The year is 1995…ok, well sort of. This show takes place during two different times periods over several years. It bounces back and forth between 1995 and 2012 and focuses on the life of Detectives Russ Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson). Russ is a very odd, but intelligent and skilled police officer. He lives alone, is very antisocial, and holds some “interesting” beliefs. Marty is a family man. He has two kids, a wife, and – unlike Russ – gets along with his peers. The two are fairly new partners.
They are working on a new case involving a murdered woman named Dora Lange. The crime scene indicates she was murdered by someone who is deeply disturbed. All people who commit murder are disturbed on some level, but this is different. Let’s just say whoever killed Dora put antlers on her. See what I’m saying now? Russ studies crime with an obsessive dedication – he has stacks of books about serial killers, crime scenes, etc. in his apartment – and suspects a serial killer or possibly even group of killers. The ritualistic nature of the crime scene indicates someone who his extremely disturbed and holds some very warped beliefs.
The investigation into the crime takes the two men into the deepest and darkest places in Louisiana. Biker gangs, brothels, meth cooks, and a slew of similar ritualistic murders are some of the people, places, and things Russ and Mart encounter as they try solve this case.
The two men also find out a lot about themselves and each other the longer they are partners. I mentioned some of Russ’s personality quirks above. We find out more about where that stems from as Russ and Marty get to know one another. There are times where it seems Russ is as disturbed as the people they are trying to catch, but he just so happens to be on the right side of the law. We also get to know more about Marty, who does not have as perfect a home life as it appears on the surface. The two often butt heads – over a variety of things – but share a common desire to do the right thing and catch whoever is responsible for these disturbing crimes.
Meanwhile, in 2012, both Russ and Marty are being interviewed by Detectives Maynard Gilbough and Thomas Papina (Michael Potts and Tory Kittles). Something happened between the two men and they are no longer partners. Russ appears to no longer be working in law enforcement and Marty is working in a different capacity. The two detectives want to know what happened between the two men, as well as the Dora Lange case. There has been some new revelations about the case that reignites interest in it.
Like Game of Thrones, this is something I wanted to see for a while, but never got around to it. I was disappointed in GoT, I was not disappointed in this at all. People often say things like, “Oh, Game of Thrones is amazing! It is a great show!” To those people, I say, “No, True Detective is a great show.” This show is well-acted , has a compelling story, and the gritty/graphic stuff in this show served a purpose, whereas in GoT, it is simply gratuitous.
I love, love, love a good crime drama. I also happen to love a good horror storyand this movie borders on being both. It is like Silence of the Lambs in that sense. The move is definitely a crime drama at its core, but explores topics so gruesome that it would not be incorrect to at least consider it part horror. The movie is about some pretty gross stuff.
It’s also a fascinating character study. Russ is a really strange guy. He holds some pretty out there beliefs. His misanthropic rants are insane. There are times though, where you can see his point. He is a miserable guy with awful people skills, but an extremely dedicated detective. He has a genuine interest in catching the bad guys and will do anything in his means to make it happen. Marty also has a lot od demons. Both are very flawed men, but good guys deep down. There are times you are disgusted by them and others you are pulling for them. The chemistry between McConaughey and Harrelson is fantastic. They both give powerhouse performances. Michelle Monaghan is pretty damn good too as Marty’s wife. Their marriage is the center of Marty’s problems.
The show has some laughs too. it’s not non-stop laughs, but it’s got more than a few. The rocky relationship between Russ and Marty – as well as some of Russ’s rants – make for some amusing moments.
People often say something is the best show the have ever seen, particularly in the last few years. I’m not sure if this is the best, but it’s one of the best. We are living in an era of some excellent TV shows. The production value is like a movie.
Rating: Thumbs up.
This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on June 30, 2015.
What She said
The summer of free HBO continues and The He and I decided to check out the crime-thriller drama True Detective. If you're a fan of binge watching, then this show will be perfect for you. Its second season actually just started, but we decided to hone in on the first season of the series. Starring the acting dream-team of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the eight-episode story arch is well-written, exceptionally performed, and expertly filmed. While this is technically a show, each season tells a different story (ala American Horror Story) and features a different cast, and so it's more like a mini-series. Season 1 actually feels like a long movie.
The show introduces us to two homicide investigators working for the Louisiana State Police, Martin "Marty" Hart (Harrelson) and Rustin "Rust" Cohle (McConaughey). Through a series of flashbacks and present-day interviews with both characters, we learn that they worked together as new partners on the investigation of the murder of Dora Reilly in 1995. The two are being probed for a couple of reasons--many of the files related to the case have been destroyed and there is suspicion that the killer may still be at large.
You need to know a little bit about each character. Marty is a family man, with a wife and two daughters. He's well-known and respected in the force. However, he does have a shameful side. He has a few vices, one of which is women, and so he's a chronic adulterer. This puts a serious strain on his relationship with his wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), which goes from distant to pretty much nonexistent over the course of the season.
Rust is a brilliant, yet eccentric and troubled man. He clearly has a problem with alcohol, which goes back to his days working undercover in narcotics. He has also dabbled in drugs. He's oddly philosophical and a big thinker. Rust has an exceptional ability to get inside of the mind of a killer and understand his or her motivations, which leads to a solid arrest record. This also makes him uniquely qualified to handle the Dora Reilly murder case, as there are many unanswered questions.
Now, this is the part where I start to delve out the real spoilers, so if you don't want some of the fun ruined, skip down to the review section.
The pairing turn into unlikely friends, although their relationship is also at times hostile. Marty truly is one of the few people who trusts and respects Rust. The two work together to close the Dora Reilly case; however, Rust suspects there's more to what is going on. Ultimately, both Marty and Rust end up leaving the force during the time that passes between 1995 and 2012 (the present day setting). Marty becomes a private investigator and Rust, a shell of his former self, is an alcoholic bartender with many mysteries.
After they are interviewed, the two put aside their differences and team up once again to follow new leads. What they discover is more complex than anyone was expecting.
For me, the season started out a little slow, but was interesting to watch. I honestly was not sure where they were going with the plot. After the first couple of episodes, the intensity of the scenes seemed to pick up. There was a lot more at stake, both with regards to the case at hand and also involving Marty's home life. Things only escalated from there. By the time we entered the final three episodes of the season, The He and I were on the edge of our seats. The show had become so intriguing that it was nearly impossible to stop watching. There were a few points where we just sat back and said, "Wow!"
The plot of Season 1 of this show is both fascinating and well-written. It can be a bit much to digest, particularly as we meet new characters and as those from the past are referenced, but I was able to keep it all straight. There's just a very authentic intensity to what the viewer sees unfold on screen.
Amplifying the plot is the amazing acting of our leads--Harrelson and McConaughey. I'm not kidding when I call them a dream team. And to think that they weren't always as highly-regarded as they are today. I seem to recollect a certain someone dancing around naked and playing the bongos while high, and another certain someone wearing a suit made entirely out of hemp. In True Detective, they both show how truly talented they can be. Both Harrelson and McConaughey transform into their characters and give them a level of depth that adds exceptional complexity to the show. McConaughey, in particular, physically alters himself throughout the season to show the psychological downfall of Rust.
The series feels like a long movie, in part, because it's shot like a movie. It's dark and gritty, with cinematographic elements that, again, enable the show to feel strikingly authentic. I may or may not end up watching Season 2 of True Detective. I've heard it's not quite as good as Season 1 and it has an entirely different cast and setting. For me, much of what made Season 1 so great was McConaughey and Harrelson. Their absence will certainly be felt.
If you're a fan of crime-mysteries, then I recommend Season 1 of True Detective for sure. You just need access to an HBO subscription to check it out.