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Why Can’t People Be Normal About True Detective Season 4

8:01 PM EST on February 7, 2024

HBO

I know serious TV criticism and news coverage has been in trouble for a while, like everywhere else in media, but like a frog enjoying an ever-warming afternoon bath, I wasn't aware just how bad things had got until I started seeing news articles this month about True Detective: Night Country, a show I've been watching and somewhat enjoying.

Is it a perfect show? Nope! Is it a good True Detective show? Who knows; each season has been pretty different, that's the point of the series being an anthology in the first place. What Night Country is, I'd fairly state, is a show with some good actors in an interesting setting that has thrown subtlety out the window and doesn't seem to mind, because it's mostly concerned with thinking both The Thing and snow ghosts are cool.

In other words, it's fine. Yet every time I open my phone I'm being greeted with headlines like:

‘True Detective’ Season 4 Is Getting Lower Scores Than Even Season 2 On IMDB

True Detective fans slam major plot hole in Season 4

Every True Detective Season 4 Episode Ends the Same Way and It’s a Problem

And it just goes on and on and on. Some people really hate this show! It's a really weird and meaningless thing to get hung up on, but whatever, TV is subjective, everyone is entitled to like or dislike whatever they want. What's bugging me about the coverage of this show, though--and I'm specifically talking about news and critical coverage from actual outlets, not fans bitching on Reddit--is that so much of it is representative of the firehose nature of modern online media, and everything destructive about it.

This show isn't over! It runs for six episodes! It's a murder mystery, a genre that is built entirely around the premise that everything is revealed at the end. We the public literally do not know what twists, plot holes, closures and endings it has in store for us! So nobody should be giving even half a fuck about its ever-changing public review scores, yet Forbes has reported on this not once, but twice! Helping give so much oxygen to online weirdos that Night Country's showrunner has had to waste interview time talking about it.

I'm not the only person confused by this; this Screen Rant post asks many of the same questions, pointing out that in spite of a bizarre focus on negative public reviews (for a show that's not finished!), the show has increased its viewership every week and actual critics thought it was pretty good (something this Radio Times piece also wonders). Which, again, is not exactly my question; my question isn't whether people like it or not--that's up to you!--more just why any website is bothering to try to cover a prestige television show like it's a live service game or a sporting match.

Actually, it's not even really a question, just an exasperation, because I know the answer. It's 2024, and this is the internet. The point of these posts isn't to inform me about a show I'm watching, or to engage in any kind of meaningful critical assessment of it. The point, like so much of the rest of the internet, is for these sites to blast as much shit onto Google as they can physically manage, all talking vaguely around something people are interested in, in the hopes of hitting SEO paydirt and landing a link on my phone's news feed.

And of all the reviews and stories about the show out there--many of them positive--it's these bizarrely negative play-by-plays, from sites I don't even read, that keep surfacing to the top of the algorithm. The lesson I could be learning here is to stop swiping left on my Pixel's home screen and avoid that particularly terrible news feed, but the lesson I will be learning is that maybe I just need to throw my phone in a river instead. 

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