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True Detective (season 01)

Late to the Party: True Detective Season One

October 24th, 2014
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It took me a while to find the time to watch True Detective — I’d been interested in the show ever since I first read about it but was so busy last Winter/Spring that it took me a few months to get to it — but holy cow was it worth the wait.  I was absolutely dazzled by this dense, dark noir, brought to life with gorgeous cinematography, brilliant actors, and a rich, complex script.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the first season of True Detective follows the difficult partnership of Louisiana detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrison) and “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey).  The show’s story unfolds simultaneously in two timelines.  In 1995, we see Hart and Cohle investigate the murder of Dora Kelly Lange, who is found displayed in a ritualistic fashion, bound and posed with a “crown” of antlers on her head.  In 2012, long after their partnership dissolved in acrimony, Hart and Cohle are questioned, separately, about the events of their investigation.

I was blown away right from minute one by this incredible production.  The story is incredibly complex, as we follow Hart & Coehle’s labyrinthine murder investigation while also trying to puzzle out many other questions about what happened to these characters and the others in their orbit in the years between 1995 and 2012.  While the central murder mystery is a compelling hook for the series, what really engages the viewer are the characters. I am hard-pressed to recall such an in-depth character study that I have ever before seen on TV.  Over the course of these eight episodes, we dig deeply into these two incredibly complicated, rich characters of Hart and Coehle.

The casting of friends Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaighey was inspired.  I’m sure it helped the show get made that these two big stars were attached.  But the show works because both men turn in incredible performances, among the very best of their two careers.

It’s amazing how Woody Harrelson once used to be so indelibly defined as the goofily simple, naive Woody Boyd from Cheers.  It’s impressive that he has managed to avoid being type-cast by that iconic role.  Martin Hart is about as far from Woody Boyd as you can get.  Mr. Harrelson is incredible in bringing this arrogant, dick-swinging tough-guy to life.  Marty Hart is a train wreck of a man, and he does some pretty despicable things, but Mr. Harrelson never loses sight of the character’s humanity, and his force of personality is magnetic.

Speaking of magnetic, there is Matthew McConaughey’s home-run of a performance as the withdrawn, mysterious Rusty Cohle.  Rust is just as damaged an individual as Marty is, perhaps even more so.  Whereas the audience thinks … [continued]