True Detective combines the tense procedural aspects of the best feature film thrillers while also delivering top-notch character development usually reserved for the small screen. An 8-part series currently running on HBO, True Detective stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two Louisiana detectives investigating a murder with occult overtones. The series is written and produced by Nic Pizzolatto.
Helmer Cary Joji Fukunaga previously wowed audiences with his debut feature Sin Nombre (2009), and True Detective shows his steady hand willing to explore the intricate relationship of drug dealing gangs as well as the intimacy of marriages. In True Detective, Harrelson’s Detective Martin Hart is married to Michelle Monaghan while also carrying on an affair with Alexandra Daddario. By contrast McConaughey’s Detective Rust Cohle lives by some kind of moral code that not only confounds his partner but also confuses the audience who expect Cohle to be more corrupt the way he presents himself.
The structure of the episodes weaves between the past, present and future. There’s the original homicide in 1995; the current lives of the detectives and cases in 2002; and a sequence in 2012 where much different versions of the detectives are being interrogated, or interviewed if you prefer, by two more detectives in 2012 in what seems to be a reopening of the case.
Whereas Detective Hart still maintains a conservative appearance in the 2012 scenes, Detective Cohle looks disheveled, drinks a lot of beer and seems to be in disguise. We know that Cohle was an undercover narc when he worked in Texas and there are hints that he’s trying to infiltrate a biker gang that may be linked to the original murder of a prostitute.
Despite McConaughey’s outward appearance he has his wits about him and often spouts the best dialogue in the series. Cohle’s always coming up with a calm rational perspective about the evidence and on occasion uses words that perhaps his partner doesn’t understand. Cohle and Hart are a traditional odd couple yet share the common goal of arresting their suspect.
The look of True Detective is reminiscent of the recent movie Texas Killing Fields (which was also shot in Louisiana). Lots of flat landscapes, lots of talk going down in cars. The actors play well off each other. Events percolate to the point it’s easy to be surprised when the unexpected happens.
Three episodes of True Detective have aired to date with the fourth set for the evening of February 9.
- Michael Bergeron