Stop Treating True Detective Like a Game

True Detective lives. After two hotly debated seasons followed by an extended period of uncertainty, the crime anthology returns to HBO on Jan. 13 for the first time since 2015. During the hiatus, the network recruited some marquee talent to rehabilitate the shaky franchise. Now the show stars Mahershala Ali, who has won awards for his supporting turns in Moonlight and Green Book, in the psychologically rich lead role he deserves. HBO enlisted low-budget thriller master Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room, Blue Ruin) to direct. And they brought in Deadwood auteur David Milch to assist the show’s creator, Nic Pizzolatto, a first-time showrunner with a bad habit of sounding contentious in interviews.

Those efforts pay off in a solid third season whose structure and style hew close to those of the first. The show is set in a grim Ozark town, populated by white characters who speak a common language of coded racism. Episodes linger on exchanges between Ali’s earnest Detective Wayne Hayes and his partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff). Across three timelines spanning 35 years, Hayes grapples with the case of two missing children.

In that sense, it’s a welcome return to form: before crashing and burning in the California neo-noir of its second season, which for a long time seemed as though it would be the show’s last, True Detective was a smash hit, thanks to the instantly iconic buddy-cop duo of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, reams of quotable dialogue and awe-inspiring visual acrobatics courtesy of director Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Yet it’s also worth remembering that even that story arc had ultimately failed to satisfy its most vocal viewers. Instead of tying up eight episodes of cryptic clues with a bow, Pizzolatto let loose ends dangle, supplying a quick resolution to his baroque whodunit before concluding on a more philosophical note.

There were viewers–myself included–who liked that the show’s conclusion was open-ended. McConaughey’s breakout character, the alcoholic pseudo-sage Rust Cohle, had been a nihilist, talking in opaque aphorisms like “Time is a flat circle.” The finale exposed Rust’s worldview as reductive, and made a case for why a person in so much pain should keep fighting the forces of darkness in a universe where the war between good and evil will remain forever unresolved.

Yet a larger cohort–or at least a more outspoken one–were furious at Pizzolatto for pulling what they saw as a bait and switch. After all, they had spent weeks rewatching episodes, consulting recaps, sleuthing out literary references and comparing notes on the Internet with other obsessives desperate to solve the Southern Gothic mystery based on what they presumed to be a surplus of evidence. By the middle of the season, TV bloggers and a True Detective message board on the mega-discussion forum Reddit had become fully symbiotic, churning out and chewing on each other’s 5,000-word theories as if the show were a massive multiplayer online game. For these viewers, True Detective failed not because of any particular story flaw but because in its final moments, it claimed the right to be an ambiguous work of art–instead of an interactive challenge that fans could win or lose by solving the mystery.

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Wednesday Night Hockey: Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat can’t stop scoring

Alex DeBrincat could have quit hockey. Dogged by his size — 5-foot-7 — he went through the Ontario Hockey League draft twice without being selected. But quitting would have been too easy and taken the Farmington Hills, Mich. native away from his dream of playing professionally. So he stuck with it and signed a free agent deal with the Erie Otters, putting him on a team that featured a young center named Connor McDavid.

“Hockey’s pretty much my whole life,” DeBrincat told Pro Hockey Talk recently. “[I’ve] always wanted to get to this point and be able to play hockey for a living. It’s been a lot of fun. That’s the main part — you try to not think about all the negativity that people try to put on you and just keep going forward. I wasn’t going to let a few words stop me.”

In Erie, DeBrincat found plenty of success. The Otters made the OHL Championship twice, winning once before falling in the 2017 Memorial Cup. The forward would reach the 50-goal mark in all three seasons, something that hadn’t been done since the early 1970s. He’d finish his junior career with 167 goals and 332 points in 191 games.

“I went into an Erie team at the right time and got to play with some really good players and learn from them,” he said. “That was a big step in my career. I don’t think I’d be here without that.”

His scoring prowess has continued since graduating into the NHL as one of the Chicago Blackhawks’ three second-round picks in 2016. DeBrincat has reached the 20-goal in each of his first two seasons and after finishing as the team’s leading goal scorer (28) in 2017-18, he’s currently second through 45 games this season. Not bad for someone who’s playing the sixth-most even strength minutes (14:11) per game among the team’s forwards.

The 21-year-old DeBrincat has avoided the sophomore slump that affects many young NHL players following strong rookie seasons. Being put in the middle of a veteran-heavy Blackhawks dressing room has certainly helped.

“It’s huge, especially last year we were a pretty old team at the start of the year,” he said. “You take that knowledge and try to put it in your own game. [You] take as much of their advice as you can and ask questions. They were good with trying to get you to open up and ask questions about the league and ask what they like to do. I think that helped me a lot and helped me last year and it’s definitely helped me this year, too.”

In late November DeBrincat was reunited with an old teammate when the Blackhawks acquired Dylan Strome from the Arizona Coyotes. The two haven’t played much together since the trade but Strome has enjoyed his time in Chicago so far with seven goals and 14 points in 21 games, his best output since he joined the NHL.

“It’s been awesome. It’s been a lot of fun,” DeBrincat said. “He’s really helped us a lot. He’s been playing pretty well, so it’s good to have him here.”

Consistency has been a key goal for DeBrincat over the last two seasons. He’s not had a point drought last more than four games during his career and has been put in positions to succeed under former head coach Joel Quenneville and current bench boss Jeremy Colliton.

“You’re going to go through slumps at times, you’ve just got to try to minimize the damage and keep it as short as possible,” he said.

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Meet the 52 Places Traveler for 2019

Last year, for the first time, we sent one intrepid traveler, Jada Yuan, to all 52 destinations on our Places to Go list. This year, we decided to do it again. Once again, we got applicants from around the world and from a variety of backgrounds (meet some of them here). After weeks of assessing them, we settled on a handful of finalists. From that group, we chose Sebastian Modak, one of our finalists from last year, and a journalist with an impressive background and résumé. Just weeks before he sets off to his first destination — Puerto Rico, which took the No. 1 spot on the list this year — we asked him some questions about himself and the trip ahead.

So, how does it feel to be the 52 Places Traveler for 2019?
In a word: surreal. It’s a lot of emotions at once — gratitude, excitement, anxiety — but mostly I’m still finding it hard to wrap my head around it concretely. I’m starting to think the sheer scope of what I’m doing won’t hit me until I make landfall in the first destination and start reporting. Luckily, data scientists at the travel aggregator Kayak have helped us sketch out an itinerary for the year in advance — as they did last year for Jada — so I have some sense of what the structure of my year looks like. That said, this trip wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if I knew exactly what to expect, right? I’m ready to embrace all the uncertainty that comes with an opportunity like this and see where it takes me.

Have you been following Jada Yuan, our 2018 Traveler? Anything in particular you’ve picked up from her dispatches?
I’ve read every one. It’s been a real pleasure following along and I know I’ve got some big, well-worn shoes to fill. My favorite moments from Jada’s dispatches were the interactions that, on the surface, may seem everyday, but in actuality tell much bigger stories about a place: a night out in Kigali, a meal in La Paz, a haphazardly assembled trip-planning committee in China built out of nothing but the kindness of strangers. Those stories get at the heart of why we travel. I’m hoping to bring the same openness and down-for-anything attitude that led Jada to those moments.

In a couple of ways, you have a background uniquely suited to this gig.

I do feel like I’ve been working toward doing something like this my whole life. I was born in the United States to a Colombian mother and an Indian father, but we left for Hong Kong when I was 2 years old and continued to move every few years. My brothers and I didn’t really grow up with the concept of “home,” because we understood every place was temporary. It made travel the only real constant in our lives. January marks five years in New York City, though, and that puts it in a joint first-place spot for the longest I’ve stayed anywhere — tied with Indonesia and India.

For me, travel is all about immersing yourself in the unfamiliar, and embracing the feeling of humility that comes with that: There’s always something to learn from someone else, from somewhere else. That’s what made me choose a career in multimedia storytelling. I was a Fulbright-mtvU fellow in Botswana, where I spent a year documenting the local hip-hop scene. I was a producer on an MTV series that looked at the role of the arts in protest movements around the world. Most recently, I was an editor and then a staff writer at Condé Nast Traveler, where I was often sent on assignment to find and report stories that resonate with a global and globally curious audience. I think the thread that connects all of these experiences is an insatiable sense of wonder at the world around me.

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