Not to keep harping on True Detective, but it completes a pretty impressive trifecta of television shows, alongside Hannibal and Breaking Bad, that have examined the nature of evil. It's an interesting subject for television to tackle, especially since both television and film tend to carve black-and-white definitions of what is "good" and what is "evil." Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; for as long as narrative storytelling has existed, stories of good battling evil have been prevalent and engaging. But more often than not, heroes and villains are easily identifiable, and even if the heroes have human conflicts and shades of darkness, their essential "goodness" is never in question. Batman, despite the questionable means he uses to find the Joker, will ultimately prevail, because he stands for justice over the Joker's anarchy. Good wins, and evil loses.
That's why it's so interesting to have these three shows that make it their mission to examine what evil is, and how it affects their protagonists. As I wrote in my review of the show's first season, True Detective took cues from weird fiction to add an element of Southern Gothic horror to a fairly boilerplate police procedural. Detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), in their pursuit of a prolific serial killer, are forced to confront the darker side of human nature, and it takes its toll on their lives. Both men spend so much time staring into the abyss that it begins to consume them, and they lose sight of the good that they have in their lives. The idea that the show proposes is that darkness, monsters, and evil lurk all around them, and director Cary Joji Fukugawa does a terrific job at suggesting this with composition of the show's visuals, leaving empty space in the Louisiana landscape that powerfully suggests what could be out. The show makes a case that the light - good - has won this particular battle, but not without serious consequence to the heroes, and the war is far from over. To use Rust's speculations, if the stars in the night sky represent goodness, then evil still looms large as the inky black void.
More after the jump.
All three shows offered a different perspective on the nature of evil, but agree on one central tenet: in the cosmic battle between good and evil, the latter is powerful and prevalent. It can be defeated in the short term, but the war will always continue to rage. And as long as it does, artists of every medium will continue to examine it, and how it affects the human race. These nuanced inquiries into what evil is prove that this is still fertile ground.