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'True Detective' meets cross-stitching

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY | MARCH 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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While seemingly everyone I know was embarking on a epic spring-break adventures, I, for the first time in three years, was stuck with literally no plans  —  no vacation, no work shifts, and no motivation to get ahead on schoolwork. So I did the only thing you can do while sitting around your parents' house for five days: binge-watch a TV program, specifically the buzzed-about HBO series "True Detective." This heroin-trip of a show  —  which wrapped on March 9  —  turned my lethargic spring break into one of twists, turns, and excessive cross-stitching.

MONDAY

The "True Detective" opening sequence — a nearly two-minute-long montage of sexual and religious imagery, accompanied by a country/folk song — is reminiscent of HBO's "True Blood,"  which is also set in small-town Louisiana. I'm hoping there are no vampires.

Some later Googling would tell me that "True Detective" is actually closer to "American Horror Story": It is an anthology series, with a new plot line and cast of characters each season. I'll be sad to see Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey go.

There are some weird time lapses and lots of random nudity going on (it's HBO, what are you gonna do?), but I'm already drawn into the stylish direction of "True Detective," eerie tone, and freakish crime scenes — specifically a corpse with antlers tied to it surrounded by Satanist stick structures.

The beauty of Harrelson's eyes is the only spark of light in this dark landscape. They are the same crystal blue of the ocean in my cousin's vacation photos from Hawaii.

I try to cope with fact I'm not on an Oahu beach by taking up a new hobby: cross-stitching. Despite feeling like a 75-year-old woman, the craft is oddly cathartic.

TUESDAY

Harrelson's character has commenced an extramarital affair, the graphicness of which is clearly trying to make up for the lack of an exciting murder scene in this episode. But damn, is "True Detective" badass. Take this exchange between Harrelson and McConaughey:

"Do you ever wonder if you're a bad man?" asks Woody of his aloof, chain-smoking, former undercover drug lord Matthew.

"No," Matt says. "The world needs bad men. They keep the other bad men from the door."

I'm preparing for some more "Breaking Bad"-level one-liners.

As engrossing as the character dynamics might be, I'll admit that the main reason I'm sticking with "True Detective" is to find out who the "green-eared spaghetti monster" is mentioned in episode one.
I challenge myself to cross-stitch cursive letters and largely fail.

WEDNESDAY

My friends Julia and Emily have posted dozens of photos from their spring-break trip to England on Facebook. I ponder all the horrible ways I would mangle Julia and Emily if they were to run into Benedict Cumberbatch in London without me.

McConaughey has teamed up with an old "partner" from his days as a drug narc: Ginger, so named (I assume) for the reddish nature of his goatee. Worse comes to worse, and Ginger's gang ends up in a shootout with some other Louisiana drug lords.

Though it is all rather irrelevant to the satanic/neo-Nazi murder investigation, it's undoubtedly more interesting than watching McConaughey cut up Lone Star beer cans and Harrelson argue with his scrunchie-wearing wife. 

THURSDAY

Though the lead actors  of "True Detective" are obviously skilled, I'm especially impressed by the depth of their interviews and suspects. These tweakers, rednecks, and New Orleans transvestites are the most visceral and darkly humorous aspect of the show.

As I start to cross-stitch more and more complex patterns, McConaughey's line in Episode Seven — "Be careful what you get good at" —  starts to feel prophetic. I wonder if my embroidering prowess will lead to day-drinking, sleeping around, and hanging out in storage units such as the antiheroes of "True Detective."

I start a "Game of Thrones" cross-stitch anyway.

FRIDAY

A little embarrassingly, I wake up at noon before delving into the season finale of "True Detective. I won't give away the thrills and revelations of this high-stakes episode, but I will say that the green-eared spaghetti monster is, at last, explained.

Now that the fictional adventure is complete, I remember the essays I haven't written and readings I haven't read. Spring break just flies by when you're doing almost nothing but sleeping, watching TV, and eating Olive Garden breadsticks.

But I have no guilt about the way I've spent my week. If nothing else, spring break — and "True Detective" — was a well-needed vacation from everyday life: real stress, real drama, and real responsibilities.

I would recommend "True Detective" to crime-show fans seeking a somber, sophisticated, and complex narrative. And I would recommend a stay-at-home spring break to poor and overworked college students, TV-show bingers, and cross-stitchers alike.


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