Amazon’s Too Old to Die Young
Volume 4: “The Tower”
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by Refn & Ed Brubaker
* For a recap & review of Volume 3: “The Hermit” – click here
* For a recap & review of Volume 5: “The Fool” – click here
Detective Martin Jones (Miles Teller) could find the Tarot card of The Tower difficult, depending on its reading. If upright, the card can mean the collapse of an idea or a lifestyle, that destiny’s at work in the world, undoing what one holds dear. If reversed, it can mean that disaster could’ve been avoided, yet now you must look to the future and cope with misfortune. For now, Martin crawls along the floor of a motel room towards Janey (Nell Tiger Free), in a submissive act, then sits at her boots.
Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide plays on the television in another room of the motel, where Martin busts in and assassinates a man. Great connection with the films used over these past two episodes. Not sure if it means anything more than an interesting visual. Still great.
Martin and Viggo (John Hawkes) attend a support meeting for law enforcement officers. They listen to a man tell a harrowing story about being involved in an on-duty shooting that resulted in horrific consequences because of his actions. Are the pair there to speak about their own problems? Or, are they gathering targets? The man who told the story— Greg (Ethan Flower)— has been “raping his daughter” for “many years” and threatened her not to say a word, or else he’d kill her mom. He gets a knife to the throat from Viggo.
The radio in the car plays the Alex Jones-like radio personality, speaking of “the collapse of the American Empire.” Perfectly fitting while two hitmen drive away from the scene of a murder. In a sense, this speaks to what The Tower signifies— the collapse of an idea. Viggo ruminates about how “the more perfect society gets, the more psychotic we become.” This is what Too Old to Die Young is about, at its core, how the further we move into a postmodern world, the more primitive we get beneath it all. And all the while, the world crumbles: death, famine, creeping climate change, rape, disease.
“We evolve through brutality”
Something significant about the Tarot-named episodes is the cards are showing us a path. Viggo was shot in the head while working for the FBI. He lost his eye. It left him incredibly wise, tuned into society and the universe. This is similar to Odin— represented in the Tarot by The Hanged Man— who gave up one of his eyes in order to gain knowledge. Viggo’s “three minutes” of death allowed him to see the world clearly. He was “given a gift” of knowledge.
Diana (Jena Malone) considers Martin “a new breed of destruction” who’s “cloaked in creation” and she tells Viggo they’ll treat him with care. They sit with crystals and he chooses one. She picks it up, seeing someone named Finnigan who molested seven of his students. The next victim on their list of names. This man will die later when Viggo cracks him over the head with a golf club.
The esoteric world is far from the one Martin experiences with his douchebag colleagues and the ridiculous Lieutenant (Hart Bochner). Friday at the office is a weird one. The LT has everybody join in on a grand cheer of “FASCISM” that they all enjoy too much, without any tongues-in-cheek. After that, he plays a strange religious tune on the ukulele. The whole scene is a perfect way to show Martin’s disconnect from the institution of which he’s a part, in all ways— religiously/spiritually, legally, psychologically.
Another large theme at play in the series is contradiction, between true morality and what’s deemed the law, between love and lust, so on. ‘Between’ is where Too Old to Die Young exists, in every possible sense of the word. Martin himself exists between many places, specifically in terms of grey morality.
Dt. Jones surveys a grisly murder scene that stretches across a restaurant’s kitchen. He stands in the midst of blood and gore-painted walls while talking to his 17-year-old girlfriend on the phone. There’s a stoicism about him that’s highly unsettling.
Janey’s received an acceptance letter to Harvard. Her father Theo (Billy Baldwin) is, obviously, proud. However, she’s part of a bourgeois, capitalist family. He’d rather her be part of the company instead of wasting time on college.
“As the world fractures
someone has to be there
to protect innocence”
Another target for Martin via Damian (Babs Olusanmokun). “The less you know, the simpler it all is,” he’s told. May as well be coming directly from the cosmos itself. Viggo taking Martin under his wing has helped the younger man see there’s more to the world. If the detective keeps taking orders blindly— whether from the LAPD, serving the state, or from Damian, knocking off drug competition— he’s not free, neither does he have knowledge of his own. A slave to the systems of the law and of criminals.
Martin has a chance to do the gangster’s bidding. He chooses not to fire his gun. He goes to see the man he’s meant to kill, asking why Damian wants him dead. The guy owes just shy of $10K. He takes Martin to see the Yakuza (for those who know the great Hideo Kojima, he plays one of them), where he’s punished by having a finger chopped.
Martin takes the man to see Damian. He won’t kill people over petty money disputes. He has no problem killing “the worst guys” Damian has to offer. If he’s going to murder, he’ll do it with “high moral standards,” even if that’s a slippery Kantian slope on which to stand. He doesn’t want money, either. So, the gangster has a couple guys who make “rape films” that Dt. Jones can snuff out.
Another great instalment in Refn’s series. Father Gore loves his work. This is a visionary piece of episodic film making. Not everyone’s going to gravitate towards it, neither will everybody get it, and some will downright hate it even if they get it.
For those who do dig it, there’s much to unpack and love.
Volume 5: “The Fool” is next.