With shows ranging from The Sopranos and The Wire to Boardwalk Empire and now True Detective, HBO has proven that they know how to choose crime-related television projects. With only the first episode, True Detective has set itself as the bar by which future shows of this type will be judged.
The two leads may just be giving career-defining performances. In fact, all of the actors are producing work of the highest caliber. There’s Matthew McConaughey, playing Rust Cohle, a decidedly nihilistic police detective with the skill to profile a killer quickly (and I suspect, accurately). His world-view is clearly influenced by his history – as a divorced alcoholic who lost a young daughter. And then you have Martin Hart as played by Woody Harrelson, the more experienced professional whose home life is not as peachy-keen as he would like everyone to think.
The 1995 murder case these two detectives are assigned is instantly interesting enough to keep viewers enthralled. A prostitute has been raped, tortured, murdered and then ritualistically displayed in the barren wasteland that is Erath, Louisiana. She is “wearing” a crown made of deer antlers and is surrounded with wooden teepee-like sculptures which may have some connection to Santeria.
Given that True Detective is a memory-piece in which these detectives are being interviewed by some current-day police about the similarity between a new case and this 17-year-old case, the ability of the writing team to seamlessly transfer between time periods is essential and so far they are succeeding. Viewers are oriented in the timeline by the look of the actors. Cohle, who starts out as a fairly clean-cut guy, has clearly fallen on hard-times as evidenced by his ragged appearance in the 2012 interrogation scenes. While Hart seems to look much the same in the later scenes, time has still had a massive influence on his outlook. It remains to be seen exactly what occurred to these two partners for them to end up in these vastly different situations.
With an eight episode first season, True Detective hits the ground running and seems poised to be the must-watch show of the season. Get on-board now!