Free Will and Redemption in HBO's True Detective

An analysis by La Donna Pietra of the themes of the HBO series True Detective leveraging some of the concepts in Dante's work.

true-detectiveIf you haven't seen HBO's original series True Detective the philosopher in you will find the series a refreshing feast for the soul and the mind. Not that the program is uplifting, easy to watch, or even redemptive. But it is wholly engaging and provides a tremendous amount of intellectually fodder to feed upon. In addition to engaging cinematography, superb acting, and a gripping storyline, the series also includes a rare but very philosophically-rich screenplay. Each episode explores themes of religion, psychology, human nature, good and evil, and epistemology and does so subtlety but with expert and well-informed writing.

In an article by La Donna Pietra on ComplexPopCulture (link below), the author unpacks some of these themes in light of Dante's work focusing on sin, redemption and free will. She insightfully points out how well the writers, actors, and producers work in the wide grey that captures most of our existence. There's a refreshing realism that True Detective works in—not that the story in season 1 necessarily expresses a reality that most viewers would live in. But a realism in the complexity of human relationships and the highly complex and ambiguous moral landscape of "everyday life" even set against the inarguably unambiguous evil the characters are working against. She writes,

In the end, both the Divine Comedy and True Detective are getting at the same basic truth, which is that the only way to combat the darkness within ourselves is to form connections with one another. It may not be as exciting as analyzing the depravity that human beings are capable of, which is why everyone reads the Inferno and hardly anyone gets through the Paradiso (well, that and medieval religious philosophy about virtue doesn’t age very well). It may not be the real reason why people pay for premium cable, either. But it’s true, and it’s been true for seven hundred years and more, and it’s at the core of some of humanity’s greatest art.

Check out Pietra's article here.

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