#byNWR: Too Old to Die Young - Episode 4: The Tower

Picking up where the previous episode The Hermit left off, Nicolas Winding Refn’s sprawling Los Angeles crime saga Too Old to Die Young meets back up with Martin (Miles Teller) and his new quasi-partner in crime Viggo (John Hawkes) as they zero in on a support meeting for policemen.   Both the first episode to be shown theatrically at the Cannes Film Festival as well as the first to introduce the show’s moral compass in an otherwise amoral neon-lit Hellscape, the aptly named fourth episode The Tower finds Viggo trying to incorporate Martin into his own line of hitman work as well as establishing the moment in which the unfeeling Martin finds his own code of conduct.

By and large the most dialogue heavy episode yet with moments contrasting Martin’s own alienation among his fellow policemen with out and out absurd law enforcement officer machismo and a truly bizarre powwow, The Tower also marks the first-time legendary videogame creator Hideo Kojima shows his face in the series in a most enjoyable cameo.  The show also picks back up with Janey (Nell Tiger Free) and her neurotic, possibly criminal father Theo (William Baldwin) who laments his daughter’s Harvard acceptance letter rather than celebrating it.  While his disappointment in Janey’s high-profile college entry letter may seem weird to some, this is coming from the same guy who tried to intimidate Martin on the first episode with a stuffed animal.

Notable for being among the easier episodes to digest save for that incredibly weird police station sequence, The Tower finds itself aligning most with the moral outlook of Ryan Gosling’s nameless ‘hero’ in the director’s Cannes Film Festival favorite Drive.  Much like Gosling’s driver, Martin realizes he’s not interested in the money so much as risking his life taking out the worst evildoers society has to offer.  Both characters might be psychotic but they also are, in their own ways, clearly seeking redemption.

In the time-honored tradition of its réalisateur, no one is necessarily good but there are always people worse than the ones you think you know.  The first episode gives us every reason to be disgusted with Martin and yet as the show bores on we find ourselves identifying and allying with him more and more.  The underworld of Too Old to Die Young might be fraught with crime, death and destruction but upon further inspection there is some measure of goodness balancing everything out.

While being the most accessible episode aired yet, it is also the point where viewers are given a preemptive, soft-spoken warning about what’s coming in the following episode The Fool which became the second of two episodes screened theatrically at Cannes.  Where the first two episodes felt like wholly standalone pieces, the third and now fourth episodes seem to flow into one another chronologically, building anticipation for what’s next rather than working to push viewers away.    

Fans of Hideo Kojima of course have his cameo to look forward to, coming on the heels of his Death Stranding videogame trailer prominently featuring director Nicolas Winding Refn in an acting role.  Overall it’s a good episode with many strange and wonderful surprises but it won’t prepare you for what the Danish provocateur has up his sleeve next.

- Andrew Kotwicki