So I Just Saw Deadpool

My diet of superhero movies has really dropped off in the last year; I skipped Captain America: Civil War (but I am excited to watch it on Netflix in December); Dr. Strange has no appeal for me (the whole whitewashing thing is kind of a turn off); Batman v Superman is still a no-go (I said what I said); even X-Men: Apocalypse didn’t get me to go to the theater this summer (to be fair it’s not supposed to be as good as Days of Future Past).  Deadpool, the R-rated, super violent, superhero comedy, didn’t register as something that I’d bother with (though I did get an earful from my students about it at my last job because they love dumb, violent movies), but then Rachael and I borrowed a login for HBO from a friend, and I was looking through the movie catalogue, and I thought, “what the heck, I’m on vacation.”

Deadpool Poster

To be fair, this movie does feel super faithful to the character. (Image credit: IMDb)

So here’s the short version of my opinion of Deadpool: it revels in violence, has some genuinely funny bits, is casually homophobic, maintains a pleasantly small scale story, and tries to sell a paradoxically cynical and idealistic moral about heroism.  I enjoyed it as a movie that’s not as self-serious as other superhero stories, but the core conceit of Deadpool as a character is that he’s both extremely goofy and extremely violent.  He makes jokes about graphically dismembering nameless goons.  His relationships are all predicated on a dynamic where he insults, threatens, and generally mistreats other people, and in this particular incarnation of the character there’s not really a strong backstory to explain Wade’s dysfunction (he’s terrible to Weasel before he goes through the mutation program, and the details of Wade’s history are left extremely vague).  He’s a jerk before he gets tortured for months, and he’s a jerk afterwards.  This Wade is only sympathetic when he’s juxtaposed with worse people (that’s kind of the movie’s schtick; Wade is a scummy mercenary, but when you compare him to Francis he seems okay), and it’s a sort of relativism that doesn’t quite work for me.

Probably the most off-putting thing about the movie is the way it uses Colossus as a laughing stock.  I quite like Colossus as a character; he’s unshakably earnest about everything, and his sense of idealism, while often unrealistic, instills a sense of hope that I don’t often see in other superhero characters (sometimes you just want your heroes to be heroes).  Deadpool takes that template and applies it to Colossus in a context where he’s totally unable to defend rhetorically defend himself.  He advocates for mercy against enemies, being respectful to others who want to hurt you, and just being a generally stand up person.  Of course, there are dimensions to Colossus’s characterization that might be easily overlooked like the fact that he’s literally impervious to harm, so it’s easy for him to be magnanimous (contrast that with Wade, who can recover from any hurt but feels it all fully, and Francis, who is desensitized to pain so he’s able to inflict it more efficiently on others).  Colossus advocates from a position of strength, and while I legitimately want to buy into that philosophy, he’s also clueless about how trauma informs a person’s decision making (only in this movie though; Piotr Rasputin has been through a lot of personal trauma in the comics, and I adore his character for it); he’s a steel straw man who’s set up so Wade can easily knock him down with studied cynicism.

Other aspects of the movie are just weird.  Much of the material for the story are pulled from Joe Kelly’s run on the original Deadpool ongoing series from the mid-’90s.  That series introduced Weasel, Blind Al, and the backstory with Francis; these side characters are mostly left aside in more recent Deadpool stories (Weasel was the first in a series of sidekick-like friends who would occasionally backstab Wade for personal gain) because they’re very much of the ’90s, and most superhero fans would rather forget that time in comics history.  Blind Al doesn’t translate well here; she was always a problematic character (her relationship to Wade in the comics was much more prisoner than disgruntled roommate), and it just doesn’t read as funny to see Wade picking on a blind person (on reflection the comics had some major problems too, but at least there Kelly would take time to present Wade’s treatment of Al as dark and seriously messed up).  Francis is a really minor character from the Marvel universe who seems, like everything else, to have been adapted for the movie because he calls back to Deadpool’s ’90s history.  It’s all a bunch of very odd choices for a character whose highest prominence in comics comes a decade later when most of that weird history had been jettisoned.

Overall, Deadpool isn’t a bad movie.  Some of it is genuinely entertaining.  For me though, it feels like too much.  The glorified violence, the sneering cynicism, the jokes that pick on people who simply shouldn’t be targets; it’s not appealing.

So I Just Saw Arrival

This post discusses spoilers for the film Arrival.  Believe me when I say that you don’t want this film to be spoiled before you see it.  If you like science fiction and don’t want another popcorn action movie, then go see it.

I am not a linguistics nerd; that’s more Rachael’s wheelhouse.  I enjoy the English language and the ways that we can play with it to communicate meaning, but I don’t geek out over broader topics in language.  Rachael assures me that the linguistic theory being used in Arrival is pretty cool stuff, especially as it relates to the challenges that come from trying to build a system of communication between people who have absolutely no common knowledge.  The central conceit of the story, that the aliens’ language necessarily imposes a different perspective of time, is a good metaphor for the linguistic idea that our language shapes our understanding of our environment (there’s a great moment later in the movie where the protagonist Dr. Louise Banks points out that trying to teach the aliens language through any sort of game that is built around competition will necessarily impose an understanding of all ideas in terms of winning and losing; she’s not happy about the implications of other countries using such a system in their attempts to communicate with the aliens).  This concept’s not a new one; George Orwell famously used it as the basis for Newspeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four as a way to eliminate resistant ideation by minimizing the populace’s available vocabulary.  The long and short is that language matters immensely, which I find to be an incredibly easy idea to get behind, though I might be biased.

Arrival Poster

This is kind of a terrible poster that suggests the movie’s going to be all action-y and stuff. It’s not. (Image credit: IMDb)

In order to give this relatively highfalutin idea some emotional resonance, the movie builds a frame story around Dr. Banks’s relationship with her daughter, whom we learn in the beginning died at an early age because of some untreatable terminal illness.  The beginning is designed to give us an impression of Dr. Banks as a relatively lonely woman who is probably managing depression in the aftermath of her daughter’s death; the father isn’t in the picture (never mind that Amy Adams, who plays Dr. Banks, appears to be the same age in every scene with her daughter, who lives to her teenage years at least).  As Dr. Banks learns about the language of the Heptapods (because they resemble giant cephalopods with seven appendages) she finds herself coming unmoored in her personal timeline; she increasingly experiences what we learn are flash forwards to her daughter Hannah’s life.  The Heptapod language doesn’t operate linearly (this is demonstrated in a visually beautiful way with the circular designs of Heptapod writing, which superficially resemble coffee cup stains) in the way that human languages usually do, and developing an understanding of it shifts Dr. Banks’s perspective so that she can see her whole life.

At this point I have to stop and point out that I’m totally geeked over this idea because it coincides so well with the issue of Watchmen that I just read about Jon Osterman and his own nonlinear perspective.  The big difference between the two stories is that where Osterman’s perspective is treated as essentially dehumanizing (he increasingly dissociates from his actions in linear time, often evoking certain reactions from other people by pointing out that they are going to have those reactions, and then in turn reacting in a predetermined way that’s divorced from his foreknowledge of the situation), Dr. Banks’s realization of her own nonlinear experience is presented as ultimately hopeful; she uses her perspective to give herself necessary information in the past to defuse the international crisis that arises from the Heptapods’ arrival, and she comes to a place of acceptance regarding the course of her daughter’s life.  For her, experiencing her whole life in a sort of eternal now mitigates the grief of seeing her daughter’s death since the whole of Hannah’s life is always present before her.

It’s also useful to compare these two stories because Arrival‘s format as a film helps highlight how the medium conceals the nonlinear perspective until it becomes relevant to the plot.  The audience’s familiarity with the ideas of flashback and flash forward are used to confuse the two in a way that disguises the chronology of the story until it becomes most emotionally resonant.  In Watchmen, Osterman’s nonlinear perspective is an interesting feature of the format that serves more to inform character than plot; we get not particular insight into the larger story by knowing that this one character experiences time differently than all the other characters.

Now, as is expected with any story, there are some flaws in this movie.  My biggest complaint is the casting of Jeremy Renner, who is a perfectly cromulent actor, but who is always going to leave a bad taste in my mouth following his doubling down on slut-shaming Black Widow during the promotional run up to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron.  When a person exposes their ugly side in public and doesn’t back down from it, you shouldn’t forget that.  Besides that, I find the requirement that we believe Amy Adams is going to look the same for a span of twenty years a little hard to swallow; I was distracted by questions of how she could look the same age at the beginning of her daughter’s life as at its end, and then even more perplexed when it was revealed that we meet Dr. Banks before she’s even met her future husband.  This fact doesn’t lessen the emotional impact of the story, but it definitely niggles after you’re out of the theater and the high has worn off.  Also, as always, it would be nice to see more diversity in the casting; nothing about the story necessitates that Dr. Banks be white, and it’s kind of jarring to see only white people in the background of the military encampment outside the spaceship.

Still, overall this is a remarkably good movie, and you should go see it.  Of course, I already said that at the beginning, so maybe you have.

Reading “Fearful Symmetry”

Dan Dreiberg is so into Laurie Juspeczyk. (Artwork by Dave Gibbons, colors by John Higgins)

Issue #5 of Watchmen gets back to the story on Earth.  While Jon Osterman is busy reminiscing on Mars, we go back to follow Rorschach as he furthers his investigation into the “mask killer” theory.

In discussing the ways that Moore and Gibbons designed Watchmen to be a story that highlights the narrative features of the comics medium, I think of two specific issues that highlight this idea most effectively.  The first was issue #4 “Watchmaker,” and the second is this one.  The plot outline for this chapter is extremely simple; Rorschach visits Edgar Jacobi, Moloch, to get more information about the list of people that Edward Blake found (Rorschach suspects the list is connected with the smear performed on Osterman back in issue #3), then he spends a day resting before returning to Jacobi’s apartment the next night where he’s ambushed and captured by the police.  In the intervening day we see an attempt on Adrian Veidt’s life, Dan Dreiberg invites Laurie Juspeczyk to stay with him following her eviction from the military base, and an assortment of everyday people (including the detectives investigating Edward Blake’s murder and the news vendor) react to the news that the Soviets have become more aggressive following Osterman’s disappearance.

Rorschach’s mask after he removes it for the day. (Artwork and letters by Dave Gibbons, colors by John Higgins)

What’s interesting about the structure of this plot is how Moore and Gibbons design the sequence of events to have a parallel structure in the first and second halves of the issue.  Each scene in the first fourteen pages has a corresponding scene in the last fourteen that completes the arc set up there along with mirrored key images (some of my favorite examples are a couple panels looking at Rorschach’s mask from his perspective and a pair of panels showcasing Dreiberg looking longingly at Juspeczyk in front of a mirror with her back turned to him).  These are pairings that only become apparent when you look at the issue nonlinearly instead of reading the story straight through.

Rorschach’s mask before he puts it on for the night. (Artwork and letters by Dave Gibbons, colors by John Higgins)

The intricacies of the layout aren’t just restricted to the symmetry of the issue.  Gibbons excels at doing match cuts between scenes, but in this issue he’s relentless about it.  Every scene ends with a panel that’s immediately echoed by the first panel of the following scene.  He and Moore are working extra hard to build thematic connections between the mystery that Rorschach’s busying himself with, the steadily growing dread of another world war that the regular folks are feeling while they try to go on with their lives, the insecurities that Dreiberg and Juspeczyk are navigating as castoffs, and the comics story about the sailor trying to get home after being marooned (this subplot was introduced in issue #3; the boy warming himself at the charging station by the news stand is reading a pirate comic which has scenes spliced in as a meta-commentary on the events of the series).  As the story approaches its inflection point (you know things have to get significantly worse soon, as we’re almost to the halfway point of the story), Moore and Gibbons are pushing to build their main theme: that everyone is just trying to get by in a world that seems to be spiraling further and further out of their control.  Pretty much the only person who isn’t having this reaction is Rorschach (he ponders unironically in his journal, “Is everyone but me going mad?”); we’ll get more into his character in the next issue, but this one gives us some insight into Rorschach’s perspective on other people.  He refuses to surrender to anything that’s outside his control (the closing scene where he’s cornered by the police shows him improvising a variety of ways to stave them off while he tries to escape, even as they push him farther into an inescapable situation), and this persistence of will leads him to treat even the most hopeless scenarios as though he can overcome them.  It’s Rorschach’s most admirable trait, though he’s also perhaps the most deranged of the main cast.

Dan Dreiberg is so into Laurie Juspeczyk. (Artwork and letters by Dave Gibbons, colors by John Higgins)

This derangement gets confirmed even further at the end of this issue when the police catch Rorschach, and he’s unmasked as the doomsayer who has been wandering around since the first issue.  Rorschach lives in a world that’s perpetually on the brink of destruction, so perhaps his levelheadedness in this issue stems from simple desensitization (in issue #3 he comments to the news vendor that the world is going to end, and when the vendor replies that the world hasn’t ended the following day he remarks that Dr. Manhattan’s disappearance suggests otherwise).  Rorschach has expected doom for so long that he’s well past the point of needing to process events in the same way that the other characters do.

So I Just Saw Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

The revival of Gilmore Girls, a show that went off the air eight years ago, seems like it shouldn’t work.  It’s built largely on fan service, and the original series, while it didn’t end strongly, ended in a place that made narrative sense.  The original series is premised on the unusual relationship between a young single mother and her teenage daughter, and it follows the natural frame of showing the daughter come of age through high school and college.  Given the intended demographic of the original network, this set up makes sense; there’s plenty of opportunity for romantic drama, and one of the main characters is going through life experiences that are supposed to be relatable to the target audience.  Bringing the concept back when the daughter is the same age as the mother was at the series’ start means that the coming of age narrative should be jettisoned in favor of a different angle.  Instead, the show’s writers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino double down on the coming of age motif to deliver a story about Rory being caught in a rut as a young adult.

Now, a story about Rory struggling as a young thirty-something is a story I could get behind; the character of Rory is only about a year older than I am, so I can absolutely relate to her experiences.  Her worries about her career and whether she’s reached the expected milestones are really common Millennial anxieties.  Unfortunately, as much as Gilmore Girls is about Rory, it’s not written from her perspective.  You can make a case that Rory has always been the target of many of the show’s strongest critiques; she’s an extremely privileged woman who receives all the advantages a wealthy white person in New England would, and while everyone around her constantly fawns over her talent we see repeatedly that she’s just not as good at stuff as people say.  Given that though, the perspective on Rory in A Year in the Life seems to be skewed sharply away from “she’s just not as talented as she thinks” to “she’s the embodiment of her generation.”  Essentially, I think that Rory’s plot line in the new episodes is a pretty reductionist view of Millennial life filtered through the perception of a Baby Boomer (Sherman-Palladino is fifty).  I mean, when you have a running joke in the third episode about the “Thirtysomething Gang” who’ve all moved back home and have their parents meet regularly to exchange tips on how to get their kids into the workforce, you can’t help but get the sense that the Palladinos just decided that they were going to do wry commentary on the plight of Millennials, and hey, don’t a lot of Millennials end up moving back in with their parents?  This kind of exploration of life for a generation can be done well and with sympathy (the examples that come to mind for me are Master of None and New Girl, even though I think both of those shows have issues with representing the experiences of Millennials who don’t live in big cities), but Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life just doesn’t do that.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Poster

Promotional poster. (Image credit: IMDb)

Contrasting with Rory’s plot are the stories for Lorelai and Emily.  The death of Edward Herrmann, who played Richard Gilmore, necessitated a story that acknowledges Richard’s passing, and that seems to me to be the core of Lorelai and Emily’s plot lines.  Richard’s death is a very recent event in the lives of the Gilmores, and so it makes sense that much of the activity of the year in which A Year in the Life takes place revolves around Emily and Lorelai coming to terms with it.  Emily’s plot is centered pretty much exclusively around her grieving process, and it’s handled with a lot more deftness than what I saw with Rory.  Lorelai’s story centers more around her deciding whether she wants to integrate her life more with Luke (they’ve been together since the end of the show’s original run, but they never married).  Her major breakthrough on that front comes in the wake of an epiphany that she has regarding her relationship with Richard as well.

All of these plot lines make sense; they’re natural progressions from where the characters were at the end of the original series, and they go a long way towards resolving issues that hovered over the show for quite a while.  Overall, it’s a pretty satisfying return to the core characters even with my complaints about Rory’s plot.

Other aspects of the revival are more troubling.  The big thing that I see in the writing is a casual disregard for people outside the Palladinos’ personal bubble.  Gilmore Girls has always had a problem with diversity, and these new episodes are still just as lily white as the original series (this is partly excusable given the large number of returning cast members; however there are plenty of new characters and one offs who could have been cast with actors of color).  Moreover, to the extent that the show has a feminist bent, it trades in the same bland white feminism that shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt have as their foundation.  Intersectionality isn’t a concept that the Palladinos seem to be aware of, let alone concerned about.  The most egregious offense comes in the “Summer” episode when Lorelai and Rory have two separate scenes at the community pool where their banter largely consists of body shaming other people.  That stuff isn’t funny, and it’s incredibly mean.  Some of Lorelai and Rory’s characterization is built on the idea that they’re really quite self-absorbed, but self-absorption doesn’t have to be conveyed through repeated jokes at the expense of a faceless overweight man in a Speedo (the scene where Rory dozes off in the middle of interviewing a guy waiting in line for a fancy doughnut is a much better bit of characterization on that front).

Other aspects of the series are less points for critique and more simple fan service.  All of Rory’s ex-boyfriends make an appearance, and it’s really good to see them as adults.  My impression of Dean has been and always will be that he’s an abuser-in-waiting, but his one scene in the revival suggests that he’s found some happiness with a new wife and kids; he and Rory seem to be on good terms; I still wonder about his home life because abusers usually do present themselves pretty well in public.  Jess seems to be far less of a jerk than he was as a teenager, and his relationship with Rory and his family seems overall very positive.  I mean, there was still that incident where he sexually assaulted Rory at that party, so that’s a thing; it doesn’t get any attention here, and I doubt it ever will in the off chance that the Palladinos decide to do another Gilmore Girls series.  Logan gets the most screen time here, and he still doesn’t sit well with me.  He’s an interesting study in the kind of person who rails against the expectations of their life but still goes along with those expectations because they like the benefits too much.  I don’t really get why he’s such a presence in this series.

Anyhow, if you’ve read this far then you’ve probably already seen the series; Gilmore Girls is one of those shows that for some reason elicits rabid devotion in its fans, and if nothing else can be said about A Year in the Life, it absolutely feels like more of the same.  That’s a good thing if you just want more of the original series, but it also means that all the issues and insensitivities that the Palladinos had back in the ’00s are still present here.

Reading “The Superman / Jimmy Olsen War!”

I never thought I would be happy to move on from a Lois Lane centered story to a Jimmy Olsen one, but here we are.

The last couple issues of All-Star Superman were not good.  I don’t remember the last time I read them, but I had either forgotten or been unaware of the gross amount of sexism baked into the two party story about Lois’s birthday celebration with Superman.  This issue pivots away from Lois for a very light, bubblegum issue about Jimmy Olsen’s misadventures.  Morrison and Quitely imagine Jimmy as something of a perpetual thrill seeker whose penchant for risk taking gets him into regular trouble, justifying his need for an indestructible super watch that he can use to call Superman for help any time.  It’s a solid enough characterization; we don’t need much more to get the story rolling here.

The issue centers around Jimmy’s latest thrill seeking venture to spend a day in charge of PROJECT, the extra-governmental outfit that piloted the expedition to the sun in the series’s first issue (apparently Jimmy’s column on his various unique experiences is popular enough worldwide that this arrangement wasn’t a hard one to swing; I suspect Morrison vastly underestimated the state of print newspapers even ten years ago when this comic was first published).  While acting as PROJECT’s director, Jimmy oversees the excavation of a new kind of kryptonite from the Underverse (an ultra dense, high gravity level of reality beneath our own, apparently) which nearly gets him killed.  Superman arrives to save Jimmy, and together they discover that the newly christened black kryptonite has the effect of reversing Superman’s personality so that he becomes petty, craven, vindictive, and just all around evil.  Superman rushes off to Earth to wreak havoc, and so Jimmy’s left trying to figure out how to stop the strongest being in the solar system without killing or permanently trapping him in the Phantom Zone.

The solution that Jimmy come upon is a combination of two iconic features of the Superman mythos: Jimmy’s habit of getting temporarily turned into weird things during the Silver Age, and the Doomsday story from the early ’90s that ended with Superman’s death.  Using a special serum from PROJECT, Jimmy transforms himself into a supersoldier that resembles the original Doomsday in order to fight Superman to a standstill until the effects of the black kryptonite wear off.  Jimmy’s successful, and he changes back after Superman is safely back in his right mind, but the public comes to believe that their fight involved Superman saving Metropolis from the creature.

Like with the previous issues, this one is filled with callbacks to weird and wacky elements of Superman’s past (the story is bookended by Jimmy’s romantic troubles with the rarely mentioned in contemporary continuity character Lucy Lane, Lois’s little sister).  Jimmy Olsen is something of an afterthought in the Superman story these days (I’m aware of his introduction and swift death in Batman v Superman; I still haven’t seen it), but he was a prominent part of the franchise back in the ’50s.  Like Lois Lane, Jimmy had his own ongoing series during the Silver Age where he got up to all kinds of hijinks that needed Superman to swoop in and sort things out.  The gonzo weirdness that Morrison revels in here is typical of his take on superheroes, but when he moves away from a story “centered” on Lois and just explores the characters of Jimmy and Superman he becomes eminently readable again.

In the larger story that’s being told in All-Star Superman, this is probably the first issue that really digs into some of the bigger questions about Superman’s role in the world.  Jimmy can’t imagine using a solution that would effectively remove Superman from the universe, but Superman’s already preparing for just that eventuality.  We get no reminder that he’s dying here, but it’s obvious that Jimmy at least thinks Superman’s absence is a price so high that he’d rather risk himself than go with the safe bet to protect Earth.  Of course, an inverted Superman is a significant risk, so you have to wonder just how reckless this course of action is for Jimmy.

Jimmy takes the bro code very seriously. (Artwork by Frank Quitely, colors by Jamie Grant, letters by Phil Balsman & Travis Lanham)

The fact that Superman, when he’s turned evil by the black kryptonite, is such a major threat highlights one of the underlying themes of this series: Superman has exceptionally great responsibility, and he’s keenly aware of it.  We’ll see as we move into the second half of this series that he’s largely preoccupied with minimizing the impact of his impending death; he doesn’t want to be a keystone that disappears without warning and leaves so many things to collapse (kind of the opposite of what Jon Osterman does in Watchmen).  It’s a positive reflection on Superman’s character that he is both ultimately reliable and aware of the need for contingencies when his reliability ultimately fails.  Thankfully, we’ll see more of this in the future and less of the terrible depiction that Lois (and pretty much all the female characters in this book) gets.

Thoughts on True Detective Season One

I heard about True Detective from all the usual places on the internet.  It was one of those perennial “it” shows from a couple years back because of its apparently deep exploration of the psychology of its main characters and the overlay of Lovecraftian horror on top of a typical police procedural.  I’d heard it was good, and I’d also heard that it was a show that was very much not written with a wide audience in mind.  That’s to say, this is a show meant for straight white guys; the protagonists Marty and Rust are full of the man feels, and characterization of all female characters relies exclusively on the maiden/mother/whore trichotomy.

Our monsters. (Image credit: IMDb)

This series pulls from a lot of different storytelling traditions that end up complementing each other quite well.  On the surface, you have a police procedural where a couple of detectives work to solve a mystery surrounding a series of murders that involve bizarre arrangements of the victims in various tableaux.  Go one step deeper and you have a heavy mixture of Southern Gothic with lots of depictions of the grotesque in rural Louisiana.  Go even deeper than that, and you get the psychological drama of Rust and Marty, who are very similar men that really differ only in their level of self-awareness.  At the deepest level, you have the Lovecraft mythos intertwined with everything; Rust’s PTSD and nihilism make him an ideal conduit for cosmic horror, and the serial killer’s channeling of the King in Yellow in his rituals are suitably creepy.  Being able to see all the different layers together makes for compelling television, even when it’s marred by the show’s unacknowledged sexism.

There are some elements beyond the sexism that are a little harder to grok in terms of how problematic they are.  A lot of it is wrapped up in the presentation of Southern Gothic, especially as relates to the way people in abject poverty are portrayed.  We learn late in the season that there’s a sizable conspiracy to cover for the serial killer, and it’s related to a prominent family in the state who hide behind their wealth and cultural clout.  That’s not problematic; I actually find it really refreshing that the show makes a point of highlighting and subverting the usual narrative trope of upright Christians being assaulted by perverse Satanists (nothing depicted in the show is indicated as Satanic; Rust actually serves as a useful cypher here as he insists on identifying elements of the killer’s rituals as derived from Vodun and Santeria, religions which are oft-maligned as witchcraft).  What I do find problematic is that when the killer is finally revealed, we see that he hews close to many common stereotypes about poor, rural whites: he’s overweight, lives in filth, and appears to be carrying on an incestuous relationship with his intellectually disabled sister.  It’s akin the grotesquery depicted in other stories like the film Deliverance, and it extends the Lovecraftian motif of horror at twisted, “inferior” bloodlines to white people (of course, Lovecraft was an unapologetic racist, and there were also certain kinds of white people who weren’t white enough for his tastes).  It’s a distinctly classist depiction, which is disappointing in a police procedural that otherwise tries to diverge from the conservative storytelling of its genre.  Altogether, I think this is a case where the attempt to subvert the hypocrisy of white evangelicals is interesting but ultimately fails as the fundamental horror of the killer is still that he’s overweight, unwashed, and enamored with a cosmology that’s distinctly non-Christian.

All in all, I really enjoyed watching the first season of the show.  I hear that the second isn’t so good, so I’ll probably skip it.  There’s only so much sexism and casual classism that one can take in our brave new world, y’know?