Four episodes in and I’m hooked. “In for the long haul” as they say. Building off of its already established league of classy excellence, HBO’s True Detective is only excelling with age, and I have to say it does indeed feel good to be back in the swing of things, television-wise. The last series I was consistently watching was Californication until I bailed midway season three, and before Cali came 24, but I tiredly backed off in the genesis of… season three (apparently I have a thing with shows in their third season – weird). True Detective, with all its spitfire nihilist jibber-jabber, slow-burn plot/suspense, and dynamite lead tag-team of powerhouse performances, has me silenced every time I tune in, and every time I tune in, I swear (even when I think I know what I’m in for) I still didn’t see this nail-biting form of weekly hypnosis (known as episodic-television) coming.
Right off the bat, what initially draws me into True Detective’s universe, is the very basic set-up that takes its cues from all the great serious cop/killer yarns (both film and T.V.) that we all know and love, or at the very least, respect as works of quality genre storytelling. Films in the vein of Se7en (you could say) combine with templates from some of T.V.’s most iconic entries, Twin Peaks and The X-Files (yes, I see vague traces of these greats in there), and present to us those ever-so classical (and familiar) tropes, however, that’s not to say this is a bad thing. Sure, when it comes to True Detective’s 180 degree cop-characters being paired up to solve the shocking horrific murder of a local Louisiana woman, everything resembles ghosts of plot-lines’ past — We’ve seen this dynamic set-up a bazillion times before, variations of it at the very least.
And I was working on a perfectly stupid (debatably arrogant) stint of popular-culture cluelessness over here, so let me cut to the chase (something the show has now just done itself in its recent fourth installment) and hone in on what I adore about this show. The casting and subsequent pairing of Matthew McConaughey and Woddy Harrelson as the series’ police/partner protagonists is nothing short of brilliant, and on this level, it feels refreshingly fresh to have two veteran actors (both locked within bursting career comebacks) bringing this caliber of craftsmanship to televised-drama. Now maybe I truly haven’t seen what’s out there on air (I haven’t) for quite some time, and I’ve vapidly missed out on witnessing the De Niros and Streeps of syndication, or maybe television really is the new film, regardless, True Detective strikes a nerve with me because the lead acting and chemistry on display is absolutely bar-none boss.
Woody Harrelson exudes charisma, charm, and almost a sense of beat-down destructiveness that is simultaneously growing more ferocious while still remaining consistent with the complacent tone of his character established in the series’ pilot. Harrelson seamlessly plays to his long-time equal strengths as an actor here. This is to say that at times, there’s severe spurts of aggression that explode, releasing the side of Harrelson’s thespian that we we most certainly would not want to hang out with while reciting reference upon reference to “everybody knows your name.” But then there’s the prevailing other half of him that showcases the focused cop, and sympathetic partner, which I guess, in the end reaffirms his character as only human.
McConaughey on the other hand plays this morbid, destroyed and haunted preacher of an investigator, “the taxman,” and virtually frame by frame he’s on screen, I remain utterly transfixed to his every word, every slur, every facial gesture — Heck, just the way his character inhales/exhales his smoke(s) , translates as powerful. McConaughey’s roles are only getting juicier with each and every project he now attaches himself to (I’m looking forward to his Gus Van Sant combo) and said aura of command is currently blowing my sleepy fragile mind with his True Detective’s Rust Cohle.
With its fourth episode just recently in the can, True Detective has finally let its quenching character-story come to a minor halt, with its slow-burn plot taking a welcome backseat to some revved-up indulgence in genre testosterone and “shoot ’em up” intensity. The strengths of Harrelson shine further while McConaughey lets loose his inner lethal weapon in some genuinely inspired action choreography and technical camera-trickery at play (or is it?). Remember the opening scene to Joe Carnahan’s Narc? How about the extended foot-chase in Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break? These films come to mind in terms of the audience subjectively feeling the heat around corner within one pivotal sequence in True Detective’s fourth chapter. As far as T.V. goes, this series is shaping up to be quite amazing. Water-cooler inducing, you could say. If you’re not watching yet.. well then you’re simply not watching, really that’s all I got, nothing happens to you, and life goes on. But if you are indeed jonesing for the next fifth like me… HOW UTTERLY HARDCORE AND BADASS WAS THAT ENDING!?
Get a Taste of True Detective