True Detective is not my favorite television show.
At root, it’s a standard police procedural with an outlandish crime, but nothing that will shock you if you’ve seen Seven, Silence of the Lambs, or any number of other heinous murder mysteries. A girl is found murdered, naked and praying, with antlers tied to her head and a strange spiral design tattooed on her back, surrounded by several “Blair Witchy” stick pyramids. The detectives assigned are Matthew McConaughey’s enigmatic and haunted Rust Cohle, and Woody Harrelson’s straight laced family man Martin Hart. The twist is that the two are telling the story of this case from 17 years afterwards, to another pair of detectives who are investigating a similar case.
Episode one runs kind of slow, but at the same time jumps around frenetically from one point in the past to a point in the now, and then back before the previous bit to explain how it got there, then back to the now to explain the same event from a different point of view. It gets a little blurry, but eventually I found myself hypnotized by the desolate feel of backwoods Louisiana and the washed out look of the show.
The real jewel of the show, however, is the character study. In the past, Martin is a straight-forward cop who recognizes and respects Rust’s detecting ability but is dumbfounded by his spacy, depressingly philosophical nature. In the present, Rust still seems haunted but is now a jaded drunk no longer with the hint of mysticism. He’s a whole other person, while Martin seems to not have changed much. The two actors show off their chops, and while Harrelson is no slouch, it’s obvious that this is McConaughey’s gig. He’s playing two separate roles, and he is doing a mesmerizing job. I’m going to go ahead and say that I will be disappointed if this doesn’t turn into an Emmy for him. Just the very fact that he can deliver a line like, “It’s like I can almost taste the psychosphere,” with a straight face and leave me not even tempted to snicker at it, I feel, says a lot.
True Detective is not my favorite television show…
But I have a powerful feeling that two or three episodes from now, that will no longer be the case.