True Detective — Killer TV No 29

HERE’S the latest in our series of Killer 50 crime dramas…

True Detective Series 1.Episode 05 "The Secret Fate of All Life"..Charles Halford as Reggie Ledoux and Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle..?HomeBoxOffice

Backwoods terror – Charles Halford as Reggie Ledoux and Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle

HBO, 2014-

‘Who’d want to bring life into this meat grinder?’ – Detective Rust Cohle

Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, Tory Kittles

Identikit: We see Detectives Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle investigating the ritualistic murder of a former prostitute in Louisiana – and then discussing the case 17 years later when another body has been found posed in a similar style.

logosDARK AND unsettling, True Detective is a powerful, beautifully acted eight-part drama from HBO. Its A-lister stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson pin the audience to their sofas and play out a troubling story across several time frames, beginning in 1995 when they are teamed up to investigate the murder of a former prostitute in south Louisiana. The crime scene, in a field, is staged like a ritualistic killing, with the victim wearing deer antlers. While the investigation of the grisly crime is engrossing, the drama is really centred on Detective Rustin Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson). Cohle suspects the killer has acted before, Hart is not so sure. But the fractiousness in their relationship goes deeper. Cohle has a bleak outlook on life, while Hart is more of an average stressed cop with kids and a wife, to whom he is unfaithful. Cohle is damaged by the death of his own daughter, which led to a reckless time as a narco cop. The 1995 investigation takes them into underbelly of the Bible belt, and is intercut with interviews with the detectives 17 years later, when a similar murder is committed and they are asked to review the case. Detectives Gilbough and Panania are interviewing them now, and Cohle and Hart are talking to a digital camera, documentary style. By this time Cohle has succumbed to his alcoholism and is a long-haired has-been, who hasn’t seen his old partner since 2002. Was he more damaged by the investigation or the road death of his daughter? He was always aloof and unpopular with his cop colleagues, often fell out with Hart, who admired his intelligence but couldn’t stand his pessimism. ‘You don’t choose your parents and you don’t choose your partner,’ Hart tells his modern-day interviewers. But do Gilbough and Panania in 2012 actually suspect Cohle of being involved in the killings? Why did Cohle and Hart fall out irrevocably? And if the case was closed in 1995, how can a similar crime have now been committed 17 years on?

True Detective unfolds gradually, mesmerisingly, laying out a multilayered human drama that is riveting and hard to forget. Cohle is the most disconcerting, despairing character, whose existential pain contrasts sharply with the world of pop-up tents in which poor folk attend Christian evangelist meetings. ‘No one here’s going to be splitting the atom,’ Cohle says dismissively. He unsettles his partner with pronouncements such as, ‘We are things that labour under the illusion of having a self… programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody’s nobody. I think the honourable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction…
The series was created by novelist Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who also called the shots on 2011’s Jane Eyre (quite a jump). It is planned to be an anthology, with each new series focusing on different characters and story. Forget all the whodunits and forensic dross out there, True Detective is a bold, sublime crime drama, an off-kilter portrait of the backwoods South, that pulls you in and doesn’t let go. The second season, with a new cast of Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams and Kelly Reilly, hits our screens in June 2015.


Colin Farrell in True Detective 2

Classic episode: The Locked Room is episode three and really begins to take the viewer into a dark place. Cohle and Hart find a burnt out church where a naked female figure with antlers is daubed onto a wall. Meanwhile, Papania and Gilbough start to probe Hart’s hypocritical views on morality and perhaps question Cohle’s state of mind – ‘People are all biological puppets.’ It closes with a chilling long shot – a terrifying figure of a half naked man in a field, wearing a gas mask and carrying a machete.

Theme music: Far from Any Road by The Handsome Family. T Bone Burnett was the series composer.

Watercooler fact: ‘I couldn’t wait to turn the page and hear what came out of this guy Rustin Cohle’s mouth,’ said Matthew McConaughey. ‘I read two episodes and said, “If you want me for Cohle, I’m in.” The other six episode were not even written yet.’

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