The world of Potter’s Singing Detective may not be three dimensional visually speaking, but in terms of storylines, the world opens out in three distinct directions – often using the same actor to represent multiple characters in various settings of time and place. The three worlds that are woven together are the present hospital world, Marlowe’s childhood, and the storyworld of Marlowe’s novel. In the process of narrating these three worlds, as in all processes of life and art, the visceral details that compose each world crossover and become conflated in the telling of the story. Marlowe’s memories largely fuel the material in his novel, and his current state is largely colored, haunted or plagued even at times, by his past. The paranoia inherent in his countenance as a mystery writer causes Marlowe to process information by creating violent or disturbing stories to explain things he doesn’t understand or doesn’t have access to. This creates an inverse relationship with the subplot of his therapy. As he becomes more mentally stable, he is forced to confront traumatic memories, which in turn produce paranoiac fantasies. The unleashing of his repressed childhood is what allows him to improve, while at the same time, keeps him in a state of living in the past. The combination of these forces confuse the present action, causing him to write a murder into his own story – of his ex-wife killing her partner in crime. Because Marlowe is such an unreliable narrator, there is no way to establish a codification of reality. Artistically, using the same actors to parallel each other in the three different worlds creates associations and crossover between the stories, explaining the writer’s associative process as well as creating a richer crpss-hatching of story world construction, completely unique to the form of the series. But because this elaborate set-up has been established, the audience is prepared for a mind blowing payoff…which, in my opinion, is never delivered. In a story with so many subtleties and subplot-lines, it is indeed impossible to tie up every loose end. But, on the same token, Marlowe’s three dimensional world cannot be justifiably flattened into a Wizard of Oz-esque “but I was only dreaming” scenario. Ultimately, the inner and outer worlds that compose Marlowe’s consciousness are too complex to be explained away in a formulaic matter, but the construction of the conclusion should sustain some of the poetry with which it was originally conceived. Otherwise, what was the point of all that careful weaving in the first place? 

Maybe my disappointment in the conclusion lies in the fact that the set-up was so damn good. I can’t accept that Marlowe just gets to go home one day, happy, leaving all of his demons conveniently behind. But maybe in this situation, I’m just holding on to the richness of his fantasy world. Once he becomes stable and healthy, all of those subplots fall away like leaves. Its partially why it takes Marlowe such a long time to leave – because the world of the mad, although confusing and scary and isolating – is still a world of its own, sequestered and safe from the real world. Maybe, for selfish reasons, I didn’t want Marlowe to get better, to work his way out of that hole. Because maybe what’s on the other side is scary in a different way – in that it will disappoint you. And you can’t rely on constructing your own world with all of its poetic connections and metaphors. Maybe reality is scariest most of all because you relinquish control. And what you find…well, it just isn’t as good as the fantasy. 

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