Up to this point, I have mostly been reviewing shows I’ve never seen before. But, actually, I have seen all of season one of True Detective. I even reviewed it once before. Why do it again?
For one, I never finished season two. For another, this will be at least the third time I’ve watched season one. It holds up very well to repeat viewings.
So, let’s get cracking.
I won’t say too much about this episode here. Not that it’s bad. Quite the contrary, it’s a great first episode. Flashing back and forth between a murder investigation in a poor part of Louisiana in 1995 to a more contemporary reinvestigation in 2012, the series focuses mostly on two state police detectives, Marty Hart (as played by Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (as played by Matthew McConaughey). Whatever happened on this case, as seen from the first episode, had a major impact on both men, though Marty’s damage is a lot more hidden.
In fact, it’s easy to see how Harrelson could be so overshadowed by McConaughey. While both men are excellent in their respective roles, it’s clear McConaughey’s Rust is a far more interesting figure. Appearing in 2012 as a long haired burn-out, a man who smokes and drinks through his interview with two other detectives, the man is still sharp enough to ask the pertinent question that closes out the hour. Rust knows he’s not being asked to fill in blanks for missing files following a hurricane. He’s there because another body was found when the murderer was supposedly caught.
So, we have the two partners. They don’t seem to much like each other. Marty is the guy who espouses the importance of having a family, but it isn’t hard to guess even for first time viewers that he’s being hypocritical the way he walks off to chat up a legal clerk who stops by to drop off paperwork. Marty seems like something of a more normal guy, but he’s more than that.
As for Rust, he’s a self-described pessimist, speaking in downbeat poetry, a miserable philosopher with his won tragic past, only given in glimpses here. We know in 1995 he doesn’t sleep normally, and he shouldn’t drink. He’s an odd duck that nobody really likes. And while he’s clearly very book smart, Marty is no slouch either and could be seen as a potential moderating influence, the guy who understands office politics and not to blow off the governor’s cousin, a highly-influential minister.
But can we understate how much this series grabbed people for its first season? Having two actors who largely focus on film work on a TV series, and then giving them such interesting characters with a compelling mystery, all of which had the nation guessing. It’s easy to see why season two was such a let-down. Expectations might have been too high.
There was a period when True Detective was the most talked-about show on TV. Then it hit the second season and lost all the good will it had acquired. And the elements were all there from the first. We got the Dora Lange murder, those weird stick figures, and there’s even a mention made of the Yellow King. Really, knowing where to look can show the repeat viewer lots of clues that were blatantly overlooked by a first time viewing when nobody knew what to look for.
Besides, the conversations between Marty and Rust in and around the car could probably make for a compelling series all by themselves.
So, yeah, I’ll be covering this one for the next few weeks. Next week I’ll actually talk more about the episode. This pilot seemed to be the most experimental when playing around with time anyway. From here, the storylines in ’95 and ’12 become a lot more coherent.