavery to be abolished weren’t woke. They were mostly religious fundamentalists, the religious right. Saying that all men were created by God and were equal.

    2. Your confusing progress with forced compliance that isn’t indicative of reality or human nature for a utopian view that is truly only vindictive. When they say woke what they mean is forced compliance of social progress that skips actual aspects of logigical progress and goes straight to supporting and encouraging vindictive attitudes.

    3. In 1865, the “woke” cult would have very strongly supported slavery. “Wokeness” is a synonym for thoughtlessly swallowing every government approved narrative. It’s ironic, really. Wanting to abolish slavery in 1865 would have been controversial, something the “woke” cult is terrified of.

      1. There was no woke cult in 1865. Slavery was evil period. Everyone should have been agaisnt it. As far as your synonym, that’s YOUR synonym. And I’m with you about not swallowing government narrative but the original meaning of woke came out of discrimination and having an awareness of IT AND ALL social inequality. What’s happened is people have taken it too far on both the left and the right and in-bewteen. There are racists who think it’s woke to defend against racism and every time a work of art shines a light on it that’s a bad thing. But of course it’s not. Do some works of art take it too far? yes of course. But they also fail to remember that there was so much art in the past 100 years that was biased against awareness and diversity and so we’ve come to a point where the reaction has been strong. Would it be better not to bash our skulls over with it. Yes. But let’s not forget how we got here.

  5. I wonder, how offended do you get when a domestic abuser isn’t hit on the head or arrested? Are you left thinking; they should have focused more on how inappropriate his behavior is? Do you get upset when a male character talks down to… anyone? It’s funny, all the dudes who take so much pride in being tough men, are the whiniest little babies who wail louder than all the women who faked orgasms to shut them up.

    Oh heavens, a black person was cast, bring the smelling salts. A woman did something to a man that made me wince. Make it stop! I need all spaces to be safe spaces for ME or I AM NOT FREE!!!

    Pfft~~~~~~ You guys are everything you complain about to the nth degree. You’re just too asleep to see it. Would you feel better if we had your mom screen all the TV shows and movies before they come out? We don’t want you to get upset that not everything is made only for your viewing pleasure. Maybe I could bring you a pacifier and a box of tissues? If you people could hear yourselves, you’d call yourselves little girls.

    1. Straw men alert! There is subtle, smart storytelling … and then there’s woke storytelling. Literally hitting you over the head with The Message. True Detective literally does that … with and without a metal bucket.

    2. How about make it good and not mindless check a box stories? Lots of strong female characters are loved by people complaining about 1 dimensional dumb male hating leads.

      Liberals are ruining film and TV. One note Mary Sue women. Nonsense actions on the screen. “We get it, she’s a ‘tough girl’ and this is ‘inclusive'” How about spend a little more time on writing and the story and not these mindless tropes that are as smart and they are subtle?

    3. We usually get really offended by domesitic abuse and wonder where the other men in the woman’s life are, where her friends are, to put a stop to it. You may not like violence, but putting the boot to the abusing guy usually puts a break on things as long he believes it will come again if he transgresses. That is the way we handle abusers over on the “toxic male” side. You don’t want us until you want us.

      As to characters, we usually see supercilious a$$es for what they are, male or female and talking down to people can be one such indicator. However stereotyping either way isn’t correct nor does it make for interesting storytelling…right?

      The fact that we have the intelligence to recognize and question the poor story choices by the writers, the choices by the directors and actors, and want something MORE – not changing the themes, but doing better – kind of belies your whining about “men” and your abject sterotyping.

    4. Why do you sound like a child and can’t have one rational, logically point to make in a wall of text. Oh yeah, because you are a CHILD.

      1. And your ad hominem attack is a reasoned argument? Get some new material. It’s always, “child, bigot, misogynist, racist, etc., etc.” When you dont have anything to say.

  6. Perhaps if Foster were again paired with the likes of a young Adam Hann-Byrd, or with Anthony Hopkins, she could make something palatable. Absent such engaging characters, she’s simply too drab a personality to carry any production. Cast in a poor production, she merely highlights everything about it that is deplorable.

    Honestly, imagine Frances McDormand in any role Foster has played and Foster suffers from the comparison. Why she was again cast in an important role is unfathomable.

  7. Just shocked that the Foster character is not a black, asian, or hispanic lesbian. That will probably be revealed soon. Its tiresome, boring, and not very watchable.

  8. The problem with this show is that it’s not real world. It’s a contrived world that they wish it would be. By contrast I’m re-watching, The Wire now; and the one thing I get, having grown up in Baltimore, is that show is real…warts and all. People know what’s real and what’s not. And defending your product by calling your critics names is not any help.

  9. Once again Christian, I thank you for saving me the time and agony of wasting an hour on the first episode to discover this crap.

  10. Mr. Toto sounds a bit frightened by strong women characters. Perhaps he should drop and give us a few pushup to prove his manhood to himself.

    1. Name-calling is all you have isn’t it? There’s like a grab bag of words you all reach for when you can’t present a reasoned argument. Afraid, bigot, racist, sexist, white,.etc.

  11. It is telling just how bad today’s movies/TV are. I an re-watching DC’s Gotham in MAX now and it’s is just amazing how well done that show was compare to what we have today. Especially compared to how terribly bad anything new from DC is today.

    Nothing gets better until you get rid of the women in these companies.

  12. I was actually looking forward to this show. Even with the director’s comments about making it “female centric story” (paraphrasing) I still thought that it didn’t mean that it was goint to suck for sure. Really disappointed so far. If the next episode still sucks I’m cancelling my HBO subscription. And what actually pisses me off tha most is that they had a lot of potencial. Jodie Foster is one of my favorite actresses, they had a lot of audience goodwill (even though S2 and S3 were inferior to S1), they had a great setting for the mystery, the traileres alluded to the first season motif and so far they blew it. 100% of the time that a director, actor, producer or studio starts blaming the bad reviews, negative feedback and poor numbers of their product on the fans because “they are ” insert prefix ____ist, you the producted sucks and the creators can’t defend them as racional people and artists. How much better it would’ve been had the directr simply said: “Guys, this episode is part of an entire season, sometimes great fiction takes time to develop. Stick around and gives us a chance and maybe you’ll appreciate what we’ve tried to do. The mystery is just beggining and you’re still getting to know the characters and why they acted the way they act”. That way she would have shown humility and actually tried to focus on her story. She made it clear that there was nothing there to see, because in her mind all she is doing is denouncing racism, misogeny and if anyone didn’t like that means that they must be racist and woman haters…

  13. I didn’t think the 2nd and 3rd seasons were as bad as a lot of critics said; they just couldn’t compare to the magnificent 1st season with Woody and Matthew and Michelle Monaghan. I’ll watch the first episode but this one sounds horrible. And with Foster involved, is anyone really surprised? The left has completely infected entertainment with their woke garbage in the last 10 years. Really since the Big Orange Beast got elected and they all collectively lost their minds.

    Feels like we have passed the Golden Age of TV and are going downhill fast. Does anyone really expect shows as great as Sopranos, Breaking Bad and the first season of True Detective anymore? I’m too much of a pessimist to do so.

  14. Great article Mr. Toto! I see all the snowflakes on here with their uneducated analysis to protect woke culture. It is so easy to be offended nowadays.

  15. I am refreshed by these comments that I myself thought of as well. Season 1 gave me the confidence to write my first book, Tomb of the Bee. I am currently writing the sequel.

    My initial goal was to have it made as a season of this once prolific show. My sequel is significantly better (I believe), and it’s the story I expect viewers and admirers of Season 1 would enjoy.

    Down with this woke agenda ruining our most precious gift of storytelling.

  16. Most tv in the last decade is over woke, preachy, man-hating and neo-racist. Mind you… I’m a Hispanic. The self-appointed wardens of our society have decided that coarse,judgemental males make for an unruly herd to guide to the yoke that fills their pockets. So, they must be neutered or neutralized. Thats where we are at… men are no longer playing nice in society with incels dropping out of dating or marriage scenes. This has created a problem for some females who do want a traditional life after thirty, or thirty five and can’t find who to ma,make, baby with after hanging up their Jimmy Choo’s and before menopause. TV is not reality, and there’s a lot of good folks of both sexes out there. TV however is a role model factory, and they have abdicated the responsibility that comes with it. The public should contact the FCC whenever they find objectionable programing. Particular if said programing promotes hate towards groups for their race or sex. It could result in shows being pulled from syndication over racist or sexist content. Leave the rotten tomatoes to rot. I can tell you I’m not interested to watch this for the same reason I stopped going to catholic mass. I don’t need the preaching.

  17. Even setting aside the crammed down your throat bad-girl-boss-men-suck wokeness, this show was simply not up to par for HBO. From the first two scenes, they completely wasted the opportunity to use the landscape, the feel of the place. It was rushed, it was all rushed, and once you start realizing just how FAST the editing is, it makes you sick. SLOW it down! And why the 50 storylines jumping around? Did we need all this? Pare it back, slow it down, make it more atmospheric. In TD S1, they literally stop and look around where they are standing, or stare out the window in the car and comment on the environment. Here, Foster careens from picking up her lesbian daughter to almost hitting a car to arresting a DUI to going to the station to researching the lab to talking to the drunk.. all within 3 mins. And then noone goes to sleep, the day never ends and after her shift she’s going to the lab and there’s that abhorrent “State Trooper” also investigating even after she had gone to the store to buy beer after her shift. What world is this? A previous commentator stated, none of this is believable, unlike The Wire, unlike TD S1 and possibly 2 and 3.
    Also no State Trooper in any of the 50 states would be allowed to have face piercings and neck and hand tattoos.

  18. Seen 20 minutes so far. Started with some bad cgi reindeers that all jumped over a cliff in disney style. Then the serie was craming too many cool songs into the start and then the cringe detective showed up. I had to google ” has true detective se04 gone woke?” And apparently it has. I only bought hbomax to watch this. Waste of money. Maaan woke people in America suchs. I could almost whish for trump just too becausehe is anti woke. Sincerely from Norway.

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