For Love or Money

From First Thoughts

Episode Two of this season’s Mad Men could have been titled “For Love or Money.” On Valentine’s Day 1969, some of the folks at Sterling, Cooper & Partners are clearly doing their jobs just for the money. Others are doing their jobs for love of the job, or for love of someone on the job. Continue Reading »

Ascetic Aesthetics

From Web Exclusives

One Hopkins is enough,” said the poet A. D. Hope. By this he meant: Enough with the oohs and ahs over beautiful creation, enough with the “arch-especial” and the “sweet especial,” enough with “all this juice and all this joy” and all the “froth and waterblowballs” and “ah! bright wings”—which allegedly are what we talk about when we talk about the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Continue Reading »

Mad Men Returns

From First Thoughts

The first half of Season Seven of AMC’s Mad Men (the back half will drop in 2015) opened Sunday night with a familiar character addressing the camera, thus: “Are you ready? Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something.” It is the beginning of the . . . . Continue Reading »

Close Viewing

From Web Exclusives

The seventh and final season of AMC’s Mad Men premiered last night to a viewership quite different from the one that greeted the series’s 2007 debut. The inflection point came last season—when, improbably, this slow-moving character-driven period piece began to stir its partisans . . . . Continue Reading »

Ready to Tie It Off

From First Thoughts

Episode Seven of HBO’s True Detective depicts our chastened heroes in a chastened style. Gone is the murky intercutting among the 1995 flashbacks, the 2002 flashbacks, and the parallel interviews of 2012—the formal deviousness that caused us to doubt not only what the truth might be in . . . . Continue Reading »

A Euphemism for Conspiracy

From First Thoughts

This seemed to be the week for souring on True Detective. One complaint against Episode Six concerns its redundancy: Character beats were repeated, and blanks were filled in exactly as predicted. The heavily foreshadowed cause of Rust and Marty’s split in 2002, and of Rust’s quitting the . . . . Continue Reading »

Confession and Curse in True Detective’s Episode Five

From First Thoughts

In the opening of True Detective’s fifth episode, a man named Dewall gets a read on Rust: “I can see your soul in the edges of your eyes. It’s corrosive, like acid. . . . And I don’t like your face. . . . There’s a shadow on you, son.” Dewall is strangely attuned to the terms and images that have characterized Det. Rustin Cohle, in all his nihilism and shadiness—extending even to a punning gloss on that nickname, a nickname that Dewall cannot know. Dewall is the “cook partner” of meth chef and murder suspect Reginald Ledoux, and Rust is undercover. The cover is blown here, in a sense; Rust is found out, albeit not as a detective. He looks unsettled, and his unsettling sets the agenda for the episode, in which characters seek to get a read on others and not be read themselves. Continue Reading »

No True Detective

From First Thoughts

The fourth episode of HBO’s True Detective could have been titled “Women and Children.” The opening scene, an interrogation of the prisoner Charlie Laing, flags our heroes’ separate preoccupations. When Laing refers to his “wife” the late Dora, Marty corrects . . . . Continue Reading »