Friday, March 14, 2014

TV Report: True Detective...

This happens all the time with us.  Everybody and their brother knows about the latest TV series and somehow it isn't even a blip on my radar.  That's how it was with True Detective, the HBO series with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.  Eva started recording it from HBO Video on Demand and every time she would bring up wanting to watch it, I just sort of pushed it off in favor of the every growing queue of crap like Ax Men and Swamp People.  Not to say that those shows are crap, but compared to what I could have been watching...

Meanwhile on the Internet, apparently everybody but us is just raving about this show.  Even Eva didn't know how good it was; her interest was something completely different than the incredible buzz about McConaughey and Harrelson as two detectives on the case of a serial killer.  When she was little, Eva's mom and uncles in Chicago used to mail issues of the magazine, True Detective back and forth.  It was a regular staple around their house and so when she saw that there was a series on TV, why not watch it?  And let's face it, we love shows like "The First 48" on A&E where cameras follow detectives trying to figure out who killed someone or track down a missing person.
We downloaded all 8 episodes and got some snacks, settled into the ManCave and started with the first episode.  The title sequence was enough to hook me.  This is going to sound crazy, but in the frequent discussions about wanting to watch the show, Eva never mentioned that it had McConaughey and Harrelson.  I mean, that little detail just seemed to never make it into the conversation.
I am a huge fan of the use of flashbacks to tell the story, and for the first several episodes, police officers in modern day are interviewing former detectives Hart (Harrelson) and Cohle (McConaughey) separately, trying to understand a case that took place in the 90's.  As the modern day detectives talk about the search for a serial killer, we flash back to 1995 and watch things unfold.  Beyond the story and all the dark characters brilliantly played by some actors you will recognize (The Sheriff from Boardwalk Empire, The bumbling brother from My Name is Earl), was some of the best cinematography I have seen in years. 

We've always been intrigued by the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, driving across the state on I-10 gives you a moment to consider what lies down below the interstate and who travels through the gator filled waters in a John boat.  You hope if you get lost out there, it is Troy Landry.  But the mind wanders and it might be someone bad.  Ever since I saw the movie Southern Comfort, I've had a nervous feeling about driving across the Atchafalaya Swamp even though I'm sure my fears are misplaced.  In True Detective, the mystery is interwoven with incredible photography allowing viewers to take the time to let the story take a hold of you as you gaze at the beauty of Louisiana, intermixed with the reality of refineries and some really sick bastards.
Hart and Cohle are two completely different personalities.  With Hart, you see your standard by the book detective, married with kids, church on Sunday and a younger version of his wife on the side.  He can't see his own hypocrisy when he is disgusted by Cohle's honest contempt for organized religion, ideas about who we as a human race are, and propensity for telling it like it is to their superiors.  Hart is a company man, Cohle is not.  At one point he tells Hart, "What I have in my head is not something that ever gets better."  This tension makes for good TV right up to the last episode, and at times, you want Hart to kick Cohle's ass and at times, you want Cohle to kick Hart right in the nut-sack.

As we get to about episode 6 or 7, the interviews are over and these two former detectives are back on the case as private investigators, working for themselves and for the victims.  In my mind, it is not a huge leap to see how corrupt government officials can cover things up and that little tidbit adds to the horror of the story.  You are watching the story unfold and you are thinking to yourself - yes, this could happen.

As the credits rolled on the final episode we both agreed that this was one of the best series we had seen in a while.  Of course, when you watch an entire season in a compressed timeline (my preferred method), you are not subjected to the Internet buzz and speculation of what will happen next.  This morning, I read several reviews complaining about the ending.  I totally agree that there could have been more.  Where the end of Dexter was a huge letdown,  and the end of The Sopranos, though brilliant left some wanting more, I think the end to this first season was enough for closure.

Like American Horror Story, I think that True Detective is supposed to take on a whole new unrelated storyline next season.  Doubt we'll see Hart and Cohle, but we'll definitely watch.  

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