True Detective (2014), created and written by Nic Pizzolatto, is an American crime drama anthology (initially airing on HBO) starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as the protagonists. Michelle Monaghan also features.
After hearing positive reviews from viewers and critics alike, I watched all of season one over the period of a couple of days. I am an admirer of noir as well as the detective genre; therefore I was expecting good things from this show. I was definitely not disappointed.
Synopsis: This show follows two Louisiana based detectives – Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson). The story jumps between multiple time frames to recount the character’s hunt for a serial killer across seventeen years. This is told in the format of an interview, in which the older versions of Rust and Hart are speaking to detectives about the murder case. As the show progresses, the viewer tracks the progress of their hunt for the killer, as well as the demons both characters face in their personal lives.
There are many positives about this show. Firstly, the acting is great. Reeling from his recent Oscar success, McConaughey has never been in higher demand. He manages to play sleep deprived and alienated Cohle with great conviction. Also, due to his dramatic weight loss for The Dallas Buyers Club (2013), this authenticates the character more by making him look unwell.
Harrelson’s character Hart serves as a stark contrast to Cohle. He has a family, and is married to Michelle Monaghan’s character Maggie Hart. Harrelson turns in a performance as strong as McConaughey’s, and we gain insight into the dark nature of Hart’s character regarding his issues with violence and infidelity. Both characters clash with each other at various points throughout the season which results in interesting circumstances. However, despite their differing personalities they are very good detectives. Michelle Monaghan also does not disappoint in her role, and effectively plays the role of Mrs. Hart.
The writing in this show is fantastic, and each character is effectively crafted and seems real. Structurally, due to the multiple time frames, this is a show best saved for your full attention. Otherwise, this could pose as confusing. Also by juxtaposing the character’s modern day incarnations with their appearances seventeen years before, we gradually see the deterioration of their lives as part of their appearance. The modern day Cohle for instance looks terrible compared to his younger self; long unkempt hair, a moustache, and generally someone who is the polar opposite of the way he looked years before. Hart on the other hand looks better, with the only main difference being a lot less hair on his head. These serve as great time indicators as well as metaphors.
Stylistically, this has noir written all over it. It echoes filmmakers like David Lynch, with his series Twin Peaks (1990) being a clear influence. There is also likening to comic books by Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. Ultimately, the stylistics of noir effectively links this show to the past despite being contemporary.
Overall, this show is great and one of the best television dramas I have seen in a long time. With a great cast and equally great writing, this is sure to have you hooked throughout. It is nice to see this story effectively closed at the end of the season; thus making way for new characters and a new story next season. However, it is also sad to get to know these characters for and not to be able to watch them on screen again. This show is definitely something I highly recommend.
By Robert Spence