Review: True Detective (Season 1)

Every once and awhile there is a TV show that gets the attention of mainstream audiences for the moment. LOST had the world watching until it went of the rails, Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead have all had their time in the sun. In this instance I’ve listened to podcasts, heard fan-fiction and laughed at parodies of True Detective before watching a single episode. This show debuted during the height of Matthew McConaughy’s resurrection, that culminated with his Oscar win, so I expected a great performance from him. I’ve heard about The Yellow King, the shows tight narrative, trippy dialogue, and Nietzsche references. My expectations were high for these eight episodes and the series delivered. 

The basic premise centers around two detectives recently paired together. They come across a very unique murder scene and use their strengths to try and solve the case. Its a tale as old as time, but what makes this show so incredible is the relationship between the two main characters. Woody Harrelson plays Detective Marty Hart, a cop with a good soul and simple pleasures, but weaknesses like all men. Then there is Matthew McConaughy as Detective Rust Cohle (aka The Tax Man), who has a world view equally fascinating as it is depressing. From my time with the characters I see them as both sides of the same man. Complicated & simple, forthright & dishonest, and weak to evils of the world. This series spends eight hours diving deep into the lives of these two men. We get to understand Marty and his family, the stresses of work, separation, and we learn the many philosophies Rust subscribes too (Time Is A Flat Circle). You learn pretty early on that this show really isn’t about the case as it is about man and their interaction with one another in the world around them. 

Every episodes feels like a movie in terms of quality. Cary Fukunaga does an amazing job bringing the audience to Louisiana for this adventure. We get beautiful shots of the south every episode that give a great context to the events in the show. The writing is top notch with every word sounding believable and well-placed. This is credit to a great cast from top to bottom. From Woody all the way down every character is alive and brings the right amount of drama. The conversations Rust and Marty have while driving are almost all gold. I love whenever Rust starts with his existential stuff and Marty tells him to never talk again. The entire dinner sequence early on in the series is hilarious and done perfectly. Matthew is obviously a stand out because the character written for him, but we must remember he is bouncing his weird rhetoric off of Woody, who plays a great every-man. Another highlight will have to be Michelle Monaghan as Maggie Hart. Her arc through the series is as compelling as her husband’s or Rust’s. 

 Many people take issue with the ending and I understand their disappointment. When you have shows this ambitious that try to examine many concepts and themes (see: LOST) you are bound to upset some people at the end. I wasn’t completely thrilled by the finale but I loved the journey so much I really didn’t mind the end. Overall, this is a great achievement for HBO and everyone involved. The show is deserving of all the praise it received as it did something interesting with a genre seemingly out of new ideas. They took the procedural format and twisted it slightly to show you something different. What we see is two great character learning about themselves, each other, and the cruel world they live in.